Today I’m reaching back and going to lace with one of my all-time favorite breaks which just happens to be included in the almighty UBB series: Kid Dynamite’s “Uphill Peace Of Mind.” The first time that I heard the song, I swore it was some crazy Thin Lizzy B-Side that was never released or something. It rocks HARD, but has that certain special funk and swing that attracts a dude like me. I don’t really know much about Kid Dynamite but they were a group of Los Angeles based session players that were all over albums in the 70s, including playing with The Steve Miller Band. This is their one album though as a unit. Kind of interesting thinking about what made people discover this song though. It doesn’t really reveal anything about the break when you first listen to it, but then once the song hits the 2:55 mark, ooh lawd. Talk about a neck-snapping beat. I know you’ve heard it in the past, “You’ve got the time, I’ve got the time.” The way that John King hits the trap is a monster, and then the little piano vamp comes it, it’s nothing but butter. Poor Righteous Teachers, Super Cat and Just-Ice & KRS-One sure thought so.
As good as the Kid Dynamite version of “Uphill Piece Of Mind” is I really don’t think it comes anywhere close to how good the Lloyd Price version is. Of course everyone knows who Lloyd Price is, and although he’s universally acclaimed and acknowledged I think in certain “real headz” circles he often gets overlooked. His early work was incredible where he put his own spin on the beat of his native New Orleans. In the late 60s and early 70s he was one of the first American R&B singers to start messing with Jamaican rhythms, and in 1976 he put out the completely slept-on “Music-Music” album. Now I don’t know who’s version came first but both this one and the Kid Dynamite version came out in 1976. But where that version is a slow stomping hard-edged rock song, Lloyd’s version is an uptempo hard rocking SOUL song. But in true Lloyd Price fashion it touches on R&B, rock, funk and gospel. Really a banging song in any sense…
So back in the day, when I was just a fledgling digger, I found that there’s a certain skill set that you develop in order to know what exactly you want to pull from dollar bins that might have the heat on it. You learn pretty quickly that if you’re looking for a particular sound, then grabbing any record that has dudes with afros on the cover might end up biting you in the ass (you actually would be better off grabbing that one with the freaked out hippies.) But on the strength, probably the best set of clues that you cold look for is the lineup. If there’s a certain record that you really like, see who plays bass on on, and find that guy on other records. Or keys. Or drums…
Idris Muhammad is considered by many to be one of the funkiest drummers of all time. He had a distinct way of playing, the slight lag and double-up on kicks, his knack in getting his snare to pop a certain way, and the way that he stayed in the pocket so tough. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with him being a New Orleans native and their unique Second-Line style of drumming. My dude Joy used to come down to Philly from Harlem and would bring all his pops records with him back when we thought we might just be starting a rap group. One of those albums was Idris Muhammad “Peace & Rhythm” album and from the moment I put the needle on “Brother You Know You’re Doing Wrong” Idris became that guy I would look for on the back of records. And in those days, I used to buy a lot of records, man…
Fast-forward to 2008. Me and DJ Ayres were playing at the Shambhala Music Festival out in the middle of the wilderness in British Colombia. It’s kind of like the Canadian version of Burning Man and, considering that I never really went to raves when I was younger, it was a completely new and eye-opening experience to me anyway hahah. So we were up there for 3 days, having played the first night, and then a couple nights to check it out. Saturday night we were hanging out with Smalltown Pete, Skratch Bastid and Wax Romeo, we were all psyched to see DJ Nu-Mark play a set in the “Ewok Village” – SERIOUSLY this place (which was outside) was designed just like the Ewok Village, everything built into the trees, mad walkways between these treehouses and whatnot. It all all added to the intensity and the absurdity of the weekend. Anyway, we were all feeling it and went to see Nu-Mark and kind of expected him to play some indie rap music and some funk 45s and whatnot – boy were we surprised. He absolutely leveled the place playing the most party rocking set I had heard all year. Absolutely flawless, and the one word I should use is “classy” (and on the strength if you ever get a chance to see the homie play live then do it!)
Halfway through Mark’s set he did this thing with these drum breaks and me and Bastid were bugging off of it, and we both were like “I know this but I don’t know it this schitt is so ill oh my god let’s go…” Turns out it was Rusty Bryant’s “Fire Eater” – a record that I have but haven’t listened to in years – featuring the one and only Idris Muhammad. You kind of have to have this record. A Soul/Jazz classic, the heavy break(s) comes in 9:36. Schitt is kind of mega in so many ways…
Okay I’ll admit that I used to be a full fledged member of the “cool guys club.” Yeah, I owned the Major Force Box Set, and I had a subscription to Grand Royal Magazine. Now I was definitely not one of “The Bitches” you heard? But in the late nineties when everyone had their finger on the pulse of everything “INDIE” I also had my finger on the pulse of everything “ALT.” One of the bands at the time I really checked for was Unkle which consisted of James Lavelle (the founder of Mo’ Wax Recordss,) Tim Goldsworthy (who went on to help create DFA Records) and DJ Shadow (who went on to yell at kids to stay off his lawn.)
