A style that began as an early form of hip-hop, Electro has grown to encompass anything that uses the classic, electronic, syncopated beat found on tracks like "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa or "White Lines" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, or as popularized by Herbie Hancock's "RockIt". Electro is also applied retroactively to some of the music of Kraftwerk, particularly "Numbers" and "Home Computer" — forward-looking, danceable electronic tracks which were highly regarded in early hip-hop culture.
Aside from the distinctive rhythm pattern, Electro is often distinguished by an emphasis on synthesizers, vocoders, and dry, syncopated/"funky" drum sounds (as opposed to the monotonous, low-pitch bass drum of house and techno). In contrast to the typical hip-hop approach of mining funky beats and warm basslines from old vinyl and emphasizing a rap vocal, the Electro vibe is more about producing new, cold, heavily synthetic-sounding beats and minimal basslines, with chanted vocals, extended instrumental passages, and minor-key lead synth themes.
The funky side of Electro can include sung vocals, is also known as Electro-Funk, and was a basis of the freestyle genre (initially "Latin hip-hop"), which has its own tag. The Techno side of Electro is rooted in the music of Cybotron and Model 500, and was defined more fully in the '90s by artists such as Drexciya and Anthony Rother. The term or prefix Electro is also applied to synth-pop and industrial dance music with little or no hip-hop connection, but which just incorporated similarly styled beat patterns, instrumentation, and overall feel.
In recent years, club and mainstream dance music has been infiltrated by a more modern and rock-influenced sound, now known as Electro House (which has its own tag), and sometimes just referred to as Electro. This sound usually features a loud, four to the floor kickdrum with melodies and basslines remeniscent of 80's synth-pop. As with Electroclash (which also has its own tag), and in contrast with pure Electro, Electro-House is often dominated by lead synths or samples which use distortion as a characteristic effect; examples include some of the music of Justice or Kavinsky.
On Discogs, Electro is a style tag in both the Electronic and Hip Hop genres. If in doubt which genre applies, ask in the Database Forum.
During one of the major updates of the Discogs back end, Electronic genre releases with no style tag were given the tag Electro automatically. This resulted in many releases being tagged as Electro in error.