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Since the beginning of the culture, hip hop has revolved around discovering rare records and sampling the dopest breakbeats.

When the legendary DJ Kool Herc invented the technique of isolating the breakbeats of two popular records, James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” and The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Bongo Rock”, which he called the merry-go-round, hip hop DJing and production was born.

Beats, Rhymes & Lists is very proud to present our top 20 picks for the greatest drum breaks and breakbeats in hip hop history.

20. “Ode to Billie Joe” by Lou Donaldson

Album: Mr. Shing-A-Ling

Released: January 1968

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West (2004)
  • “L$D” by A$AP Rocky (2015)
  • “Clap Your Hands” by A Tribe Called Quest (1993)
  • “Bad Guy” by Eminem (2013)
  • “To Zion” by Lauryn Hill (1998)
  • “You Can’t Stop the Prophet” by Jeru the Damaja (1994)
  • “5 AM in Toronto” by Drake (2013)

19. “You’re Getting A Little Too Smart” by Detroit Emeralds

Album: I’m in Love with You

Released: May 1973

Notable songs sampled in:

  • Raekwon – “Incarcerated Scarfaces” (1995)
  • Ras Kass – “Sonset” (1996)
  • 2Pac – “Heartz of Men” (1996)
  • Common – “The Light” (2000)
  • “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)” by Kendrick Lamar (2015)
  • “8 Out of 10” by Drake (2018)
  • “Hip 2 Da Game” by Lord Finesse (1995)
  • “The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World” by Keith Murray (1994)
  • “Carmel City” by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1994)

18. “UFO” by ESG

Album: ESG (EP)

Released: 1981

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Party and Bullshit” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1993)
  • “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” by Big Daddy Kane (1988)
  • “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.” by 2Pac (1993)
  • “Who I Am” by Pusha T feat. 2 Chainz & Big Sean (2013)
  • “Geek Down” by J Dilla (2006)
  • “Yessir!” by MF DOOM feat. Raekwon (2009)
  • “Let’s Ride” by Q-Tip (1999)
  • “Night of the Living Baseheads” by Public Enemy (1988)
  • “Fuck Compton” by Tim Dog (1991)

17. “Spinning Wheel” by Lonnie Smith

Album: Drives

Released: 1970

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Can I Kick It?” by A Tribe Called Quest (1990)
  • “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” by Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
  • “Enta Da Stage” by Black Moon (1993)
  • “Give the Drummer Some” by Ultramagnetic MC’s (1988)
  • “Pump Pump” by Snoop Dogg feat. Mr. Malik (1993)
  • “Hostile” by Erick Sermon feat. Keith Murray (1993)
  • “Come on Everybody” by Run-DMC (1993)

16. “Why Can’t People Be Colors Too?” by The Whatnauts

Album: Whatnauts on the Rocks

Released: 1972

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Oh My God” by A Tribe Called Quest feat. Busta Rhymes (1993)
  • “Bucktown” by Smif-N-Wessun (1995)
  • “It Ain’t Hard to Tell (Remix)” by Nas (1994)
  • “Hardcore Rap Act” by Das EFX (1995)
  • “Maintaining” by Common (1994)
  • “No Airplay” by LL Cool J (1995)
  • “Stomp Da Roach” by U-God feat. GZA & Scotty Wotty (2009)
  • “Good Times” by Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon & Superb (2007)

15. “I’m Glad You’re Mine” by Al Green

Album: I’m Still in Love with You

Released: October 23, 1972

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Dead Wrong” by The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Eminem (1999)
  • “Mahogany” by Eric B. & Rakim (1990)
  • “What’s Beef?” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)
  • “I Got a Story to Tell” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)
  • “Paper Thin” by MC Lyte (1988)
  • “Compton” by Guerilla Black feat. Beenie Man (2004)
  • “#1 Stunna” by Big Tymers, Lil Wayne, Juvenile & Lac (2000)
  • “U Wanna Be Me” by Nas (2002)
  • “Living This Life” by UGK (2007)

14. “Ashley’s Roachclip” by The Soul Searchers

Album: Salt of the Earth

Released: 1974

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Paid in Full” by Eric B. & Rakim (1987)
  • “Hey Young World” by Slick Rick (1988)
  • “Run’s House” by Run-DMC (1988)
  • “Jack the Ripper” by LL Cool J (1987)
  • “Jackin’ for Beats” by Ice Cube (1990)
  • “Tree of Life” by Ab-Soul (2014)
  • “Strugglin'” by 2Pac feat. Live Squad (1993)
  • “True to the Game” by Ice Cube (1991)
  • “Growin’ Up in the Hood (Big O.G. Hood Funky Beat Remix)” by Compton’s Most Wanted (1991)
  • “Down the Line” by Nice & Smooth, Asu and Bass Blaster feat. Melo T, Preacher Earl & Gang Starr (1991)
  • “Breakdown” by T La Rock (1985)

