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The Beauty of the Break

The Beauty of the Breaks

As far as the DJ was concerned, it was all about the break. This usually meant open drums, which could be easily looped, commencing the soundtrack for the breakdancer. Crews would go head-to-head over whose moves were the most fly. Powered by chromed-out boom boxes, they would lug a rolled-up lino across New York City to battle in broad daylight, bringing the phenomenon to a wider audience. Although you're less likely to see these battles on your street corner today, the legacy of breakdancing continues, forming an essential part of the modern dance repertoire.

Like most musical genres, hip-hop attracts a certain elitism from its listeners and practitioners. Much like other genres, it borrows from time and space but in a way only mirrored in dance music (which, I argue, at a far lesser rate). The soundscape created for rappers is usually constructed from a mix of sounds (from across the world) and brought together to form a new medium.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, sampling changed music for good, with winners and losers. The amen break was famously sampled and mostly uncredited, meaning the artists never made much revenue. Still, there's an argument to be made that a relatively obscure piece of music (that would have been forgotten in today's volume) still has its wings because of sampling. Something the artists would have loved to leave behind on earth even if it didn't benefit them in their time here. De La Soul, until recently, had their whole back catalogue exempt from streaming platforms, embroiled in perhaps history's longest-lasting sample dispute.

Crate digging is a term DJs and producers use for rummaging through the dusty - sometimes hazardous - record shops and vaults to find hidden gems. This musical archaeology is competitive, adding to the ferocious competition between rappers, which has powered hip-hop since its inception. In the past, without Google, finding a sample was almost impossible. DJs would scrawl over their centre labels to stop prying eyes, as this competitive advantage meant you could be playing records that nobody else knew. Today, the website WhoSampled makes it simple to look up the elements that make up our favourite songs.

We wanted to honour our favourite breaks and samples used in our favourite tracks, and we invite you all to do the same. 

Simply visit the playlist here to add your favourites and share with everyone you know who loves hip-hop as much as we do.