In 1972, a man of towering physique – and street influence – travelled the Bronx with the loudest sound system (within the neighbourhood) in his car. Wherever he went, young boys and girls would flock around him, as if he were a real life Pied Piper.
This man had an acute sense of what made the young ones tick. And he knew how to get people’s feet moving. By looping the heavily percussive parts of certain funk tracks, you would have seen a sea of humans going wild.
In other words, just by repeating the ‘breaks’ of a song… It got everyone dancing in a frenzy.
It was pure magic – and it hasn’t stopped since!
So what is the particular cause-effect relationship that I’m highlighting here?
Since the birth of bboying, people created movement as a reaction to music.
That is the relationship. Music = cause; dance = effect. No music, no dance.
If there’s any one thing you MUST know inside out, it’s the music.
You don’t watch bboy videos without turning on the audio.
You don’t feel the hype without the music during your practice. You don’t feel the funk and energy during a jam without a bboy track in the background.
James Brown wouldn’t have his footwork without his music in the first place. Kool Herc wouldn’t have been able to call anyone a “breakboy” if not for the young kids going wild to the beat.
The bottomline is, music is the bloodline of bboying (or any dance for that matter). No music, no bboy.
And I want to inject more life into your breaking, so here’s a list of beats that bboys are lining up to kill. It includes both classics and new beats, both funk and unconventional genres. Some names appear just once, others might come up a dozen times.
Buckle up, bookmark this page, and amp up your speakers. Because this list consists of some of the greatest tunes to have landed in the pages of humanity’s history.
The 157 Songs That Should Be On Your Breaking Playlist
- Fred Karlin – You’re Hip Miss Pastorfield
- Kraak and Smaak – Squeeze Me
- Eruption – Funky Lover
- Franki Valli and the Four Seasons – Beggin’
- Budos Band – Up From the South
- The Lovomaniacs – Sex
- MOP – Ante Up (Remix)
- Eric B & Rakim – Juice (Know the Ledge)
- Dave Cortez – Happy Soul
- James Brown – Sex Machine
- Kool G Rap and Polo – Poison
- Run DMC – Beats to the Rhyme
- The Apples – Killing
- Arthur Baker – Breaker’s Revenge
- Black Heat – Love the Life You Live
- KRS One – The Sound of Da Police
- Noisette – Bridge to Canada
- Head Automatica – Brooklyn is Burning
- Incredible Bongo Band – Apache
- Eric B & Rakim – Don’t Sweat the Technique
- Johnny Bristol – Lusty Lady
- Dennis Coffey – Scorpio
- The Souljazz Orchestra – Insurrection
- Laura Vane & The Vipertones – Man Of Your Word
- A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario
- Waheymi – Underdog
- Isaac Hayes – Disco Connection
- Badder Than Evil – Hot Wheels (The Chase)
- Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth – The Creator
- Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
- Black Sheep – Strobelight Honey
- Laura Vane and the Vipers – Roof Off
- Frankie Cutlass – Puerto Rico
- Binary Star – Masters of the Universe
- Manu Dibango – African Battle
- Mobb Deep – The Learning (Burn)
- Dennis Coffey – Theme from Blackbelt Jones
- Mr Wiggles – The Spaniard
- Baby Huey – Listen to Me
- Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa
- DJ Shadow – Organ Donor (Remix)
- Cypress Hill – Latin Thugs
- Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady
- Nice and Smooth – Old to the New
- Beastie Boys – No Sleep Till Brooklyn
- Cookin’ on 3 Burners – Feel Good Inc.
- Cut Chemist – Drums of Fire
- Mark Ronson – Ooh Wee (ft. Nate Dogg and Ghostface Killah)
- Masta Killa – Masta Killa
- The Mohawks – Champ
- Toploader – Dancing in the Moonlight
- Mr. Wiggles – Top Rock and Roll
- Uptown – Dope on Plastic
- Yellow Sunshine – Yellow Sunshine
- The Blackbyrds – Rock Creek Park
- Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth – T.R.O.Y.
- Exit 9 – Fly
- Mongo Santamaria – Cloud Nine
- Wu Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.
