Breakbeat: one of the most dominant driving beat forces in electronic music since raves began. The dynamic behind all drum & bass records, The Prodigy’s signature drum arrangement and THE core device of the ultimate, hugely influential rave/jungle/D&B foundation, hardcore… Dance music owes A LOT to breakbeats.
Yet shorten it to ‘breaks’ and, for many, it’s a dirty word… And has been for years. Once a genre that could fill all three rooms in Fabric every fortnight, and entire festival arenas for two or three days on the bounce, towards the late noughties it slowly lost favour.
There are many reasons for this… Some of it can be put down to genre-purists who couldn’t handle anything but the classic elements. Some of it can be attributed to the fact that some of the key producers didn’t want to be limited to one confined genre and distanced themselves away from the scene. There were also, let’s face it, an abundance of really naff bootlegs and OTT tear-out releases as the genre passed its peak.
Most of it, though, like all once-popular genres, is simply down to moving trends and tastes. There’s no coincidence that breakbeat – as a genre – lost traction when dubstep refreshingly surged through into the wider consciousness and rewrote every production rulebook in bass music. (And, for that matter, many breakbeat producers switching to dubstep and becoming very successful.)
But, like all dance music genres, breaks never retired. The sound (and its passionate fanbase, some of whom once launched a petition for UKF to set up a breakbeat channel) just went back underground. Or, in other cases, reappeared simply without the ‘breaks’ tag…
Right now, with many releases re-purposing amens and early jungle ingredients, The Prodigy releasing their sixth album later this month and the 14th annual Breakspoll Awards happening this weekend, we thought we’d tip our hat to the classics and unearth 10 breaks tracks that could still slay a floor today.
Note: we’ve only included classified breaks tracks, no garage, no old school rave, no hardcore… If we did this list would last till Christmas. There’s no Prodigy either, because we’ve already been there.
Also note: due to breakbeat’s lack of popularity since YouTube culture exploded and the fact that some of these records are almost 15 years old, pretty much all of these are unofficial uploads so the sound quality isn’t up to UKF’s usual standards. Still, these breaks classics are all well worth a listen, stand the test of time pretty well and have helped shape bass music into the beast it is today…
Future Sound Of London – Papua New Guinea (Hybrid Remix)
FSOL’s 1991 rave anthem got an epic dust-down by cinematic dynamos Hybrid in 2001. Silky riddims.
Rennie Pilgrem & Uberzone – Black Widow
A deep, rolling tribal affair with a killer vocal sample. The meeting of London and Cali’s finest breaks representers stands the test of time nicely.
Freestylers – Punks
Originally released under the name Raw As Fuck, this is the longstanding scene veterans Freestylers at their dirtiest.
Deekline & Wizard (Feat Top Cat) – Special Dedication
You can’t have a breakbeat Top 10 without some Deekline & Wizard. This skank-wise slammer features legendary jungle mic-flexer Top Cat. Booty-busting.
Bassbin Twins – Whoppa
Woppa… The name says it all.
FreQnasty – That’s My Style
A fusion of garagey beats and a bassline that refuses to quit, cuts like these put Mr Nasty on the map long before his massive Fabriclive mix.
Plump DJs – Scram
One of the earliest releases in the London duo’s extensive armory, legend has it they sampled bacon frying for some of those electricity sounds. Tasty.
Zero – Emit/Collect (Rennie Pilgrem’s Agatha Stomp)
It’s that man Rennie Pilgrem again. To original breakbeat heads this is tantamount to a hymn. In 2003 it blew up so much even DJs like Paul Oakenfold were playing it.
PMT – Gyromancer
One of the deeper cuts within breakbeat’s history, and one that links directly to the genre’s progressive roots (see the work of BT, Tsunami One and selected Sasha cuts). Proof of this record’s timelessness – it recently featured on Eats Everything’s Fries With That mix album.
DJ Zinc – 138 Trek
A direct link between UK garage, D&B and breakbeat… Zinc was dropping the tempo long before he dropped D&B in 2008. A seminal breaks bubbler, this was revisited last year by Rinse as part of their 20 year celebrations and remains a true scene anthem.