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These Are The Breaks: J-Zone’s Top Ten Drum Breaks
03/10/2014, 2:54 PM
Filed under: Guest Spots, Tunes | Tags: ,

(J-Zone is back! Last time, he touched on his favorite 45s for a pre-45 Sessions blowout; this time, he zeroes in on his all-time choice breaks. His new release, Lunch Breaks, a sample-palette of live drums performed entirely by Jay himself launched last week, primed for drum-less MPCs everywhere. We’re always stoked to have Jay swing through these parts.- DM)

j-zone1

Every hip-hop producer has their favorite drum breaks – until they start playing drums! I had this epiphany two years ago, when I picked up a pair of sticks and set out to learn a new instrument at the tender age of 34 and three quarters. When discovering the wide range of sounds a kit can make and the wide range of playing styles a drummer can use, you begin to hear breaks differently.

You also begin to realize how difficult some of these classics were to play. Nowadays, it’s no longer about which breaks are easiest to chop up, toss into the MPC and boom bap with, but which ones I like to emulate when I practice and mimic the recording of when I’m making my own breaks. So I’ve decided to mix it up and include both: a few choices from a production angle and a few from a (still learning to be a) drummer angle.

In celebration of the release of my ‘Lunch Breaks’ live drum package out now at The Drum Broker, I present my ten favorite drum breaks of all time.

10. Led Zepplin – “The Crunge”

Drummer: John Bonham

Ask anyone putting on a show in the drum section of a Guitar Center who they’d like to be for a day and the answer is probably John Bonham. The freakish Led Zepplin drummer has more Stans than any drummer in history, and although I have different heroes, I’d never front on Bonzo’s brilliance on the set. For fuck’s sake, the dude plays this groove in 9/8 with the pocket of a James Brown jam. And it was the driving force behind “The Magic Number.”

9. B.T. Express – “Energy Level”

Drummer: Leslie Ming

Although rap hasn’t been this fast in years, I’m shocked at how little this joint has been sampled (or if it’s been sampled at all). Leslie Ming is one of my favorite drummers. A session musician in New York throughout the ‘80s, Ming got his start with disco-funk outfit, B.T. Express, where he lit up the band’s Energy to Burn LP with rat-ta-tat-tat drumming from front to back. Accented, machine gun hi-hat marksmanship, syncopated kick-snare patterns and pure pocket make this a gem for b-boy circles and a dance floor smoker for those with soul.

8. Lonnie Smith – “Spinning Wheel”

Drummer: Joe Dukes

When Q-Tip de-virginized this record for sampling in 1990 for Tribe’s “Can I kick It?” he only scratched the surface. Organ trio jazz drummer, Joe Dukes, goes for his multiple times in the song, playing with grooves and giving producers a buffet of rudiments, licks and hits to fool with. One of the very first drum breaks I cut my sample chopping teeth to, there wasn’t one part I didn’t try to flip while learning to hook up drums. The classic Van Gelder Studios sound brings “Spinning Wheel” to life; it’s even more of a pleasure to listen to as an aspiring drummer.

7. Simtec & Wylie – “Socking Soul Power”

Drummer: Unknown

Those toms! The toms often play second fiddle in funk drumming and are tuned arbitrarily. But the way the drum set was miked, tuned and recorded gives the toms a bruising thump that nearly distorts the entire mix. This is just a raw, demo-like drum recording reminiscent of the great drum recordings of Chess Records.

6. Lee Moses – “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”

Drummer: Unknown

Sometimes it’s all about feel. I’m not sure who the drummer was on this twisted, mind-melting cover of the Motown classic, but it’s just the right mixture of a slightly ahead pocket, fills, jazz tuning and gritty recording gear that bring the song to life. The simple single stroke rolls on the toms for the breakdowns late in the song are gold. The feel and sound are insane enough on their own; the song doesn’t call for any fancy playing.

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Guest Spot: J-Zone’s Favorite Forty-Fives
08/16/2012, 2:03 PM
Filed under: Guest Spots | Tags: , ,

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be rolling out guest spots from some of my favorite music lovers. These dudes (all of whom usually come correct in their respective fields) typically get us geeked so the prompt was simple: grab a few of your favorite records, talk about them and share. I’m flattered by the response but also eager to unleash these thoughtful and funny, top-notch submissions.

First up is one of our favorite personalities, J-Zone. You might know him by 2001’s Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes LP, his work with Ego Trip, or his stellar musings for Dante Ross’ blog. He penned this post for us shortly after obliterating one of the Bay Area’s best parties, The 45 Sessions. His new book, Root For The Villain, is available now. Thanks J! -DM

Soul Suspects’ “Handle It” [Black Prince, year unknown]

This was one of many 45s I got off an ex-DJ turned drug addict in 1994. I worked in Vance Wright’s (Slick Rick’s DJ) studio in high school; one day the dude rolled up in there trying to sell his entire 45 collection. He wanted like $100 but Vance and I talked him down to $50 and split the bill. There was all types of good shit in there, like rare good shit. Pazant Bros.’ Chick-A-Boom,” Ricky Williams’ “Discotheque Soul,” some General Crook, Ramrods, Joe Quarterman, JB and early Kool and the Gang 45s…it was a nice box of shit. I got all the joints with mean breaks and this was one of the meanest. It’s got the same song structure as Sly & the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music,” as did most funk 45s from about ’68 through the early ’70s. There’d be a groove, then each instrument would get called out for solos. Then they’d groove to the outro.

It was a popular format for early funk shit, but this one was always particularly funky and I always liked really fast funk records because they’re good for the dance floor (as opposed to just being used for sampling) and remind me of shit that Big Daddy Kane would rhyme on. This one really builds at the end with the horns and special effects – it always stuck out to me. And when I found out that it was pretty rare, I began treating it better than other human beings. One time after a gig I put the 45 on the passenger seat and made the girl I was dating ride in the trunk.

Sam and the Soul Walkers’ “Soul Walk” [Transcontinental, 1968]

There was a rap song from 1990 that sampled this. (Don’t wanna snitch; these past-the-statute-of-limitations lawsuits are getting out of control.) Anyway, I loved the beat and it drove me crazy that for 20+ years I never knew what the original was. Nobody I asked knew either. It’s rare that I don’t find out the original sample of something I want to know, especially in the internet era and with all the diggers and producers I know. But this one stumped me. Earlier this year I was in Big City Records (NYC) listening to 45s and pulled this out not knowing what was on it. It’s a dope, uptempo joint and I was gonna buy it to spin out anyway, but then the fuckin’ break came in!

Solving the mystery by surprise like that was like touching a live wire. That was just a diggin’ throwback from the ’90s because that’s how you discovered samples back then. I’m learning to play drums now and I practice to this one a lot, too. I love that raggedy, late ’60s-era, four piece Slingerland drum kit with one mic on it sound. Then the female singers and piano twinkles add this subtle touch that make it a little less predictable than the average funk 45. It’s a multi-purpose funk / soul 45 and the b-side is a decent straight ahead soul joint.