words by Bob Burrows, Resident DJ at Dead Funky in York http://www.facebook.com/deadfunky

A short history of the BREAK and a series of records that introduced the ULTIMATE ones to the world.

Back in the late 1970’s early 80’s a musical phenomena was growing in New York that would change the way music would be made forever. Block parties were the places to be, the DJ’s were treated like royalty and the name of the game was the BREAK.

Traditionally a BREAK was a small section of a record roughly between 5 and 20 seconds long, a section usually containing no vocals, just the drummer playing a beat. Very funky DJ’s like GRAND WIZARD THEODORE, AFRIKA BAMBAATA and KOOL HERC soon realised that if you had two copies of the same break you could play them back to back to create a continuous drum loop. It was these breaks and loops that were really making the people dance. A new style of dance soon emerged from this and those people doing the dancing would quickly become known as BREAKDANCERS or B-BOYS for short. MC’s and rappers soon followed to keep the party hyped and before long, the foundations of hip hop had been laid.

In no time at all the Bronx was alive to the sounds of hip hop and every available space from school yards to abandoned music halls were being used for events. DJ crews were popping up all over the place, each with its own unique sounds, MC’s and of course DJ’s playing those hallowed breaks and beats. It wasn’t uncommon to hear that people would travel for miles just to hear a DJ cut up a particular break.

Breaks soon became hugely important to this ever growing scene and so did keeping them a secret. DJ’s would often pile up boxes around the decks, stick labels and cardboard over the centre of records, and even employ security to keep things secret. But thankfully those secrets didn’t last long, thanks to the efforts of two very important men named Lenny Roberts and Lou Flores.

First on the scene came a series of bootleg releases under the titles of “octopus breaks”. Initially these sold really well but due to the nature of bootleg releases and copyright laws Lenny and Lou soon realised that if they were going to carry on releasing music, then they would have to get the official licences for the records they wanted to use. They did just that and in 1986, STREET BEAT RECORDS released ULTIMATE BREAKS AND BEATS”VOLUME 1″ to the world.

Another 24 official releases would follow, bringing what is generally described as the greatest collection of breaks and beats ever released. They helped change the way people would look at making music, turned millions of us into crate diggers and its pretty safe to say that more artists, DJ’s and producers have used these records to sample and produce music than any other series on the planet.

All the releases are still available today across many formats with the original releases now being hugely collectable items, and take pride of place on the shelves of any serious record collector or crate digger.

To help you put things into perspective here are the top 5 records ever to be sampled, and yes, they were all released on the label at some point .

At number 5 is THE HONEY DIPPERS “Impeach the president” (1973) sampled approximately 567 times by artists including Janet Jackson, Mick Jagger, Alanis Morissette and Kris Kross

At number 4 is JAMES BROWN “Funky President” (1974) sampled approximately 581 times by artists including Eric B and Rakim, Calvin Harris, Jamiroquai and The Offspring.

At number 3 is JAMES BROWN “Funky Drummer” (1970) sampled approx. 980 times by artists including Public Enemy, George Michael, Sinead O’Connor and Nine Inch Nails.

At number 2 is LYN COLLINS “Think (About It) (1972) sampled an unbelievable 1109 (approximately) times by artists including Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock, Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg and Olly Murs.

And finally at number one is the most sampled track of all time. WINSTONS “Amen Brother” sampled approximately 1510 times and generally recognised as the original sample for early drum and bass tracks. Used by artists including N.W.A, Slipknot, David Bowie, Katy B and Skrillex to name but a few.

Dead Funky