13. “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier

Album: The Tale of the Tape

Released: 1980

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “99 Problems” by Jay-Z (2003)
  • “Out of This World” by A$AP Rocky (2011)
  • “Looking for Trouble” by Kanye West feat. Pusha T, Big Sean, Cyhi the Prynce & J. Cole (2010)
  • “We Can Get Down” by A Tribe Called Quest (1993)
  • “Real Niggaz Don’t Die” by N.W.A (1991)
  • “Let It All Hang Out” by A.D.O.R. (1992)
  • “Wickedest Man Alive” by Naughty by Nature feat. Queen Latifah (1991)
  • “Born and Raised in Compton” by DJ Quik (1991)
  • “Jam Master Jammin'” by Run-DMC (1985)
  • “It’s Going Down” by EPMD (1992)
  • “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (1987)
  • “Life in the Fast Lane” by Geto Boys (1990)

12. “It’s a New Day” by Skull Snaps

Album: Skull Snaps

Released: 1973

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Passin’ Me By” by The Pharcyde (1992)
  • “Give Up the Goods (Just Step)” by Mobb Deep feat. Big Noyd (1995)
  • “Put It On” by Big L feat. Kid Capri (1994)
  • “Take It Personal” by Gang Starr (1992)
  • “Who Got Da Props” by Black Moon (1993)
  • “Funky Child” by Lords of the Underground (1993)
  • “Hippa to Da Hoppa” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard (1995)
  • “Mommy, What’s a Gravedigga?” by Gravediggaz (1994)
  • “Step Back” by Eric B. & Rakim (1990)
  • “Da Mad Face Invasion” by Onyx (1993)
  • “Watch Yo Nuggets” by Redman feat. Erick Sermon (1992)
  • “It’s a New Day” by Heavy D & the Boyz (1992)

11. “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin

Album: Physical Graffiti

Released: November 8, 1971

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Kim” by Eminem (2000)
  • “Rhymin & Stealin” by Beastie Boys (1986)
  • “Lyrical Gangbang” by Dr. Dre feat. The Lady of Rage, Kurupt and RBX (1992)
  • “Gangsta Boy” by Jake One feat. M.O.P. (2008)
  • “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” by Beastie Boys (1989)
  • “Midnight” by Ice-T (1991)
  • “Dollar and a Dream III” by J. Cole (2011)
  • “Survival of the Fittest” by MC Lyte (1988)
  • “King Kong” by BJ the Chicago Kid (2012)

10. “Nautilus” by Bob James

Album: One

Released: 1974

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick (1988)
  • “Daytona 500” by Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon & Cappadonna (1996)
  • “Follow the Leader” by Eric B. & Rakim (1988)
  • “Live at the Barbeque” by Main Source feat. Nas, Joe Fatal & Akinyele (1991)
  • “Clap Your Hands” by A Tribe Called Quest (1993)
  • “Extradite” by Freddie Gibbs feat. Black Thought (2015)
  • “My Mind Spray” by Jeru the Damaja (1994)
  • “Throw Ya Gunz” by Onyx (1992)
  • “Take It Back” by Wu-Tang Clan (2007)
  • “Let ‘Em Have It L” by Big L (1995)
  • “Sun Won’t Come Out” by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1994)
  • “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em” by Eric B. & Rakim (1990)
  • “Brothers on My Jock” by EPMD feat. Redman (1991)
  • “Jazzy’s Groove” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (1989)

9. “Hihache” by Lafayette Afro Rock Band

Album: Soul Makossa

Released: 1973

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Nobody Beats the Biz” by Biz Markie feat. T.J. Swan (1987)
  • “Jingling Baby” by LL Cool J (1989)Buck Em Down” by Black Moon (1993)
  • “Check the Rhime” by A Tribe Called Quest (1991)
  • “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (Ghetto Bastard)” by Naughty by Nature (1991)
  • “Never” by JID (2017)
  • “Who’s the Mack?” by Ice Cube (1990)
  • “The Devil Made Me Do It” by Paris (1989)
  • “No Delayin'” by Nice & Smooth (1989)
  • “Cowboys” by Fugees feat. Outsidaz & John Forté (1996)
  • “The Big East” by Masta Ace Incorporated (1993)
  • “Powaful Impak!” by Black Moon (1993)

8. “Get Out of My Life, Woman” by Lee Dorsey

Album: N/A

Released: December 1965

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Just a Friend” by Biz Markie (1989)
  • “Hits From the Bong” by Cypress Hill (1993)
  • “Flow Joe” by Fat Joe (1993)
  • “U Da Man” by Black Moon feat. Dru Ha, Havoc & Smif-N-Wessun (1993)
  • “Maria” by Wu-Tang Clan feat. Cappadonna (1997)
  • “Fanatic of the B-Word” by De La Soul (1991)
  • “Brother Brother” by Big Daddy Kane (1991)
  • “Retaliation” by Jedi Mind Tricks (2000)
  • “Orange Soda” by Vic Mensa (2013)
  • “Return of the Funky Man” by Lord Finesse (1991)
  • “Straight Loonie” by Keith Murray, Erick Sermon & Jamal (1994)

