Ultimate Breakbeats Pt. 1
by Chuck Eddy | July 31, 2013
Ultimate Breaks & Beats was a compilation series of at least 25 volumes, crafted primarily on the Bronx label Street Beat (and less "officially" on the apparently related Beat Street) between 1986 and 1991. Legend holds they were put together initially as illegitimate bootlegs called Octupus Breaks, then supposedly with legal copyright clearance (though who knows if honest attorneys would agree) by one Leonard "Breakbeat Lenny" Roberts, who peddled vinyl at the Manhattan store Downtown Records (with help from retailer friends). The records were mainly purchased by hip-hop producers, who cannibalized them for the funky drum breaks that crate-digging older-school DJs had popularized. The UBB series was, in turn, re-bootlegged by other shady entities over time.
This playlist, however, is constructed not to be scratched or cut-mixed but rather for listening pleasure, since UBB's recycled artifacts were originally, once upon a time -- when actually released by artists, between 1966 and 1984 -- songs in their own right. This first installment resurrects tracks from the first seven numbered compilations on the Street Beat and Beat Street imprints (catalog numbers SBR 499 through SBR 505), and shows how early rap borrowed beats from all over: from Southern soul singers like Z.Z. Hill and Syl Johnson as well as rock bands like The Rolling Stones and The Monkees; from Mardi Gras Indian troupe The Wild Magnolias and jazz-funk originator Roy Ayers; from Tom Jones and counterfeit 1980 Funkadelic. The mix opens with two whoppers by obscure late '70s disco-funk ensembles that provided not only indelible beats but also song titles for early rappers: Freedom (repurposed by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five) and 7th Wonder (plus-oned in The Sugarhill Gang's "8th Wonder"). And it ends with D.C. soul group The Winstons' 1969 "Amen, Brother," the source of music's eternal "Amen Break." Amen to that.