Part four! We’re continuing our deep dive into the world of Ultimate Breaks and Beats, the hugely popular breakbeat series that helped revolutionise the music scene in the mid-to-late ‘80s and early ‘90s. In this part, we’re looking at instalments 516 through 520.
Not only does SBR 516 come in third with a phenomenal 2637 flips: it’s actually the third and final instalment to break the 2000 mark. That seems surprising, given how easily it cleared that hurdle, but SBR 511 - which comes in at number four - is almost a thousand samples shy of third place. “Think (About It)” and “Space Dust,” which appear alongside one another on SBR 516, were both prominently sampled on Rob base & DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two.”
We kick off SBR 516, the sixteenth instalment of Ultimate Breaks and Beats, with a cut from noted soul outfit The Commodores. “The Assembly Line” opened the b-side of Machine Gun, the group’s 1974 Motown-released debut.
Next up is Johnny Jenkins’ 1970 blues cut, “I Walk On Gilded Splinters,” included on his debut record. Jenkins was a left-handed blues guitarist, most famous for influencing Jimi Hendrix and helping kickstart Otis Redding’s career.
Le Pamplemousse’s “Gimmie What You Got” was included on the duo’s 1976 self-titled debut. The disco outfit dropped seven albums through their eight year run, many of which were notable for their sexually suggestive cover art.
The most famous name on the tracklist comes through with one of the lesser-known samples - such is the beauty of sampling culture. “‘T’ Plays It Cool” was an instrumental track included on Gaye’s Trouble Man, a soundtrack to the 1972 blaxploitation flick of the same name.
A relatively lowkey act with an all-time great sample! Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It)” is a 1972 James Brown-produced funk classic. The tune has two key samples: the “woo! yeah” passage and drum break, collectively termed the ‘Think break’.
Galactic Force Band’s “Space Dust.” It’s one of just two original compositions on the disco cover album, which largely reimagines ‘70s sci-fi themes. It’s the perfect intersection of two pop culture phenomena: the post-Star Wars boom in blockbuster sci-fi and the increasing overexposure of heavily label-backed disco music.
It most famously appeared on Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two.”
We close with Steve Miller Band’s “Take The Money and Run.” That tune was released as the lead single from 1976’s Fly Like An Eagle, ultimately peaking at #11 on the Hot 100. The record’s titular track has also been sampled more than 140 times, most notably covered by Seal for the Space Jam OST.
There have been 760 seperate samples pulled from the eight tracks on SBR 517. The most popular cuts include jams from The Pointer Sisters, Dyke and the Blazers and Kool & The Gang, but some of the most interesting inclusions come from Baby Huey, Monk Higgins and Bram Tchaikovsky.
Baby Huey, born James Ramey, was an Indiana-raised rock and soul singer. He fronted Baby Huey and the Babysitters, a noted Chicago club act that recorded four singles in the mid-’60s. Huey died of a drug-related heart attacked in 1970, aged 26. His sole release was a posthumous LP, 1971’s The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend.
The obscure and raunchy collide on Boobie Knight & The Universal Lady’s “The Lovomaniacs.” The 1974 soul/funk jam was released as a single with the title "Sex,” which makes sense considering the lyrical content.
The drum break in the opening of The Pointer Sisters’ “Yes We Can Can” has elevated it from a ‘73 single to a ‘90s mainstay. The hit originally peaked at #11 on the Hot 100.
The song’s been sampled just over 40 times: first by old school outfit The Treacherous Three on 1982’s “Yes We Can-Can,” and later by acts such as N.W.A, MC Lyte, Heavy D & The Boyz, De La Soul, Leaders of the New School and Pete Rock.
Monk Higgins was an Arkansas-born jazz saxophonist. He released “One Man Band (Plays All Alone)” in 1974, just 12 years before his death. I’ve timecoded the key drum break within, but it’s worth checking out the entire jazzy spectacle.
Kool and the Gang’s “N.T.” - an abbreviation of “No Title” - contains both familiar instrumental elements and one of hip hop’s most pervasive breakbeats. It was included on Live at PJ’s, the group’s second live LP and third overall record.
We return to the hard funk with Dyke And The Blazers’ 1969 hit, “Let a Woman Be a Woman, Let a Man Be a Man.” The funk group were active for just seven years, their tenure cut short by the sudden and mysterious shooting death of Dyke himself.
