history l discography l events l itunes l magazine l contact l home

These Are The Breaks . . .

By Budda Bob
from The Bomb Hip-Hop Magazine #41 (June/July 1995)

Breakbeats. The spine of rap music. They've come a long, long way since the mid-Seventies, when pioneer dj's like Herc, Flash, Bam, Breakout and Disco King Mario began dissecting "breaks" from the original sources to mix, loop & scratch into improvised tracks. Back in the early days, NYC crews used two distinct methods of creating tracks. First & foremost were the underground crews in the South Bronx... never on stage without a dj cutting up on the one & twos. These originators mastered the "two turntables & a microphone" setup with maybe a human beatbox, Linn drums or DX7 keys for the crews that ran deep... like the Black Bee's, Herculoids or Zulu Nation. The other approach to early rap was live musicians, the first being the Fatback Band and King Tim's "King Tim III (Personality Jocks)", playing live disco & funk instrumentals with the focus being on the MC's rhyme skills. This style gave birth to the first commercial rap hit, "Rapper's Delight" by you know who, backed by the band Positive Force. Other groups, like D.C. go-goers Trouble Funk, caught vapors of this R&B rap style, but the timefor dj's armed with breakbeats was overdue had already taken over the streets... peep early breakbeat classics like "Break Dancin'-Electric Boogie" by West Street Mob, Funky Four's "King Heroin" or Malcom McLaren's "D'ya Like Scratchin" for reference.

To define the term "breakbeat", I figured the man to call was hip-hop scholar Kutmaster Kurt (luckily, he was at home watching videos with TR Love from the Ultramagnetic M.C.'s). "Every record has a break, especially early disco... it's the part of a song after the chorus where the song changes at the interlude. The musical element is broken down for a few measures... that's the most original part of the song." Yeah cool... so why was disco used so heavily in the beginning? Kurt volleys back "The reason most disco songs had so many breaks were for dj's... so they could mix out of the record while spinning at clubs."

Cool, I'm with it... but who first put out records that contained tracks laced with breaks & beats just for the deejay... or an all-breakbeat album? On deck TR Love. Slippin out of narcolepsy he recollects "In like, 1979 or 1980, an album called "Magic Disco Machine" on Paul Winley Records was put out up in Harlem... 125th Street." Wordhas it Winley, in addition to Enjoy! Records Bobby Robinson and Sound of Harlem's Peter Brown, pressed up a grip of early rap singles like "Flash to the Beat" and "Catch a Groove", with (Break instrumentals on the b-side for dj's to get nice with at early hip hop spots like the Startup, Harlem World, T-Connection and Galaxy 2000). Then came Grandmaster Flash's "Adventures On the Wheels of Steel" and the real innovative breakbeat methods... a true mixmaster's gem that set shit off for the deejay. Flash's furious turntable masterpiece of breaks (boosted from an eclectic range of jams like Blondie, Incredible Bongo Band, Queen, the Hellers, and Chic) demonstrated his futuristic vision of the dj's role in rap music. DJ Mark the 45 King also put out some early uptown breaks around this time... "The King is Here" and "Master of the Game" were dope, but it took the much sampled "900 Number", co-written by Ced Gee, to open people's eyes to the King's incredible technique on the techs.

The mid-Eighties brought on the first series of beats just for dj's, when the "Ultimate Breaks and Beats" albums emerged... documenting all the great rap, disco and funk singles of the day on vinyl compilations for disc jocks to rock. These street beats enabled dj's to creat and mix fresh compositions for kids to freestyle, beatbox or just bug out to... you'll find a few volumes in any serious dj's crate.

Step into the realm of today's breakbeats & you'll find styles upon stylez out there, with every musical element available... jazz and blues, acapellas, & solo instrument riffs, ragga-dancehall, etc. Here's a taste of a few breaks making noise out there... check it out.

Multi-puropse hip hop breaks are cool because they cover various styles on one slab of wax... DJ I-Cue, who dropped the sinister "Funky Vintage" EP earlier this year, has rolled up more fat, blunted grooves called "Twisted Bones" on New Breed Records. Reminiscent of Kenny Dope, these drum, horn & brass heavy beats are on the jazzier side of hip-hop, with distorted vocal loops from manyemcees... even Andrew Dice Clay is caught smoking on "Puff & Loung". "Bong Hits" is my favorite jam for obvious reasons! If you don't have Chop Shop's "Representin' Lovely" then I caught ya sleeping... trust me, the shit is like dj floss, you need 'em to keep the tech's clean! "The Tribute" is a jazz ditty with hi-hats that ride like a porno star (on X) and "Brooklyn Keeps On Takin' It" will rock any party from here to the heart of Medina. One unamed cut uses bugged elevator noises and a classic blues guitar loop I'm still trying to figure out... probably Syl Johnson.

