Breakbeat (sometimes breakbeats or breaks) is a term used to describe a collection of sub-genres of electronic music, usually characterized by the use of a non-straightened 4/4 drum pattern (as opposed to the steady beat of house). These rhythms may be characterised by their intensive use of syncopation and polyrhythms.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, hip-hop DJs (starting with Kool DJ Herc) began using several breaks (the part of afunk or jazz song in which the music “breaks” to let the rhythm section play unaccompanied) in a row to use as the rhythmic basis for hip-hop songs. Kool DJ Herc’s breakbeat style was to play the same record on two turntables and play the break repeatedly by alternating between the two records (letting one play while spinning the second record back to the beginning of the break). This style was copied and improved upon by early hip hop DJs Afrika Bambaataa andGrand Wizard Theodore. This style was extremely popular in clubs and dance halls because the extended breakbeat was the perfect backdrop for breakdancers to show their skills. The Amen Break, a drum break from The Winstons’ song “Amen, Brother” is widely regarded as the most used break ever. This break was first used on “King of the Beats” by Mantronix, and has since been used in thousands of songs. Other popular breaks are from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and “Give it Up or Turnit a Loose”, The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache”, and Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It)”. In the early 1990s, acid house artists and producers started using breakbeat samples in their music to create breakbeat hardcore, also known as rave music. The hardcore scene then diverged into sub-genres like jungle and drum and bass, which generally had a darker sound and focused more on complex sampled drum patterns. A good example of this is Goldie’s album ‘Timeless’.