- Danny Hibrid & James Brown – I Feel Alright
- The Fatback Band – Spanish Hustle
- Das EFX – They Want EFX
- Osibisa – Fire
- Bobby Byrd – I Need Help (I Can’t Do It Alone)
- The Bamboos – Tighten Up
- Candido – Soulwanco
- Big Daddy Kane – Set It Off
- Edwin Starr – I Just Wanna Do My Thing
- Babe Ruth – The Mexican
- Roxanne Shante – Have a Nice Day
- Ray Baretto – Pasttime Paradise
- Tower of Power- There’s Only So Much Oil In The Ground
- BT Express – Energy Level
- King Khan – On The Street Where I Live
- Jackson 5 – What You Don’t Know
- Eric B & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul
- Crazy Elephant – Pam
- James Brown – Get Up Offa That Thing
- Nice and Smooth – Dope Not Hype
- Esperanto – Night of the Wolf
- Big Daddy Kane – The Wrath of Kane
- Poets of Rhythm – Funky, Funky, North Carolina
- Nicole Willis and The Soul Investigators – Holdin’ On
- Greenwood Rhythm Coalition & Luz Mob – Guajira 78
- Masta Killa – No Said Date
- The Dap Kings – Nervous Like Me
- Fusik – Higher
- Esther Williams – Last Night Changed It All
- Bob James – Farandole
- Electric Light Orchestra – Fire on High
- Black Sheep – The Choice is Yours
- Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers – Blow Your Whistle
- Roberto Roena – Que Se Sepa
- James Brown – Superbad
- Herman Kelly and Life – Dance to the Drummer’s Beat
- Breakout – Planet Rock Part 2
- Breakestra – You Don’t Need a Dance
- Mongo Santamaria – Crazy Lady
- Run DMC – It’s Like That
- Frank Ferrer – Pa’ Los Obreros
- Jackson 5 – Life of the Party
- The Sound Stylistics – The Taking of Peckham 343
- The Pharcyde – Passing Me By
- Edwin Starr – Time
- Los Tios Queridos – Si Me Ves Volar
- Breakestra – Humpty Dump
- Wu Tang Clan – Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit’
- The Mike Theodore Orchestra – The Bull
- The Heavy – How You Like Me Now?
- Climax Blues Band – Sense of Direction (Looped Version)
- DJ Nas’D – It’s A Great Situation
- Lack of Afro – The Outsider
- James Brown – Get on the Good Foot
- Brownout – Homenaje
- The Prodigy – Invaders Must Die
- Rhythm Heritage – Blockbuster
- The Soul Searcher – We The People Side B
- Sam & Dave – Hold On, I’m Comin’
- Nas – Made You Look
- Jimmy Castor Bunch – It’s Just Begun
- LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
- Fusik – Fusik For The B-boys
- The New Mastersounds – Bondo Sama
- Rhythm Heritage – Theme from S.W.A.T.
- Redman – Time 4 Sum Aksion
- Cookin’ on 3 Burners – Tokyo Saucer
- Run DMC – It’s Tricky
- Black Grass – Queztalcoatl Returns
- Spanky Wilson – Sunshine of Your Love
- Jun Mayuzumi – Black Room
- George Benson – Water Brother
- Rufus Thomas – Itch and Scratch
- Can – Vitamin C
- RJD2 – 1976
- The Roots – Here I Come (ft. Dice Raw)
- Mark Ronson – God Put A Smile On Your Face (ft. the Daptone Horns)
- Lords of the Underground – Chief Rocka
- Smoove – I’m a Man
- Fusik – Funktana
- Gary’s Gang – Do It at the Disco
- Nas – Hip Hop is Dead
- Alice Russell – All Over Now
- Mountain Mocha Killimanjaro – Yellow Soul Force
- J-Walk – Soul Vibration
- Gwen McRae – All This Love That I’m Giving
- Harvey Averne Barrio Band – Cucaraca Macara
- Ashley MacIsaac – Sleepy Maggie
- Hawkeye – Still Jivin’
- Jackson Sisters – I Believe in Miracles
- Naughty by Nature – Hip Hop Hooray
- Brian Auger & Julie Driscoll – Let the Sunshine
- DJ Premier – Classic (ft. Rakim, KRS-One, Nas, Kanye West)
- Gang Starr – Full Clip
- Big Boss Man – Kelvin Stardust
- Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers – Bustin’ Loose
- James Brown – Give It Up or Turn It Loose
- Coke Escovedo – I Wouldn’t Change a Thing
After listening to the entire treasure trove above, I’m sure you have a greater appreciation of music in bboying. Obviously 1 listening session isn’t going to dramatically change the way you approach music, but these bboy tracks are to be enjoyed over and over. Because good music speaks to people without becoming stale; it’s timeless.
Listening to music is just one half of how you engage with the dance that is breaking. How you interpret the mood, how much fire or energy you put into your steps… All of these take guidance and training; it’s a tedious process that you’ll learn to love.
By the way, you can even play the above list of bboy tracks at your next practice or house party! I created a playlist of all 157 songs just for your next practice, so check it out by clicking this little link filled with bboy tracks.
Have I missed out any of the classic beats? Share it below in the comments section!
Just remember your priorities… It’s music then dance.
P.S. In case you haven’t already noticed, the man at the beginning of the story was also known as Kool Herc, one of the pioneer DJs to cut the breaks and develop music in hip-hop. 🙂