If this series were a working week, then this - the third part - would be hump day. Thankfully, it’s not a working week, and is instead a piece dedicated to the art of the breakbeat and the series that helped launch it. Here, we’re taking on 511 through 515.
Fausto, Funk, Honey and Headhunters: SBR 511 boasts an impressive roster. The songs within aren’t necessarily famous in their own right, but a handful have become oft-flipped hip hop staples. Interestingly, one track hasn’t ever been sampled, making it the third of just four cuts from UBB to avoid being sampled. Even with this zilch, the five remaining tracks have garnered 1682 samples.
Singer-songwriter Roy Hammond, better known as Roy C, recorded “Impeach The President” with his high school band The Honey Drippers. Popularised by Marley Marl, who used the breakbeat on both “Eric B. Is President” and “The Bridge,” it quickly became one of the most popular breaks in hip hop, and has since been sampled more the 770 times.
The Headhunters were founded by Herbie Hancock in the early ‘70s. 1975’s “God Make Me Funky,” featuring vocals from The Pointer Sisters, underscored Nas’ scathing “Hip Hop Is Dead.”
The track, produced by Hancock, is most famous for appearing on songs by Santana, N.W.A, Digable Planets, Eric B. & Rakim, DMX and Redman. It’s also featured on the very same De La Soul cut as “Impeach the President.”
SAM Records is an interesting label: though it was only active for seven years between ‘76 and ‘83, the disco focus immediately endeared it to early hip hop producers. Their most prolifically sampled release is John Davis and the Monster Orchestra’s “I Can’t Stop.”
It’s one of the few tracks included on the Ultimate Breaks and Beats series to have never since been sampled.
Orange Krush’s “Action,” their only single, was produced in 1982 by soon-to-be hip hop legends Russell Simmons and Larry Smith. That makes sense: the group primarily served as Run-DMC’s backing band. It was first sampled just one year later by old school outfit The Treacherous Three.
Another popular sample, Funk, Inc.’s “Kool Is Back” boasts a versatile and enduring breakbeat at 1:47. The 1971 funk cut was first sampled by rock group Yes in ‘83, just one year before it impacted hip hop through Kurtis Blow’s “AJ Scratch,” itself a sampling staple.
It’s no surprise that the tight percussion of Fausto Papetti’s “Love’s Theme” has since proven popular with producers. The Italian saxophonist largely covered popular songs: “Love’s Theme” was written by Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra.
Between “The Champ,” “Ashley’s Roachclip” and “Funky Drummer,” it’s no surprise that SBR 512 comes in as the second-most sampled instalment of UBB. All in all, there’s 2715 different identified flips included on this one, but that’s not to say these records only got their exposure from their inclusion. That goes for all these figures, but I’m sure you got that already. Just don’t wanna be misconstrued here!
An Ohio-born multi-instrumentalist, Junie Morrison was a member of the revered Ohio Players. He wrote much of “Funky Worm,” which would go on to be a cornerstone of G-Funk. He later worked as musical director of Parliament-Funkadelic.
If you’re interested enough to read a multi-instalment article about breaks and samples, this is one you’ll probably already know. James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” is an indispensable source of ad-libs, four counts and breakbeats, one of the most sampled cuts from the most sampled artist.
Another much-sampled classic, The Mohawk’s “The Champ” has almost 700 appearances to its name. The Mohawks were a group of session musicians helmed by composer Alan Hawkshaw, and “The Champ” was the opening track to their first and only LP.
It’s a rock n' roll classic, for sure, but still: why is an Aerosmith hit in a breakbeat compilation? It’s a sign of the times. In 1986, Run-DMC pioneered rap-rock when they collaborated with Aerosmith on a new version of the track. The record, Raising Hell, would be regarded as the trio’s masterpiece.
Rock begets rock, as Aerosmith’s hit is followed by Thin Lizzy’s “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed.” The 1976 hard rock cut was included on Johnny The Fox, the group’s seventh studio album, and has since become their most sampled track.
