As a slightly older head, I came up during a time when Hip Hop and R&B was inherently funkier than it is now. I can understand the need to switch styles as times change, but honestly, I can’t fully stomach the Euro trip that so many producers and musicians are currently on. I have no qualms about being “one of those dudes” who wishes we could get back to the soul. Is that a crime?
What I love about golden era Hip Hop is the inventiveness it required. Taking elements of other records and using them to create brilliant and new soundscapes is something that fascinates me to this day. Although technology has led some to abuse (even bastardize) the concept of using breakbeats and other musical samples, I’ll always have love for some of the classic breaks that have stood the test of time. And with that, let’s drop the needle on the first of the five.
The Winstons: “Amen Brother” (1969)
The “Amen” break is arguably the king of all breakbeats–it has been dubbed one of the most sampled records of all time. This very funky break has been chopped up and otherwise included in countless recordings over the years, and was effectively modified to help shape the distinct sounds of the drum-and-bass genre in the 1990s, making it one of the more durable sampled beats in history. Here’s a short (yet fascinating) documentary on the history of the “Amen” break:
The Honeydrippers: “Impeach the President” (1973)
Another widely used break. Many people will immediately recognize the drums sampled from this song, if not the melody, which has also been mined. Off top, I can name more than a few, but let’s see what pops into your head when you hear it:
Herman Kelly & Life: “Dance to the Drummer’s Beat” (1978)
I love this one because the whole song is criminally funky and has more than one sample to choose from. It’s not uncommon to see someone punishing the turntables with this, as we will see with Q-Bert below:
The Mohawks: “The Champ” (1968)
This one does it for me every time. The organ is crazy throughout, but it just sets it off so lovely in the introduction that you can’t help but dance.
James Brown: “Funky Drummer” (1970)
You really can’t have a breakbeat discussion without including James Brown. “Funky Drummer” was nearly inescapable at the height of the Hip-Hop renaissance. Let us not fail to mention one Clyde Stubblefield, the aforementioned stickman.
Of course, this post only scratches the surface. I know I’m not the only beat junkie around here. What are some of your favorite breaks?