Breaks Beats - RM Hip Hop Magazine 1986

Back in the late Seventies, before hip hop emerged from it’s Bronx breeding ground, the young street kids uptown started working out the acrobatic style of dancing now known as breaking. The best music for breaking to back then, before electro was even heard of, was anything with a punchy percussive beat - and the best source of these percussive breaks was on early Seventies funk singles like Dennis Coffey’s ‘Scorpio’ or the Dynamic Corvettes’ ‘Funky Music Is The Thing’.

However, as the Bronx DJs delved into their collections for anything with a good break in it, records by the Rolling Stones and other rock groups ended up being used for their exciting percussive solos or intros. The kids who dug this kind of sound where called B-boys (B for Break) and naturally their energetic style of dancing got tagged breaking. As the DJs started cutting up two copies of the same record to extend a five second break into a ten-minute one, break beats became more and more sought after.

Even fairly mundane tracks like Bob James’ version of Paul Simon’s ‘Take Me To The Mardi Gras’ became a collectors’ item just because it had a really good percussive intro. To meet the demand for break beat records, many of the populair tunes ended up on bootleg compilations like the Super Disco Breaks series on the Winley Label. Despite being poor recorded, each of these volumes were good value for money as they contained up to ten or twelve B-boy favourites that were usually hard to find.

The old break beats were often the inspiration for the new rap and electro tunes and the Incredible Bongo Band’s ’75 single ‘Apache’ was covered first by the Sugarhill Gang in 1982 and then by the West Street Mob (called ‘Breakdance – Electric Boogie') in ’83.

Today the interest in break beats is as intense as ever, as young hip hop fans try to track down the sounds which first inspired those early break dancers back in the Bronx. B-boy anthems, like Jimmy Castor’s exhilarating ‘It’s just begun’ from ’72, are again riding high in nightclubs across the States and Britain. Hardcore Records of Los Angeles have started issueing a series of break beat EPs to satisfy the demand from young hip hop enthusiasts.

Anyone interested in the breaks should also check out ‘Lesson Three’ by Double Dee and Steinski which is a megamix of B-boy classics, and the Original Concept’s ‘Can You Feel It?’ which features snatches of the Tomahawks’ 1968 single ‘The Champ’ - another hip hop roots favourite.

© RM Hip Hop Magazine, 1986

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