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January 2, 2001



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 ForMen > gear > These Are the Breaks

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These Are the Breaks

Hear 10 famous breaks in their original forms. Now with MP3s!

January 2, 2001

The breakbeat is one of the most important elements of electronic music. It's provided the backbone for hip-hip, drum and bass, two-step, nu skool breaks, and countless other styles. DJs actively hunt down and collect breaks, keeping their eyes out for multiple copies of pristine originals. And nothing is more exciting than discovering an obscure break, one that has yet to be sampled into a track.

I'm a break fiend. I love everything about breaks: the rhythm, the culture, the history. Having grown up in the heyday of hip-hop, my record collection has expanded backwards into time as I've learned from whence the original beats came. Run-D.M.C., Eric B and Rakim, Public Enemy, and all the other great old-school groups inspired me to search out the disco, funk, jazz, and rock records the producers mined for samples. Modern dance music also makes deep use of breaks. Drum and bass was founded on the sampled beat, and uses many of the same breaks as hip-hop, albeit in altered forms.

I figured IGN.com must have a number of readers who are also interested in these original beats, so I've compiled a list of 10 of the biggest breaks . Granted, I couldn't include all of the famous breaks -- there are way too many for just one article. But if this piece does well, I'd like to make it into a series.

But enough of words. These are the breaks:

Break: Amen
Song: "Amen, Brother"
Artist: The Winstons
Hear It: WAV, MP3
The Amen break is arguably one of the most used ever (it's right up there next to James Brown's "Funky Drummer"). Because of the fast speed of the original song, it was used quite a bit in early drum and bass. It's still used today, although not quite as often, as dnb has moved away from chopped breaks. "Amen, Brother" was originally released on 45 in the late 60s and is a pretty rocking song (The Freestylers took huge chunks of it for their "Breaker Beats"). Love that organ.

Break: Mardi Gras
Song: "Take Me To the Mardi Gras"
Artist: Bob James
Hear the Intro Break: WAV, MP3
Hear the Middle Break: WAV, MP3
Bob James' jazz-funk classic "Take Me To the Mardi Gras" is arguably cheesy in its entirety, but the break is downright god like. Run-D.M.C. made big use of it on "Peter Piper" but it's also been rocked in a ton of other records. The middle "Mardi Gras" break is less used but also dope. You can find this song on Bob James' Two album, released on CTI in the early 70s. Also worth hunting down is One, which has the Nautilus break.

Break: Apache
Song: "Apache"
Artist: Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band
Hear the Intro Break: WAV, MP3
Hear the Middle Break: WAV, MP3
"Apache" is my theme song. It's the ultimate B-boy anthem, complete with huge beats, a massive melody, and one of the most amazing breaks ever. The Incredible Bongo Band was a Jamaican funk band in the early 70s whose album, Bongo Rock, on which "Apache" appears, is so chock full of gems it's a must-have for anyone, collector or not. This break never grows old. In fact, Matrix recently had a hit with his own "Apache," a song that looped the bongo break at double speed.

Break: Champ
Song: "The Champ"
Artist: Mohawks
Hear It: WAV, MP3
Another personal favorite. This late 60s organ instrumental is guaranteed to rock any party. It doesn't hurt that it's got this great break. Onyx interpolated it for "Slam," but it was KRS-One that did it the most justice with "Step Into a World (Rapture)."

Break: Sanctified
Song: "Sister Sanctified"
Artist: Stanley Turrentine
Hear It: WAV, MP3
Like butter. Stanley Turrentine's jazz-funk classic "Sister Sanctified" is what vinyl was made for. The entire song is gorgeous, made perfect by this sweet break. KRS-One (again) used it on his "My Philosophy" back in the BDP days. Grab a copy of Turrentine's CTI album Cherry and have "Sister Sanctified" for your very own.

Break: Roachclip
Song: "Ashley's Roachclip"
Artist: Soul Searchers
Hear It: WAV, MP3
This brilliant break unfortunately got played out in the late 80s/early 90s by commercial producers looking to funk up their songs. Milli Vanilli (girl, you know it's true) just couldn't leave this break alone. Those in the know will recognize it as the beat for Eric B and Rakim's "Paid in Full." Love that weird horn stab.

Break: Scorpio
Song: "Scorpio"
Artist: Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band
Hear It: WAV, MP3
Another massive break. Dennis Coffey was a session guitarist who had a huge hit with "Scorpio" in the early 70s. It's ironic that almost the entire song is devoted to a break and bass solo. You can't ignore that melody though. Coffey knew he had a goof thing going, and tried to recreate the success of "Scorpio" with a number of follow-ups, including "Ride Sally Ride," which is basically the same song, long break and all. Also check "Son of Scorpio" and "Taurus" for more funky zodiac action.

Break: Johnny the Fox
Song: "Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed"
Artist: Thin Lizzy
Hear It: WAV, MP3
Thin Lizzy may seem a strange band to have in here with all these funk and jazz dudes, but rock bands cranked out some pretty hype breaks too. Aerosmith ("Walk This Way"), Babe Ruth ("The Mexican"), Billy Squier ("Big Beat"), and The Monkees ("Mary, Mary") all had useable breaks. Hey, back in the day, it didn't matter whose name was on the label -- all that mattered was the beat. That's the only part of the record the DJs played anyway.

Break: Drummer's Beat
Song: "Dance To the Drummer's Beat"
Artist: Herman Kelly & Life
Hear It: WAV, MP3
This late 70s bonafide classic funk jam has all those cool stabs. Everybody and their mom has used this. As always, the tracks with the long percussion breaks were the most popular, enabling not only the dancers but the DJs -- like Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, and Kool Herc -- to show their turntable skills.

Break: Think
Song: "Think (About It)"
Artist: Lyn Collins
Hear the "It Takes Two" Think Break: WAV, MP3
Hear the "Uh-Huh" Think Break: WAV, MP3
Hear the "Bad Man" Think Break: WAV, MP3
Hear the "Bad Sister" Think Break: WAV, MP3
Lyn Collins' "Think (About It)" (not to be confused with the Aretha Franklin song "Think") has four huge beats in it. All of them have been done to death, including that one with the yelps that Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock used in "It Takes Two." Lyn Collins was a James Brown protege, and you can hear him shouting all over this track. James Brown was huge in the 70s, turning out tons of tracks with famous breaks. Of course there's the "Funky Drummer," "Payback," and "Funky President." And not to forget the JBs' "The Grunt," which pretty much set the Public Enemy sound.

Remember, if you try to download the wave and it shows up as an MP3, adjust the "Save As..." setting in the download dialog box. Your media player may want to download everything as an MP3.)

Many of these cuts can be had as part of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats bootleg series. There are 25 of these, and although they vary in quality, they're probably the easiest way to find many of these cuts. Rhino also put out a CD called Kurtis Blow Presents the History of Rap Vol. 1: The Genesis, which has lots of dope old breaks as well. Finally, if you're serious about buying this stuff in its original form, you might want to check a story I wrote last week called Diggin' in the Crates.

There you go. I hope you liked listening to the breaks and all. If you want to read more stories like this, let me know and I'll throw them up.

Adam Douglas is saving "It's Just Begun" for part two

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