Tony D. has dropped two slabs of luscious breaks in the past few months; "Flav (Beats) from the Cave" is some flipped-out, Jersey crate melting shit! "808 Happy" is my cut on this album... and 8.9 on the dj Richter scale, with that seismic boom you can feel deep inside. "Central J. Parlay" is Tony's latest release and oohhh man this album is tasty! The title track features Tony flexin' his mic skills, but the cuts "Armed & Dangerous" a freestyle M.C.'s dreambeat with tight snares/trumpet blasts and a dark, moody Phantom of da Operaish organ fill that's mad scary... look for future releases on Contract Records. "Crackerbeats 6" is out and this one's got throwback beats from the day and has a bit more vocally than earlier editions... heard "8th Wonder" and James Brown scats on the copy I copped from my man Chuck Nice. #6 is pressed on clear, sticky green vinyl and ya can't go wrong picking up Crackerbeats volumes 1-5. Slammin' Records also sells turntable slip/scratch pads so go out & represent proper. "Cheeba Hawks" is a 6-song break EP on AV8, the label responsible for last years "Buddha Baboons" EP that many on the West Coast never heard. "Cheeba Hawks" features Prince Quick Mix (one of the Crackerbeats dj's) mixing straight hip-hop breaks with bpms in the upper 90's & utilizing mucho verbals from KRS to Slick Rick's "Tic Toc".

Peanut Butter Wolf's innovative, producer-friendly breaks lean towards the jazzhop side... known for "incorporating elements of gritty funk, Latin jazz and space-age ambiance." You'll be missing out if "Peanut Butter Breaks" isn't part of your collection, dj's worldwide are flocking to this shit. On his new project, a cut called "hippyest" ya get his "made from scratch" trademark sound, laced with fallen rapper Charizma reminding even 6-feet deep "It's like that y'all!" Another advance track to peep is "Chronicles (i will always love h.e.r.)" from the forthcoming "Return of the DJ" Bomb compilation. Just as the title promises, it chronicles every rap style from old to new school. The whole "Bomb" mortar should be amazing since Dave Paul has assembled the best scratch dj's in the biz: Q-Bert, Aladdin, Ghetto, Rob Swift, and Cut Chemist to name just a few!

"Table Manners" is a tasty platter of local dj's gettin' swivvy on the steel. First up to break is the Pirate dj's "Make Some Noise" and yeah money it's in there! You'll find all the elements of a killa break record; sturdy drum kicks, chunky basslines and cameo spliffshots of Method Man, Jeru, Eric B. & Ra's "My Melody" and KRS kickin' "I know ya diggin' this type of shit right here." DJ Pause mixes it up wicked on "Straight Underground" which features Dayze, and Moving Beat's (dj Gerry V.) "Stereotypes" has a lovely vio-string loop... lots of surface noize if ya like scratchin'. Pick up "Table Manners" quick cause it's well worth the fetty!

Jazz breaks are dropping all over the place lately and it seems like jazz is influencing breakbeat dj's more than anything these days. At the front of those "streetjazz meets hip-hop breaks" albums, check the elevated "Fat Jazzy Grooves" Volume 10 on New Breed Records. These FJG cuts are always on some next shit with "cutt-able" beats from artists worldwide... breaks used by hip hop's best dj's; Premiere, Funkmaster Flex, and Red Alert. This double album of deliciously funky grooves was compiled by DJ Smash, one of NYC's most sought after dj-producer/remixers. He's recently mixed cuts for jazz greats Herbie Hancock and that "Naste" track by Roy Ayers. Vol. 10 doesn't disappoint . . . Smash's "It's Time" drips serious jazzjuice and The Prune's "Pised" has more rimshots than Stark's on a bandnight, lightning-ass cuts & a descending stand-up bassline. (A must is the Prunes raw, eery "Tracks from the Darkside" EP with more cutz than Run Run's Masta Killa!) Also on FJG #10, pro skater Tommy Guerrero makes his fat jazzy appearance on The Beats of San Francisco's "Smooth" track, composed of a series of flute loops, bluesy keys & some spit-spewin' beatboxin'! DJ Mark the 45 King is releasing the debut breakbeat album on Tuff City's new Tough Ass Jazz label... the forthcoming "Tough Ass Jazz" LP features hip-hop beats overlaid with a smattering of jazz riffs culled from acapella sessions by Maceo, Fred Wesley, Chico Freeman, and Eddie Bo. This is a sureshot dope break album, so get 'em while they hot! DJ Krush has brought his hypnotic cyber-scratching to the newly formed Shadow Records, a subsidiary of Instinct... this brass heavy, self-titled EP is in stores now and will not disappoint those who revered 'Strictly Turntabelized'. The mack tracks are "Into the Water" and "On the Dob-ble". Look for Ninja Tune artists 9 Lazy 9 & Hedfunk to drop beats soon on this label... without those bloody, outrageous import prices!

