Ultimate Breaks & Beats (UBB) were a bunch of compilation LPs put out by Louis Flores and Lenny Roberts on Streetbeat Records in The Bronx in the mid-late 1980s. The aim was to keep alive the esoteric soul, funk, rock, pop, and disco tracks that hip hop DJs juggled in the 70’s, with their critical ingredient the ‘get down’ parts that came to be called ‘breaks’. UBB fast became essential staples not only for DJs but also producers, fueling the sampling revolution and setting the course of dance music. While you might never have seen an UBB LP yourself, you’ll have heard loads of tunes that sample them. For producers, they were literally a library of breaks and beats to recombine. For DJs they were a way to get tunes that were often very hard to find, let alone secure two copies of (as Louis Flores says, “Real DJs has doubles”). For kids like me, they just meant I could get eight amazing tunes whose originals might each cost $100+ for less than $10.
I first came across UBB in 1987, picking up copies from a dingy record store in Praed St. Although I’d been aware of sampling in the hip hop I was buying, I hadn’t quite realized how ubiquitous it was (since many earlier tunes used house bands and drum programming). But it began to dawn on me that almost every sound I was hearing – from the crazy synthesizer in Public Enemy No. 1 to the eery loop driving Original Concept’s Can You Feel It – came from an older record, usually one on UBB. I kept buying the LPs not because I wanted to sample them but because the tunes were amazing. Blow Your Head (UBB 514) and It’s Great to Be Here (UBB 510) were just the start, and for a while, Noddy, the other guy I knew who was into records, called me the Ultimate Breaks & Beats Kid.
The mix below is a UBB tribute, in some ways a prequel to my Mud Club-era mixes. Many of the tracks I would have included are in earlier mixes, but there are plenty to choose from, and I included a few UBB-related tracks. Most are taken from the original records because the UBB pressings and sound quality aren’t always great, but in a couple of cases I used the UBB version because Louis Flores had edited or re-EQ’d it. In a few cases, it’s only the original I own now because a few people ‘borrowed’ UBB LPs years ago (looking at you, Bobby Champagne).
The mix starts with the intro from Jimmy Castor’s Troglodyte, which is spliced to It’s Just Begun (heard here) on UBB 518. After Isaac Hayes played at the wrong speed, there’s that Jackson 5 tune used by Original Concept. A J.B’s break is a link to one of my favorite breaks, Sister Sanctified (UBB 514) – the UBB version since Flores helpfully looped this. A sample of The Champ (UBB 512) by Kurtis Mantronik shows how this was often used. Funky President comes next. Choosing between the 45, LP, UBB 510, and an Urban 12″, I went for the 12″ as the pressing is loudest. Kid’n’Play save me having to repeat Ain’t We Funkin’ Now and Last Night Changed It All (also UBB 510) from earlier mixes, also sampling Theme From The Planets (UBB 510). Then Public Enemy contribute one of the most sample-heavy tracks you’ll ever hear, and consequently something we’re unlikely to hear again. The track is based around The Grunt (UBB 522), which I mixed in (I used the new These Are The J.B.’s LP discovery rather than my old scratchy 7″ here). PE also sample ESG’s UFO (UBB 509) and Soul Power. So rather than Soul Pride (UBB 521), Soul Power takes us to Lyn Collins (UBB 516) via Coldcut’s classic JB mix.
KC & The Sunshine Band’s I Get Lifted was on UBB 519. But since they’re best without KC I put in their version of the African Music Machine classic instead. The Uncle Louie track is from UBB 506. Then instead of Impeach The President by The Honeydrippers (UBB 511) we get the Enjoy backing band playing the same riff for an early rap record. Motown Funk Brother Dennis Coffey contributed two tracks to UBB; Son of Scorpio’s was on UBB 506. From Dave Matthews’ Dune LP, confusingly there’s a Star Wars cover (UBB 515), and the sci-fi theme continues with 2001 (UBB 506). Jeff Beck-produced rock band UPP (one where I used the UBB version, UBB 503, because there’s less guitar) provide a bridge to Tom Scott. Sneakin’ In the Back (UBB 524) was sampled by everyone one from Massive Attack to our own Love Lee – funnily enough in that instance it wasn’t UBB 524 he used but my own copy of Tom Scott & The La Express!
- Troglodyte (intro) – The Jimmy Castor Bunch
- Ike’s Mood – Isaac Hayes
- It’s Great To Be Here – The Jackson 5
- (It’s Not The Express) It’s The J.B.’s Monaurail – The J.B.’s
- Sister Sanctified – Stanley Turrentine with Milt Jackson
- Fresh Is The Word – Mantronix
- Funky President – James Brown
- Last Night (Instrumental) – Kid’n’Play
- Night Of The Living Bassheads – Public Enemy
- The Grunt – The J.B.’s
- Soul Power (Part 1) – James Brown
- Soul Power (Part 2) – James Brown
- The Payback Mix – James Brown
- Think (About It) – Lyn Collins
- Blackwater Gold – The Sunshine Band
- I Like Funky Music – Uncle Louie
- A New Rap Language – The Treacherous 3 and Spoonie G.
- Son Of Scorpio – Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band
- Star Wars – Dave Matthews
- Also Sprach Zarathrustra (2001) – Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds
- Give It To You – UPP
- Sneakin’ In the Back – Tom Scott