U.N.K.L.E. was cool, like really cool. Perhaps maybe too cool, because I would play it to people and they would look at me sideways. But I thought it was groovy, and smart, and the beats were crazy knocking. The first song on the Psyence Fiction basically has the right ingredients for a winning song: Hard drums, Star Wars samples and Kool G Rap… and Cosmo is happy.
Fast forward to 2005 and Hurricane Katrina basically became the most terrible thing that many of us ever saw. The dudes over on Soulstrut started up the Heatrocks Campaign (see below for more information about that, or click for the current Heatrock For Haiti campaign) and one of the records that was put up was Tullio De Piscopo’s “Suonando La Batteria Moderna (Modern Drums – A Practical Guide).” I don’t remember if it was my homie Matthew Africa who put it up for charity of if he bought it, but I’ve always wanted that record since I saw it out there. It’s tough because it’s like a $400 Italian record of drum instructions, and that’s kind of a hard purchase to justify. But then again, cuts like these might make the case for dropping that loot. Here’s 2 cuts from the “Suonando la Batteria Moderna” album.
So for the past several weeks I’ve been raiding the rock crates for some breaks, but for this week’s installment I figured I would go back to the essence of this whole breaks thing and hit you with a true classic Ultimate Break & Beat.
First about the Ultimate Breaks & Beats – For those of you who don’t know, The Ultimate Breaks & Beats series was a bootleg compilation of records that was put together by “Breakbeat Lenny” Roberts and the one and only Breakbeat Lou… So I posted this entry and then my good friend and old roommate Konrad hit me up to set some of the record straight. About Breakbeat Lenny, directly from Konrad:
“As much as Lenny was a motivator behind UBB, Stanley Platzer was the breakbeat guru. He was the guy behind the counter of the Music Factory record store on 43rd and Broadway, back when Russell Simmons was still hustling incense in Times Square. he was this old kind of crotchety guy, typical old school New Yorker for the time. I used to go there as a kid in the early 80’s and you could find Grand Wizard Theodore on any given day grilling Stanley about records. He was a machine… you could describe just about any obscure part of any obscure record from the late 50’s into the late 70’s and he knew what it was and exactly where in that sandcrawler of a shop you could find it. As the story goes, Lenny had the idea to take these records that the bronx record boys were buying and make a compilation. Stanley reluctantly agreed to Lenny’s proposal and street beat records/UBB was born. That was maybe 1984ish. Then the hunt was on, Stanley became THE breakbeat authority after that until he died. His daughter was poised to become the breakbeat queen but the shop (and the block) was closed in the very late 80’s and the rest is Distory. Now it’s where ABC’s morning show is shot (or was it on the opposite side of the street where Planet Hollywood is? my memory is failing me!) This is the legacy of Guliani no one talks about…but don’t get me started!”
Thanks, dude! So these these were the songs that all these “Bronx record boys” – Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, Hollywood, Flowers, Pete DJ Jones – were buying and were playing. This collection of songs – all with pretty notable breaks – ended up becoming the Ultimate Breaks & Beats, and they were as diverse as possible, with funk records, disco, rare latin records, calypso cuts, new wave, even songs from The Rolling Stones and Tom Jones. But they all were accepted under the blanket classification as a UBB. Lenny and Lou put out many volumes of UBBs, and eventually directly from the StreetBeat series, producers in the 80s dug for beats and samples and ended up using the series to sculpt the sound of hip-hop. Pretty dope if you ask me. Lenny Roberts died not too long ago (and I believe Biz Markie ended up with Lenny’s incredible collection) but his legacy lives on. And as a DJ, I’ve always thought that it was an integral stepping stone in the development in your craft – to learn these breakbeats inside and out. Like if you call yourself a DJ and you don’t know your UBBs, I don’t what to say to you, son…
Orange Krush was a group that was founded in the early 80s and was one of the very first records that Russel “Rush” Simmons ever had his hands on. The group consisted of bassist Larry Smith, drummer Trevor Gale and guitarist David Reeves. Larry was the former bass player from the sweet soul group from the South Side of Chicago, Brighter Side of Darkness. Trevor was the drummer for the Leroy Burgess group Convertion. Together they put out what I consider to be one of the finest early 80s proto-hip-hop songs ever, 1982’s “Action.” From the opening 8 quarter notes, which seem custom made for a DJ to cut, the song is propelled into a very unique funky groove that is very different from the funk and R&B of the time, but isn’t quite a rap record.
The group disbanded after this, but all went on to secure their legacy. David Reeves renamed himself Davy DMX and became the DJ and guitarist for Kurtis Blow. Most notably, Larry Smith went on to produce records by Whodini, Jimmy Spicer, and most importantly, the early Run-DMC records. Arguably one could call Larry Smith one of the most important hip-hop producers of all time, specifically because of his innovations with drum machines and programming.
DJ Stuart "Re-Work V2"
Wet "All The Ways" (Branchez Remix)
De La Soul "Beautiful Night"
With You "Ghost" feat. Vince Staples (Major Lazer Remix)
Tall Black Guy "The Heart Of The Town"
KRNE "I'll Be Good"
Drake "With You" Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR
Christopher Cross "Ride Like The Wind" (Joey Negro Dub Disco Mix)
BAKERS DOZEN BONUS
Club Cheval "Discipline"
Mura Masa "What If I Go"
Kate Bush "Why Should I Love You?"