Acapella break tools I've seen come down the pipe: Pumpkin's "The Old School's Funkiest Drummer" original live drum sessions 1981-1984 have just been released... featuring "The Main Event" with Freddy B., Grand Wizard Wiz on "Crack It Up" and the classic "Million Dollar Legs". A must! Also pick up G-Clef meets Camille (from Worl-a-Girl) Vol. 1 & 2... it's got lotsa worthy horn & drum breaks. Heard Ubiquity's "Drum Crazy" volumes are cool... and if the ill guitar licks are what you need go get Kidd Funkadelic's (aka Mike Hampton) "P-Funk Guitar Riffs for DJ's". For this outstanding solo session Kidd Funk recorded alongside hip-hop's most classic breaks, after dissecting the beats you get endless guitar loops left for dj's. For strictly vocal samples get The Butcher Bros. "USDA Choice D.J. Cuts-100% Fat" scratch wax... it has all the great phrases like "It's really ffffreshhh" and "Everybody get down!" sectioned off for cuttin' with.

Raggabreaks... yes, that's breaks derived from dub, reggae, ska, and dancehall! Just heard Slammin' Records upcoming "CrackerRiddems" dancehall break album. It's got doja-baked, dubby 808 basslines, snare tappin' and these trippy video game bleeps, sounds like "Duck & Chalice" meets Asteroids on the old Atari system!

That's about all for now vinyl junkies... but wait, here's some other breaks to peep: "Battle Breaks", "Booger Breaks", "Toasted Marshmellow Breaks", "Battle Toolz 1&2", "Bulldog Breaks", Automator's "King of the Beats", "Phat Chumpee", Universal Joint's "Berkeley Massive", "Breakin' Bones", "SuperBreaks", Bobby J.'s Beats from the funk flex crew (the track "Snatch" is wet), "DJ Toolz" (Mo' Betta & Nuff Good), "Blazing Breaks Vol. 2", D'Jam Hassan's "Oompah Loompah", "Ill Bros.", "HeadCracks Vol. 1 & 2", "Bootman Breaks", "Top Secret Beats," "Turbo Beats, Samples, and Battle Cuts", and Dontay Prez's "Only Da Half" uptown breaks ... they hit like a bag of Red Devil!

Shouts to all the real, hardcore dj's... pirate, original dj's, smash, nick peace, b-mello, rak, automator, kutmasta kurt (thanks for the knowledge), pause, rob-one, billy jam, dj G, joe quixx, freddwreck & g-luv.

Website Update - November 10th, 2002

other battle records & breakbeats to check for:

DJ Phantom - Phantom Breaks
DJ Phantom - Battle Plan
DJ Design - Hookie & Baba Flakes Breaks
Faust & Shortee - Toolz of War
DJ Shortfuse - Return of the DJ : Battle DJ Supplement
Q-Bert & Shortkut - Needle Thrashers
Turntable Scratch Hamsters - Hamster Breaks
Space Travelers (formerly T.S.H.) - Hamster Breaks 3 1/2
Rectangle - Ultimate Battle Weapon I
Rectangle - Ultimate Battle Weapon II
Rectangle - Ultimate Battle Weapon III
Rectangle - Ultimate Battle Weapon IV
Rectangle - Ultimate Battle Weapon V
Rectangle - Ultimate Battle Weapon Box Set
Scratching-Mixing-Producing - New Style Part 1
Scratching-Mixing-Producing - New Style Part 2
Digital Direct - Cut The Shit
Paul Nice - 14 Cold Blooded Breaks
Paul Nice - 5 Fingers of Death - Volumes 1-4
Paul Nice - Drum Library - Volumes 1-5
Boogie Boy - Boogie Boy Battle Breaks
Swamp - Swamp Breaks (double vinyl)
Swamp - Infinite House Loops Vol. 1
Babu - Superduck Breaks
Babu - Superduper Duck Breaks
Melo D - Gambling Pete's Sin City Breaks
Peanut Butter Wolf - Peanut Butter Breaks
DJ Fanatik - Phanatik Beats
Jazzy Jim - Battle Toolz #1
Jazzy Jim - Battle Toolz #2
Spicy Ice - Battle Zone
Mixmaster Mike - Eardrum Medicine
Boston Bob & Fishguhlish - Boston Baked Beats
Cracker Beats - Volumes 1 - 10
DJ Fingaz - Billly Digital In Stereo
DJ Fingaz - Potty Breaks featuring Mr. Dibbs
Last Kreep - Space Breaks
Last Kreep - The Good Skratching Record
M Boogie - The Beat Down - Volumes 1-3
Apollo - Broken Fader Breaks Volume 1
Cue - Broken Fader Breaks Volumes 2-4
DJ Streak - Baby Diaper Skid Mark Breaks
DJ Streak - Catholic High School Girls In Trouble Breaks
DJ Streak - Bikini Bash
DJ Streak - Lingerie Breaks
DJ Streak - More Catholic High School Girls In Trouble Breaks
DJ Streak - Naughty Nurse Betty
DJ Streak & DJ Relm - Hella Hooters
DJ Relm - Naked Girl Breaks
DJ Deus - Deep Tonsil Protein Blast
Megaman - Legend of the Scratch
Megaman - Scratch Studio 7