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Hip hop, drum & bass, jungle, pop…all of these styles rely heavily on the noble art of beat sampling and most of those samples can be traced back to early, sometimes obscure funk songs. In fact, some of these genres wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for a couple of bars of funky drumming in the late sixties and early seventies. Here are five of the most influential drum breaks of all time!

winstons_02The Winstons: GC Coleman (back centre) Richard L Spencer (back right) Phil Tolotta (front right)

 5. “Impeach the President” – The Honey Drippers

In 1973, a group of African American high school students got together in the studio to record a couple of songs, one of them called “Impeach the President”, a protest song about Richard Nixon. The Honey Drippers never made it big, but the drum beat of that song did, when it was used by several hip hop producers in the late eighties and early nineties.

If you recall the catchy beat of some of the classics of the time, like “Jump” by Kriss Kross or “That’s the Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson, well, that’s the Honey Drippers’ funky high school drummer. The drums of the song have been sampled in 624 songs, according to

 4. “Think (About It)” – Lyn Collins

“Think (About It)” was Lyn Collins’s biggest hit song from the 1972 album of the same name. There are five breaks in the song you’ll instantly recognize, like the one which goes underneath the “Yeah! Whoo!” vocals, and the drum break at 1:37, which is just a couple of seconds long but is featured in countless hip hop and drum & bass songs.

Remember the beats in “Freestyler” by the Bomfunk MC’s or “Check It Out!” by Nicki Minaj? Those are breaks from Lyn’s song. All in all, elements of her song have been sampled in over 1,477 songs. 

3. “Hot Pants (Bonus Beats)” – Bobby Byrd

“Hot Pants” is originally a James Brown song, but organist Bobby Byrd did a rendition to fill up some leftover space on the album. The funky drums on the track have been sampled in 505 different songs.

Sound familiar? The drums were featured in Madonna’s “Frozen”, “Fools Gold” by The Stone Roses and “Out of Space” by The Prodigy, to name just a few.

2. “Funky Drummer” – James Brown

The rhythm pattern from “Funky Drummer”, recorded in 1969, is one the world’s most sampled drum breaks, appearing in 1,237 songs. The really funky drumming that’s integral to countless hip hop songs starts at 5:34.

To name a mere fraction of the hip hop greats who loved using it: Public Enemy, Run-DMC, N.W.A., Raekwon, LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys.

And finally, drumroll (pun intended) please for the numero uno influential drum beat of all time….

1. “Amen, Brother” – The Winstons

This six second funky, improvised drum break is basically the musical equivalent of film’s Wilhelm Scream and has formed the rhythmical foundation of breakbeat, jungle and drum & bass. Fast-forward to 1:26 to hear the beat that is used in 2,110 songs, ranging through artists like David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, The Prodigy, Oasis and Amy Winehouse.

There’s a brilliant article on the BBC website where you can read just how much of an impact these six seconds of drumming have made on modern music.

And hey, next time you’re playing your favourite tunes, check out that beat in the background!

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