Happy hardcore is a form of techno music typified by a very fast BPM (usually around 165-180), female vocals, and sweet lyrics. Its characteristically 4/4 beat "happy" sound distinguishes it from most other forms of breakbeat hardcore, which tend to be darker. It often has piano samples and spacey effects. This genre of music is closely related to the typically Dutch genre of Gabba. Happy hardcore evolved from rave music around 1991–1993, as the original house music-based rave became faster and began to include breakbeats, evolving into breakbeat hardcore.
In the UK, happy hardcore was at its peak between 1994 and 1997. In the more current past Happy Hardcore has made a large re-emergence into the mainstream, more specifically it has received coverage in Mixmag. It has spawned various new record labels in the United States, the UK, and Japan and continues to grow in popularity across the UK and USA.
Development of happy hardcore
By mid-to-late 1992, hardcore breakbeat (which was fast becoming jungle) had started to morph into the "Dark Side". All of the cheesiest elements of the hardcore scene (chipmunk vox, choruses, rolling piano lines, stabs, etc.), which were being blamed for the lead-up to commercialization of the music, had started to be eliminated by the new breed of ravers, who wanted to take the music back to the underground with darker, more minimal tracks.
Some producers (Luna-C , Slipmatt , Red Alert & Mike Slammer , Brisk , DJ Vibes , Wishdokta , etc.), however, were simply not having this. They were beginning to make a few minor changes. There were now polyrhythmic breakbeats, half-speed dub-bass and no 4/4 kick drum (which attracted many black ravers, who promptly introduced MCs into the scene). But, apart from this, the E-rush of hardcore continued for quite some time, just as the music was still getting faster and faster. Dark side and the happier tunes were being played together at the same raves, the same pirate stations, etc.
Slipmatt's "SMD #1" was quite a culture shock to most of the ravers. It was not euphoric and it was most definitely not dark. It increased the intensity of the happiest, cheesiest treble elements of rave and was loved by some and hated by many. It also reintroduced the 4/4 kick drum, had fewer snare breaks and a more techno-influenced bassline. It had a profound influence on the whole of the hardcore scene. After several months, the darker tunes were dying and being replaced by the bittersweet nature of ambient jungle/drum'n'bass. Some of the once happier tunes had darkened up a bit and turned the bass right up and ragga jungle and jump-up jungle itself had arrived. The other happy ravers (still using the jungle-style rhythms for a while) gradually took Slipmatt's lead and happy hardcore was born.
By late 1994, happy hardcore had broken away from Jungle (which was now accepted by the mainstream) and had its own network of DJs (Slipmatt, DJ Force & Styles , Vibes & Wishdokta, Brisk, Clarkee , etc.) labels (Kniteforce , Slammin Vinyl ) and clubs/raves (Die Hard, United Dance, Dreamscape, etc.) It was rejected by the dance mainstream and had its own media and pirate radio. Other US DJs would follow in the next few years Entropy , Venom , Phil Free Art , Matt Positive, Muppetfucker aka. Noahphex , Spree , Cloudskipper , and many more.
In this course of time 1995–1997 the music was still evolving. There were now almost no breakbeats and the music had become faster and stompy, with a progressive rhythm. The scene was now set for the genre's merge with bouncy techno and 4-beat. Around 1997 various UK rave culture publications started announcing the largely mistaken "death" of Hardcore, but it had instead just gone back to its underground roots.
Also around this time the UK Happy Hardcore had started taking influences from the mainstream trance tunes heard virtually everywhere. While this move attracted new listeners it also began to alienate some of its long time producers, many of which switched to producing Hard house or simply retired. It was this merging of trance influences with hardcore that caused the birth of a new genre Freeform Hardcore . Known to some by its original nickname ‘Kenneth’ this style of music blended the earlier dark influences, the breakbeats, as well as various trance influences. Freeform also created its own network of DJs and producers most noticeably CLSM, Sharkey, AMS , Kevin Energy , and lesser knowns such as Tilzs , AC Slater , Sunrize , Daywalker , Oli G , White Russian , and Dodgee .
Freeform hardcore, and other trance influenced happy hardcore attracted a new audience to the music and caused a major upsurge in interest among the European and American ravers, causing remixes of classic happy hardcore anthems to reach the pop charts. Examples include tracks such as "You're Shining" or "Heartbeats" by Breeze & Styles .
Hardcore also received its own special in 2004 on BBC Radio 1 entitled John Peel Is Not Enough named after a CLSM track of the same name.
Artists and producers