Music News


Breakestra is a funk band that Bay Area hip-hop luminary Peanut Butter Wolf discovered playing in an L.A. club and promptly signed to his Stones Throw label. What piqued Wolf's ears was not only the overwhelming tightness of the players and the James Brown-esque barks of the singer, but their uncanny ability to replicate famous passages from funk history riff for riff. As perhaps the only live band signed to a prominent hip-hop label, it's no surprise that Breakestra's rhythmic inspiration draws exclusively from the lexicon of classic drum breaks that serve as rap music's bedrock. So a "new" funk band it's not. Rather, it represents the reappropriation of funk samples by the type of musicians who originally produced them -- drummers, bassists, guitarists and keyboard players -- not, let us remind the kiddies, hip-hop programmers messing around on Akai SP 1200s.

On its live mix-tape series, Breakestra flips between flawlessly reproduced "loops" of funk tracks memorably plundered by hip-hop producers faster than a DJ could with an extra pair of arms. Newer generations will instantly recognize the instrumental snippets that made stars out of their favorite artists -- Pharcyde, Boogie Down Productions, EPMD, Mark the 45 King, Public Enemy, Busta Rhymes, and Eric B & Rakim, among others, all drew from parts replayed here. Old-school soul and R&B purists might even relish the chance to enjoy the grooves from their beloved evergreens rehashed without all those rhyme routines that just get in the way of that timeless old funk. And since the entire CD is sequenced to mimic the flow of a DJ set, the beats run together continuously, making for a solid block of organic dancing music that will get booties shakin' at any house party or barbecue.

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Darren Keast