Before computers totally changed hip hop production, producers and DJs needed to be musical encyclopedias -- capable of pulling the most fleeting sounds (sometimes under a second) off of the most obscure records to make a sample which could eventually be rapped over to create a whole new song. In writing Harlem World I've gotten a great education about some of the best songs in the 1980s to sample and create break beats from. Songs like Rocket In The Pocket, Square Biz, Love Rap, and the Big Beat were all popular and can be seen across old hip hop recordings. The process of figuring out which beats groups were using back then has been so enjoyable (and a bit frustrating) and it got me thinking about one of the most heated debates in hip hop: what is the best beat ever?
This is a purely subjective question and there are so many contenders. I'm limiting my thoughts to beats made using primitive equipment like turntables, cassettes, or the SP 1200 sampler. Nothing made on Logic or Garageband. I thought about Nas's New York State of Mind and LL Cool J's I Can't Live Without My Radio. My mind went to the crazy Funkadelic sample used on De La Soul's Me, Myself, and I or the ear splitting frequencies of Public Enemy's Rebel Without a Pause but I tend to gravitate towards simplistic beats. And I love the piano. With that in mind, I present the greatest beat in hip hop history: The Bridge is Over by Boogie Down Productions (featuring KRS-ONE).
Don't throw things at me. When you hear that piano breakdown and the da-da-da da da-da-da-da da da on top of the gritty style drums from the SP 1200, it's tasty. It makes someone like me, who can't rap a bar, want to start spitting heat. And the song is relevant to Harlem World! It's been on my mind because it was an answer to a (wrongly) interpreted lyric from and MC Shan song that suggested Queens might have been the real birthplace of hip hop, rather than the Bronx. KRS-ONE wanted to make it clear where hip hop truly came from. The beat sounds nasty, tough, and raw and the piano sounds evil. Take a listen for yourself! And if you have a different beat in mind, let me hear it in the comment section!