Next up is Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Whiskey and Wine.” Tchaikovsky served as the replacement guitarist for The Motors, a British pub rock group, between ‘67 and ‘70, after which he started his own eponymous outfit. Though a version of the track was included on The Motor’s 1, this version was taken from the b-side of Tchaikovsky’s own 1979 “Girl of My Dreams” single.
It’s been sampled 4 times, most notably by Beck.
Fancy were a Mike Hurst-produced assembling of session musicians that released just two albums between ‘73 and ‘75. The track included on SBR 517 is a heavily edited take on a jam off their debut: it’s a 1:40 recording of the “Feel Good” breakbeat played at a faster 45rpm speed.
Here’s a fun piece of trivia: it seems possible that this instalment factored into the production of “Drifting,” a 1993 single by Irish four-piece hip hop act Marxman. It kinda goes without saying, but the group identified as Marxists, and much of their debut album - the hilariously titled 33 Revolutions Per Minute - espoused the virtues of the theory. “Drifting” featured samples of both “It’s Just Begun” and “It’s My Thing,” which appear alongside each other here, as well as a cut from SBR 507. Here’s the kicker: the song was produced by Guru and DJ Premier of Gang Starr, and Preemo contributed his telltale scratching to the mix.
Anyhow, there’s 287 samples within this instalment.
We start off with The Bar-Keys’ “Let’s Have Some Fun,” which has been sampled almost 40 times.
It was released ten years after the plane crash that killed Otis Redding and almost the entire original Bar-Kays lineup. Guitarist James Alexander, who wasn’t on the plane, named his son Phalon after Phalon Jones, his late bandmate and friend. Phalon Alexander would grow up to become noted Southern producer and music executive Jazze Pha.
The Lafayette Afro Rock Band, originally formed in the States, moved to France in 1970 to escape the then-oversaturated funk market.
It was there they recorded 1974’s “Conga.” It’s one of their less-famous samples, trailing behind their ever-popular “Darkest Light” and “Hihache.” To date, only three samples have been identified: one by Pizzicato Five in ‘91, another by DJ Q-Bert in ‘94 and a final flip by Pizzicato Five in ‘99.
Short-lived Philly funk band Yellow Sunshine released just a single record, their self-titled debut, in 1973. They quickly disbanded after it failed to make an impact. One notable member was Dexter Wansel, a keyboardist who would himself become a staple of sampling culture.
It’s been sampled just 9 times, notably on The D.O.C.’s “Whirlwind Pyramid” and DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist’s “Product Placement (Side 2).”
The Jimmy Castor Bunch make an appearance with the title track from their 1972 debut, It’s Just Begun. That song, itself a hit, was an early example of the disco genre, which would come to dominate the decade.
Marva Whitney is another relatively obscure act whose James Brown-produced funk jams have become mainstays of sampling culture. “It’s My Thing” found the Kansas singer responding to The Isley Brothers’ own “It’s Your Thing,” itself released earlier in ‘69.
Another track from a funk-turned-disco outfit is courtesy of The Kay-Gees, groovy proteges of Kool & The Gang. That relationship came about through Kay-Gees member Kevin Bell, the younger brother of both Ronald Bell and ‘Kool’ himself.
We close out SBR 518 with progressive rock figure Dennis Coffey, who’s perhaps best remembered by a handful of significant samples. “Ride Sally Ride” isn’t a “Mustang Sally” cover, as the title may suggest, but an entirely original composition.
The 1972 track was broken in 16 years later by Ced-Gee of Ultramagnetic MC’s, who flipped it on both “Feelin’ It” and “Kool Keith Housing Things.” It’s since been sampled more than 20 times.
The sampling generally seems to slow on these later instalments, all of which were released during the height of the late-’80s sampling explosion. There are a few potential factors that could have led to this: a later release could have had less of an effect on influencing the culture at large, and the art of crate digging could have pushed producers to obscure records instead of ‘best of’ compilations. It seems unlikely that BreakBeat Lou ran out of sample-ready sounds to proliferate, as “Think (About It)” - one of the most popular samples in the series - was included on SBR 516. That song itself has seven times the samples of this entire entry, which sits at 303 flips.
The Blackbyrds’ “Rock Creek Park.” The tune, produced by legendary jazz trumpeter and funk pioneer Donald Byrd, was included on 1975’s City Life. It was the third album from the Byrd-inspired outfit, which included a few of the trumpeters own Howard University students.