I’ve timestamped the breakbeat on The Soul Searchers’ “Ashley’s Roachclip,” though you might want to skim back to 2:19. Put those two seperate elements together, and what do you have? Eric B. & Rakim’s seminal “Paid In Full.” The cut is so much more than just that jam: it’s been sampled more than 400 times.
Next up is Chicago Gangsters’ “Gangster Boogie,” a 1975 song by the Ohio-based brotherly quartet. It was included on their debut LP, Blind Over You, eventually reissued as Gangster Boogie. It was broken in by DJ Grand Wizard Theodore, who spun the track during his “Live Convention ‘82” set.
It’s not hard to see why T-Connections “Groove To Get Down” is featured on SBR 512, seeing as it opens with a tight breakbeat. Despite this, it’s been sampled just 10 times in the three decades since it was included on the compilation.
Funk, rock and disco are odd bedfellows: though funk was a strong influence on the development of disco culture, rock fans were less than receptive to the ongoing dominance of the upstart genre. The last genre driven by the baby boomers, it died by the same hands: you might have read about Chicago’s infamous Disco Demolition Derby, a crystallisation of anti-disco sentiment. Was it related to sexist, racist and homophobic beliefs? Some people think so. Rant aside, there are a lean 230 samples in this diverse lot.
SBR 513 opens with Babe Ruth’s “The Mexican.” That track, amongst the bands most famous, was included on their aptly-titled debut, First Base. Though they’re named for one of baseball’s most legendary players, Babe Ruth actually hail from Hertfordshire in England.
This one was apparently on that discontinued alternate pressing of SBR 508, and was likely included here to help propagate the popular flip.
Who else should follow Babe Ruth but Babe Ruth themselves? “Keep Your Distance” was included on 1976’s Kid’s Stuff, their fifth LP. Whilst it’s their penultimate record, it wouldn’t be until 2007 that they released their follow-up, Qué Pasa.
Coke Escovedo, a onetime member of both Santana and Azteca, found unexpected hip-hop success with 1976’s “I Wouldn’t Change A Thing.” Tragically, he wouldn’t live to see much of it: Escovedo died in 1986, just one year before the track was included on SBR 513.
Next up is Eastside Connection with “Frisco Disco.” Though the 1978 dance jam was originally released as a nine-minute funk odyssey, the SBR 513 cut has been edited down to a still-substantial 6:50. The standalone single remains their most famous cut.
A novel inclusion, “Phenomena Theme” is an obscure mid-’70s cut from the In Search Of… Orchestra. The track was recorded for the successful weekly TV program, In Search Of…, hosted by Leonard Nimoy and dedicated to the exploration of mysteries and the paranormal.
The Meters’ “Handclapping Song.” The Meters are often credited as pioneers of funk music alongside the much more famous James Brown, and their sampling track record reflects this notoriety. Though this specific track has been sampled 88 times, their catalogue boasts more than 480 flips.
There’s a lot of cool going around on SBR 514: we’ve got Turrentine’s sax, Milt Jackson’s vibraphone, Fred Wesley’s trombone and J.J. Johnson’s blaxploitation chic at play. Fred Wesley comes out in the lead, which is unsurprising given his close collaborative relationship with James Brown. Moving within that circle endeared a whole swathe of funk artists to hip hop producers, who - it stands to reason - would have been raised on the records. All in all, 447 samples.
Now for something a little smoother. SBR 514 opens with Stanley Turrentine and Milt Jackson’s “Sister Sanctified,” a cut from their 1972 collaborative LP, Cherry. Beyond Turrentine on sax and Jackson on vibraphone, the backing band included frequently sampled musicians such as pianist Bob James and drummer Billy Cobham.
