Remembering Some of My First & Favorite Break Beats as Hip Hop Turns 40

Kool Herc

Kool Herc

Today we celebrate the birth of Hip Hop with that first party at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the Bronx..It was a back to school dance thrown by DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy Campbell .. They didn’t call it Hip Hop then.. the name used to describe dances and gatherings back in those days was Jam.. The term Hip Hop first coined by DJ Lovebug Starksi was later adapted and attached to the expressions of B-Boying/ (breakdancing), deejaying, graf and emceeing by Afrika Bambaataa..So the first Hip Hop Jam was 40 years ago today.. August 11th 1973…

With that being said, in my interview with Kool Herc.. I tried to get him to layout all the records he played and in fine fashion Herc would not give me the names.. That’s a long running joke we have.. But he did speak about the groups like Rare Earth and how he rocked them along with James Brown.. who has a ton of songs that dominated early Hip hop jams

I was asked yesterday what was the first Hip Hop record I ever heard.. Being a kid of the 70s, my first Hip Hop jam was not Rapper’s Delight by Sugar Hill Gang but instead it was records that would go onto to be mainstays at all Hip Hop parties..Songs like Chic‘s Good Times, Parliament‘s Knee Deep, Zapp’s More Bounce to the Ounce, Anita Ward’s Ring My Bells and Cheryl Lynn‘s To Be Real were some of the mainstream songs that went on to be flipped because of the percussion break downs..

Other cuts like Bob Jame‘s Take Me to the Mardis Gras aka Breaking Bells,  Apache by the Ventures and later Incredible Bongo Band (the Bronx National Anthem), Jimmy Castor ‘Its Just Begun’ , Babe Ruth The Mexican, and Funky Drummer by James Brown or CerroneRocket in the Pocket‘ sped up to 45 rpm were vintage..

Ralph McDonald

Ralph McDonald

But the first breakbeat jam I ever heard was on the Circle Line boat in June of 1977..This was a boat that took you up the Hudson River.. It was first time I saw people get on the floor and do what we call B-Boying..Back then they called it Rocking..  The song was Jam on the Groove by Ralph McDonald..What caught me was the fact that the DJ kept playing the record over and over again.. He wasn’t mixing or anything fancy like that.. He just would start the record over and everyone would dance ..we were doing the freak back then.. When the percussion break down came we formed a circle and watched these kids rock..

Below is a list of jams that were among the first I heard and immensely enjoyed rocking to..

2-Right up there with Ralph McDonald on that same party I heard this jam by Harlem Underground Band.. Cheeba Cheeba was infectious. I had no idea who it was until much later when I grabbed copies for myself on Paul Winely records which was starting to put out some early breaks..

3-First time I heard this break Music Taking Over by the Jacksons was via Grandmaster Flash when he tore it up at Bronx High School of Science at dance he did in ’78 He was ripping this song every which way and sent a lot of people home to re-listen to their Jackson 5 records.. There were several places to cut this jam.. Flash ripped it toward the middle where Michael Jackson sings  ‘Lets Dance, Lets Dance

4-I used to hear this record all the time at block parties, on people’s boom boxes and out people’s windows ..Who knew 4 white guys from Germany would be a long time companion to Hip Hop.. Trans Europa Express by Kraftwerk  It’ll forever be a classic  and essential record..The other cut that folks used to rock my Kraftwerk was ‘We Are the Robots‘..

5-As an emcee this was one of my all-time favorite records to rhyme over.. Quite few deejays loved to cut this up both at the beginning as well as in the middle where you find an incredible break..Edwin Starr was that guy back in the days..

6-Another break beat emcees fiended for was this classic from Juice called Catch a Groove..Folks gotta remember back the days the deejay was the main attraction, not the emcee, so it wasn’t like you could go order the deejay to play this cut, but when he did, everyone would crowd around and try and get their turn on the mic.. When I first got my copies they were on 45s. They cost me like 5 or 10 bucks a piece from Downstairs Records..  Years later I got the 12″ shown here.. The flip side on the 45 was the Sesame Street Song which was also pretty funky..

6-A classic cut that I used to hear all the time around 78 was this gem from Captain Sky.. I always felt he was an off shot of Parliament.. But this was a staple jam

7-This was an essential record.. Everyone looked for the 12″ to get busy on.. New York at that time wasn’t a funk town as compared to what you would hear out west here in Cali.. We was more into James Brown.. but this song made everyone’s speakers shake and folks had no choice but to make a stank face and get down to this groove.. Barkays ‘Holy Ghost‘ was a Holy Grail of a record..

8-This was an incredible jam that I first heard Bambaataa rocking probably around ’79 or ’80..  it soon became a staple for just about everybody..Instant Funk’s Funk is On was that jam.. The group definitely had a seat at the table of early Hip Hop..

9-This was an incredible jam that everyone rocked and like Catch a Groove and Just Wanna Do My Thing, it was a record you wanted to rhyme over. For deejays this was a fun record to cut.. Many got creative with it..Its been overlooked and underplayed as far as I’m concerned.. PleasureCelebrate the Good Things‘ was a must.. They had several other songs that were vintage break beats…

10-This song was a party starter for sure.. There were two versions of it.. One was more disco sounding the other was more tribal with straight up conga.. Most people sampled the disco version over the years.. It was to this song that everyone did a dance called the Calypso Freak.. Herman Kelly‘s Dance to the Drummer’s Beat.. both versions..






  1. Cool

  2. very cool

  3. The apple has fallen far from the tree with this nu generation. Hard to believe that modern day HIP POP could lay claim to being real music’s bastard child offspring. Sad but true. However, there was one day such a thing as TALENT and modern pop music is devoid of such a characteristic.

    There was a time in music such as the Motown years where every release was great as was in the 70s, 80s and 90s in HIP HOP. Rarely EVER did you hear a wack record in ANY genre of music back then . Now in 2013 in pop music to hear a decent track is the exception to the norm.

    A generation has been corrupted unfortunately. I only hope that they can find the missing link with HIP HOP’s glorious past. Nice diggin on those old classics DD. An awesome track from that era was Rick James – Dance With Me.

  4. very good article I was growing up in NYC when all this was happening

  5. thank you davy d, in South Africa we only managed to get a few of those records listed here!

  6. Melle Mel ; Rick James ; Blondie was the bomb
    Malcolm McLaren Buff Gals
    Run dmc
    The Fever was the bomb- was a teenager. Let the good times role… There was a coat check and a gun check…. Music was new were rockin’

  7. ok #18

  8. These are some serious gems you put here! Great picks!
    Thanks for posting, Bro. Davey D!


  9. Thanks Davey D! nice joints.