In the half-decade spanning 1986 to 1991, Street Beat Records released 25 seperate compilation records focused on proliferating some of the most versatile and popular breakbeats. The breakbeat had long been a staple of hip hop music, and though Street Beat were hardly the first to issue such records - that honour goes to Paul Winley - their contributions to the art impacted sampling more than any other series.
One of the keys to the success of Ultimate Breaks and Beats was the era in which the records were released. The arrival of hip hop’s so-called ‘golden age’ in 1987 led to an unprecedented explosion in sampling culture and, for the three years that it progressed relatively unencumbered by legal obstacles, the craft reached stunning new creative (and logistical) heights. A cursory look at the work of Prince Paul or The Bomb Squad proves just how audacious producers had become, and the ‘best of’ nature of UBB helped furnish some of the most popular flips.
The series was the brainchild of Leonard “Breakbeat Lenny” Roberts, who worked at Downstairs Records on West 43d Street in the mid-’80s. Initially, Lenny mobilised the peerless knowledge of fellow record purveyor Stanley Patzer, compiling what proved to be the most popular tracks into a series of bootleg tapes called Octopus Breaks. Only after these bootlegs did Lenny go legit, attaining mechanical copyright and issuing the records under the umbrella of his newly-formed Street Beat Records. This marked the beginning of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats series.
Alongside Louis “Breakbeat Lou” Flores, who edited a swathe of tracks for inclusion in the series, Lenny oversaw the production and release of all 25 instalments. When he died in the early ‘90s, the series came to an end, though both Lenny and his legendary breakbeat compilations live on in the cultural fabric of contemporary hip hop. In honour of his contributions to the artform, and as an exercise in exploring the spread of the tracks included within, we’re breaking down all 25 records included in the series. In the lead up to our five-part examination of the classic compilations, we’re going to have a quick look at two unofficial entires that preceded the real thing!
The first of the two unofficial 12" vinyl releases, SBR 499 contains just four tracks. The official records each contain at least six tracks, with an average of seven apiece throughout the 25 instalments.
The first track on the compilation series is courtesy of Texan soul singer Forrest. He released just one album, 1983's One Lover, which was soon followed by a standalone cover of The Limit's "She's So Divine" in '84.
Forrest's rendition of "She's So Divine" has never been sampled, though elements of the original version by The Limit appeared on a 2015 track by instrumental hip hop producer Yuni Wa.
Kashif Saleem was an R&B artist best known for his legendary five-LP run throughout the 1980s. Kashif released just two more albums between '90 and his sudden death in 2016, focusing instead on production, composition and social activism.
"I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On)" has been sampled just five times, with four of those samples occurring post-2010.
Kenix's 1980 track, "There's Never Been No One Like You," features Bobby Youngblood on vocals.
Though seldom sampled, the track has achieved notoriety by other means: it was mentioned by producer Dam-Funk in an Amoeba Records video, and later spun during one of his Boiler Room sets. Earl Sweatshirt and Knxwledge played a remix of the original track on episode 7 of their radio show.
"Magic's Message," released in 1984, was Mr. Magic's one and only 12" single. The famous and influential radio DJ helped shape hip hop through his role on air - much of Magic's legacy rests with his mid-'80s protege, Marley Marl. Magic's alias, Mr. Juice, inspired the name of Marl's famous Juice Crew.
"Magic's Message" has never been sampled.
It’s worth noting that these two unofficial instalments are logged on Discogs which, though oftentimes a reliable source for such information, can be misleading. One interesting quirk of these tracklists is the years in which these tracks were produced: all four are from the ‘80s, and whilst that might not seem remarkable, there’s not a single ‘80s track included throughout the official 25-instalment series.
The first track on SBR 500 is Tia Monae's "Don't Keep Me Waiting," a 1983 track that bridges the genres of disco and house. The track was the only one released by 'Tia Monae,' an early alias of Sabrina Johnston, who had a successful club music career throughout the '90s.
As seems to be a pattern with the tracks on these two unofficial 12" offerings, "Don't Keep Me Waiting" has never been sampled.
Cloud One's "Flying High." The 12" electro-dance single was released in 1982, four years after the duo's second and final album, Funky Disco Tracks of Cloud One.
Adams, a prolific artist with 32 gold and platinum records to his name, has worked with hip hop acts: he's credited with engineering on joints by Salt-N-Pepa and Raekwon, and contributed heavily to the first three Eric B. & Rakim records.
Ednah Holt released just two singles, one in '79 and another in '81. The latter, "Serious, Sirius Space Party," was included on SBR 500. The "club version" of the esoteric disco tune was mixed by Larry Levan, legendary mixing engineer and progressive disco pioneer.
The track was produced by Kenix, the producer responsible for SBR 499 cut "There's Never Been No One Like You."
The final inclusion on the two unofficial 12" UBB releases is courtesy of Convertion, an '80s disco outfit. Their 1980 single, "Let's Do It," was the first of three released by the outfit.
The 12" single was released on SAM Records, a New York City-based disco label. "Let's Do It," the group's only sampled track, was first sampled in 2010, a whole thirty years after its original release. It's since been sampled five times.
The Official Series
Those two unofficial releases were just the beginning. Jump into our six-part deep dive on the Ultimate Breaks and Beats series now!