It’s been sampled just 18 times, most notably by Madlib’s solo jazz project Yesterday’s New Quintet, early Brooklyn-based gangster rapper Just-Ice, classic boom-bap duo Gang Starr and onetime Furious Five member Melle Mel.
Kid Dynamite’s “Uphill Peace of Mind” is a moderately popular sample from an obscure mid-’70s rock outfit. They’re not to be mistaken with the late-’90s post punk band of the same name.
It’s hard to resist the deep funk of Ralph McDonald’s 1976 disco joint, “Jam on the Groove.” That probably helps explain why it’s since been sampled more than 50 times.
Even before it was included on SBR 514, the cut appeared on Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show,” Beastie Boys’ “Time To Get Ill” and 2 Live Crew’s “Cut It Up.” Since featuring on the compilation, it’s graced work by Jungle Brothers, Del and The Roots.
Boasting both a mouthful of a title and a fair amount of samples, Experience Unlimited’s “Knock Him Out Sugar Ray” is a prime example of early-'80s go-go, a Washington, D.C.-specific variety of funk.
We close with “Blow Your Head,” credited to Fred Wesley and the J.B.’s and included on their 1974 LP. Wesley was a key member of Brown’s band throughout the ‘70s, and the trombonist would eventually join fellow Brown associates Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker in Parliament-Funkadelic.
There’s some real hits in here! We got John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane,” a song you almost couldn’t have possibly avoided, as well as Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mister Magic” and Donald Byrd’s “Change (Makes You Want To Hustle).” The latter two are for you jazz heads, but if you haven’t heard either, then do yourself a favour. I’m particularly partial to Washington Jr.’s nine-minute sax jam. There’s 225 samples scattered throughout these songs. In a telling quirk, two seperate tracks from this instalment appear on DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s 1987 single, “A Touch of Jazz.”
SBR 515 gets off to a strong start with some funky brass from jazz maestro Donald Byrd. Though it’s a great track, it hardly proved a popular sample: to date, “Change (Makes You Want To Hustle)” has been sampled less than 10 times.
Roy Ayers is a legendary figure in hip hop circles: the lauded vibraphonist has enjoyed a late-career revitalisation by way of samples and interpolations. Ayers released many of his oft-funky, oft-soulful compositions alongside his backing band, Roy Ayers Ubiquity.
Long tracks aren’t conducive to mid-'80s compilations. Why? The vinyl on which they’re pressed is a physically limited medium. As such, only four-and-a-half minutes of Grover Washington Jr.’s jazz jam “Mister Magic” appear on SBR 515.
Moving away from jazz, we’ve got David Matthews significantly funkier rendition of “Main Theme from Star Wars.” Matthews’ Dune - an album comprising of funky space-related covers - also features a version of “Space Oddity,” notably sampled on MF DOOM’s “Rapp Snitch Knishes.”
“Main Theme from Star Wars” has been sampled on just 7 tracks, including Jungle Brothers’ early hip-hop/house crossover, “I’ll House You.”
You’ve almost certainly heard this little ditty about Jack & Diane, which remains John Mellencamp’s most indelible hit. Released in 1982, it spent four whole weeks at #1 on the Billboard 100.
Whilst it’s a classic hit from a bygone era, “Jack and Diane” isn’t quite a sampling staple. Elements have appeared on just 14 tracks at the time of writing, most notably gracing songs by Action Bronson, Jadakiss and Jessica Simpson.
“Bouncy Lady” is a 1975 disco track by Portland-based R&B outfit Pleasure, originally included on Dust Yourself Off, their debut LP. It was recorded in California and produced by Wayne Henderson of oft-sampled group The Crusaders.
The final inclusion on SBR 515 is Jefferson Airplane’s “Rock Music,” a vaguely-titled rock cut included on their 1979 LP, Freedom at Point Zero. Jefferson Starship were an evolution of seminal psych-rock outfit Jefferson Airplane, and they were eventually themselves succeeded by arena rock outfit Starship.