KC and the Sunshine Band’s cover of George McCrae’s 1974 single, “I Get Lifted,” has proved a popular sample. McCrae’s original itself has almost 40 credits, whilst KC’s rendition sits just under 60 samples.
Brother Soul’s “Cookies” is both a singular song and a unique flip. The popular sample is perhaps the only enduring legacy of the mysterious group, which was founded by one James Harris in the early ‘70s. They released just four 7” singles between ‘72 and ‘75: “Cookies” was the third.
Next up is the juveline stylings of Foster Sylvers’ “Misdemeanor.” Foster was just 11 years old when that track, the lead single off his self-titled debut, became a hit. It was written by his older brother, Leon Sylvers III, who also wrote for The Sylvers, their Watts-based family band. Foster would join the outfit two years after scoring this, his only hit.
Now we hear from a little known NYC-based female vocal trio, Wild Sugar. “Bring It Here” was included on the b-side of the group’s sole 12” single, released in 1981 on shortlived label The Sound of Brooklyn. Though they failed to follow up that effort, the trio did contribute vocals to four Fatback Band records between ‘80 and ‘81.
It’s probably fair to say that you likely haven’t heard of Florida-based funk outfit Miami. Though they released three records of their own in the mid-to-late ‘70s, Miami primarily served as the in-house band for T.K. Records.
“Put The Music Where Your Mouth Is” was recorded far before The Olympic Runners - to whom it’s credited - existed. Producer Mike Vernon convened a group of session musicians to play for Jimmy Dawkins, but when Dawkins was late, the musos decided to lay down the eventual R&B hit.
Lightnin’ Rod - a pseudonym Jalal Mansur Nuriddin of The Last Poets - released Hustlers Convention in 1973, just as the breakbeat technique pioneered by DJ Kool Herc caught on. The fusion of funk, toasting and sociopolitical content proved an influence on the yet-young genre.
The prominent and the mysterious collide on SBR 520, where stalwarts such as Roy Ayers and Bill Withers find themselves alongside largely unfamiliar names such as Joe Quarterman, Afrique and Eddie Bo. In a stunning upset, Ayers comes out with the least flips. I mean, it is the fourth most sampled cut from that particular Ayers album, but still. He contributes just six flips to the total tally of 368.
“Lonesome Cowboy” was included on Roy Ayers Ubiquity’s 1975 LP Everybody Loves The Sunshine, which featured the signature song of the same name. That album is a favourite amongst hip hop producers: this cut is the fourth most-sampled from the record.
Duke Williams and the Extremes included “Chinese Chicken,” the b-side to their debut single, as the second track on 1973’s A Monkey in a Silk Suit is Still a Monkey, their debut album.
The track has been sampled almost exclusively from the breakbeat within, which has made appearances on songs by Aphex Twin, De La Soul, Ice Cube, Leaders of the New School and The Dust Brothers. It’s the groups only sampled track.
Next up, the loftily named Joe Quarterman and Free Soul. Often referred to as ‘Sir’ Joe Quarterman, an honorary title he earned during high school, the Washington D.C. funk artist released just one album alongside Free Soul.
A husband-and-wife folk singing duo, Friend & Lover released just one album, from which “Reach Out of the Darkness” was the biggest hit, peaking at #10 on the Billboard 100. Both the band and the marriage eventually broke up, and Cathy Conn died in June 2018.
Credited on SBR 520 as The Chubukos, a name they also recorded under, Afrique were a studio band who released their sole LP, Soul Makossa, in 1973. Songwriter Richard Fritz wrote every track on the b-side, but the remainder of the record featured covers of songs by Manu Dibango, Bill Withers and Gamble & Huff.
Next up is Eddie Bo’s “Hook and Sling - Part I,” a 1969 single from the lesser-known funk veteran.
You’ll probably recognise Bo’s opening question - “you ready?” - as a recurring sample throughout Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback.” The “yeah!” with which his band replies can be heard on LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” whilst Bo’s subsequent “oh!” is sampled throughout Kanye’s “Lost In The World.” It’s been flipped over 80 times.
We close out both SBR 520 and the fourth of our five instalments with a groove from Bill Withers, the legendary soul singer. “Kissing My Love” was included on 1972’s Still Bill and, whilst it never reached the heights of lead single “Lean on Me,” it’s been frequently sampled in the years since.