The World’s Most Important Six Second Drum Loop

The World’s Most Important Six Second Drum Loop

Amen Break

The “Amen break” was a brief drum solo performed in 1969 by Gregory Cylvester “G. C.” Coleman in the song “Amen, Brother” performed by the 1960s funk and soul outfit The Winstons. It gained fame from the 1980s onwards when four bars (5.2 seconds) sampled from the drum-solo (or imitations thereof) became very widely used as sampled drum loops in hip hop, jungle, breakcore and drum and bass music.

The full song is an up-tempo instrumental rendition of Jester Hairston’s “Amen,” which he wrote for the Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field (1963) and which was subsequently popularized by The Impressions in 1964. The Winstons’ version was released as a B-side of the 45 RPM 7-inch vinyl single “Color Him Father” in 1969 on Metromedia (MMS-117), and is currently available on several compilations and on a 12-inch vinyl re-release together with other songs by The Winstons.

The Amen Break was used extensively in early hip hop and sample-based music, and became the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music—”a six-second clip that spawned several entire subcultures.”

Nate Harrison’s 2004 video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip.
This 18-minute video narrates the history of the “Amen Break”

Early fame

The song itself achieved fame within the hip hop and subsequent electronic music communities when a former Downstairs Records employee known as Breakbeat Lenny compiled it onto his 1986 Ultimate Breaks and Beats bootleg series for DJs. Lenny hired Louis Flores to edit four bars of the drum break at a much slower speed than the remainder of the song. Although it created a jarring difference in tempo in the center of the song, it allowed Hip-Hop DJs to extend the beat by switching between two copies of the record on two separate turntables at a danceable tempo while ignoring the rest of the song (this technique was created by Kool Herc in 1974 and became a trend at large in 1977 with the efforts of Grandmaster Flash). By 1987, E-mu released the SP1200 sampler, altering Hip-Hop production techniques from drum machines to sampled loops. Most producers began to mine their loops initially from Ultimate Breaks and Beats series, causing the Amen break to gain a massive amount of fame in the late 80s hip-hop community, crossing over to the U.K. and European dance music scenes shortly afterward. Eventually, the song was reissued in its original form at a higher quality sound, and since most contemporary electronic music producers were speeding up the sample, the bootlegged slower edited version fell out of favor.

Other popular breaks

The Amen break’s popularity probably lies in both the rough, funky, compressed style that the drums are recorded in as well as the “swing” and “groove” of the drummer who originally played the solo. The original song is also quite fast, making it more suitable for up-tempo music genres such as jungle and drum-and-bass. Additionally, it is easy to slice the loop or rearrange it using a software or hardware sampler, because of the drummer’s regularity. A few other popular drum and bass breaks are sampled from Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It)”, Bobby Byrd’s “Hot Pants — I’m Coming, Coming, I’m Coming (Bonus Beats)”, James Brown’s “Funky Drummer”, The Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President”, and The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache”, which were all 1970s Bronx breaks rekindled by the Ultimate Breaks & Beats series of compilations in the 1980s. Other popular breaks which did not come out of the 1970s Bronx scene are: The ‘Horizons’ break which is mainly formed out of cymbals and splashes, the Led Zeppelin song “When the Levee Breaks” and the Tramen (or ‘FireFight’) break.

*Information source –*

Markalan - Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Markalan moved to Pacific Beach in 1994. During his first four years in San Diego, he worked as a photographer for the United States Navy. Over the past decade, he's been behind the bar or turntables in many of San Diego's nightclubs, and venues. He's shared his musical selections with Southern & Baja California, and the Mayan Riviera. During these years, he could be found exchanging his time for vinyl at Groove Records and Siesta Records. 

He often worked for trade, to support his vinyl addiction. He currently owns over 8,000 records. "Listening to my father's albums is when it all began. Flipping through the stacks, cleaning off the LP, placing the needle on the record, reading the lyrics, studying the artwork, and enjoying the rich analog sound. Sure, there are occasional pops & you might have to clean the record. You actually have to flip the record at the end of the side. It's not a play list or program on shuffle. You are present, involved, and engaged in the listening process. 
Please Keep Vinyl Alive & Support Local Artists!" 

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