7. “Papa Was Too” by Joe Tex

Album: I’ve Got To Do A Little Bit Better

Released: 1966

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit” by Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
  • “Real Hip Hop” by Das EFX (1995)Give It Up” by Jay Dee (2001)
  • “Playaz Club” by Rappin’ 4-Tay (1994)
  • “Meth vs. Chef” by Method Man feat. Raekwon (1994)
  • “Head Banger” by EPMD feat. K-Solo and Redman (1992)
  • “Manifest” by Gang Starr (1989)
  • “So(ul) Amazin’ (Steel Blazin’)” by Blu and Exile (2007)
  • “”P” Is Still Free” by KRS-One (1993)
  • “You Song” by Lil Wayne feat. Chance the Rapper (2013)
  • “We Come Strapped” by MC Eiht feat. Compton’s Most Wanted (1994)

6. “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” by Bob James

Album: Two

Released: May 29, 1975

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Peter Piper” by Run-DMC (1986)
  • “The Moment I Feared” by Slick Rick (1988)
  • “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A (1988)
  • “Max B” by A$AP Rocky feat. Joe Fox (2015)
  • “Hold It Now, Hit It” by Beastie Boys (1986)
  • “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn (1991)
  • “Flowers” by Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon, Method Man and Superb (2001)
  • “Nuttin’ but Love” by Heavy D & the Boyz (1994)
  • “It’s Time to Get Hype” by Rich Nice (1990)
  • “Nasty” by Nas (2011)
  • “AJ Scratch” by Kurtis Blow (1984)
  • “Let the Ho’s Go” by Naughty by Nature (1991)
  • “Death Wish” by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo (1990)
  • “Sun Won’t Come Out” by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1994)

5. “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons

Album: N/A

Released: 1969

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A (1988)
  • “Informer” by Snow (1992)
  • “I Desire” by Salt-N-Pepa (1986)
  • “Streets on Fire” by Lupe Fiasco feat. Matthew Santos (2007)
  • “Red Eye” by Big K.R.I.T. (2012)
  • “Compton” by The Game feat. will.i.am (2006)
  • “Feel Alright Y’all” by 2 Live Crew (1988)
  • “Casualties of War” by Eric B. & Rakim (1992)
  • “Dope Not Hype” by Nice & Smooth (1989)
  • “Watch Me Now” by Ultramagnetic MC’s (1988)

4. “Synthetic Substitution” by Melvin Bliss

Album: N/A

Released: 1973

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Mighty Healthy” by Ghostface Killah (2000)
  • “Bring Da Ruckus” by Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
  • “New God Flow” by Pusha T and Kanye West (2012)
  • “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature (1991)
  • “Ego Trippin'” by Ultramagnetic MC’s (1986)
  • “Don’t Believe the Hype” by Public Enemy (1988)
  • “DWYCK” by Gang Starr feat. Nice & Smooth (1992)
  • “Clan in Da Front” by Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
  • “All I Need” by Method Man” feat. Streetlife (1994)
  • “Potholes in My Lawn” by De La Soul (1989)
  • “Animal Instinct” by Mobb Deep feat. Big Twins & Ty Nitty (1996)
  • “Ya Mama” by The Pharcyde (1992)
  • “So Called Friends” by Group Home feat. Guru (1995)
  • “O.G. Original Gangster” by Ice-T (1991)

3. “Apache” by Incredible Bongo Band

Album: Bongo Rock

Released: June 1973

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Made You Look” by Nas (2003)
  • “That’s My Bitch” by Jay-Z and Kanye West (2011)
  • “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five (1981)
  • “Thought @ Work” by The Roots (2002)
  • “You Can’t Dance” by LL Cool J (1985)
  • “Men at Work” by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo (1989)
  • “Way Way Back” by Kool Moe Dee (1987)
  • “Who Are the Pimps?” by Boogie Down Productions (1992)
  • “Assassins” by Geto Boys (1990)

2. “Funky Drummer” by James Brown

Album: In the Jungle Groove

Released: March 1970

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy (1989)
  • “Fuck Tha Police” by N.W.A (1988)
  • “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J (1990)
  • “Mathematics” by Mos Def (1999)
  • “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg, Jewell & RC (1992)
  • “Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy (1987)
  • “South Bronx” by Boogie Down Productions (1987)
  • “Lyrics of Fury” by Eric B. & Rakim (1988)
  • “Rather Unique” by AZ (1995)
  • “Jackin’ for Beats” by Ice Cube (1990)
  • “It’s a Demo” by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo (1986)
  • “Mortal Combat” by Big Daddy Kane (1989)
  • “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (1987)

1. “Impeach the President” by The Honey Drippers

Album: N/A

Released: June 1, 1973

Notable songs sampled in:

  • “Unbelievable” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)
  • “The Bridge” by MC Shan (1986)
  • “Top Billin'” by Audio Two (1987)
  • “The Message” by Nas (1996)
  • “I Get Around” by 2Pac feat. Shock G & Money-B (1993)
  • “Jump” by Kris Kross (1992)
  • “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” by Digable Planets (1992)
  • “The Bridge Is Over” by Boogie Down Productions (1987)
  • “Gangsta Gangsta” by N.W.A (1988)
  • “Eazy-Duz-It” by Eazy-E (1988)
  • “Smooth Operator” by Big Daddy Kane (1989)
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