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date: 22 November 2019


  • Dale E. Chapman


A sampled rhythmic fragment isolated from an extant sound recording and repurposed as a rhythmic hook in a new track.

The development of breakbeat techniques in early hip-hop culture during the late 1970s has been attributed to DJs such as Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash, who used a setup of two turntables and an audio mixer to produce seamless rhythmic grooves for dancers at parties in New York’s South Bronx (see Hip hop). These DJs learned that by manipulating two copies of the same record, playing one section on one turntable while re-cueing the same segment on the second one, they could weave the most rhythmically engaging elements of soul, funk, and disco tracks into extended loops.

The segments chosen from these recordings would often consist of the “breakdown,” or simply the “break,” a section of a funk or disco recording in which the vocalists, horn section, and other instrumentalists would cut out in order to foreground the rhythm section. Over time, DJs realized that “breakbeats” could be isolated from any compelling segment of any recording, and they began to amass a repertory of interesting segments from otherwise obscure or unremarkable records. Aspiring DJs became familiar with a canon of key “breaks,” ranging from the Clyde Stubblefield drum break in James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” to a bongo riff from the Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache.” In early hip-hop culture, these breaks would often provide accompaniment for a distinctive virtuosic dance style known as “b-boying,” later introduced and marketed to a national audience as “breakdancing.”...

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