Breakbeat Lou: the B-side
This is a part of a longer series on Breakbeat Lou Flores, creator of the Ultimate Breaks and Beats Series, and one of the most honest and benevolent voices in the industry.
Under Street Beats Records, Breakbeat Lou Flores edited and released the Ultimate Breaks and Beats (UBB), a series of 25 compilation albums featuring—well, the ultimate breaks and beats.
Anyone who knows anything about hip hop knows the role that sampling plays in rap music. Ever since Marley Marl sampled the first snare drum, sampling became a huge part of rap music, and by extension Hip Hop culture. But what were people going to sample?
In 1986, Lenny Roberts and Breakbeat Lou Flores began Street Beat Records. Motivated by their love for hip hop culture, a deep passion for music, and a desire to share some of their favorite music, the two began to release vinyl after vinyl of the ultimate breaks and beats, from which legends from Public Enemy to Kanye West have sampled in their works. Each of the 25 records features incredible funky breaks from artists ranging from the well known to the obscure; all would take on a new life through the UBB series, as artists across genres would sample their breaks for their own works.
You can find all this information (and much more!) by googling “Breakbeat Lou”, but that isn’t the point of this article. That stuff is the A-side. This is the B-side.
When I sit in a room with an artist, a creator, there is always an air of desperation--a question on my lips that I have spent my entire life trying to answer. It goes unspoken and concerts and shows, but it’s the reason you’re reading this article right now. There is an idea that we get in our heads about music, that somehow we can be closer to it, and that if we can get close enough, something magical could happen to us. I seek that magic every day. Breakbeat Lou offered it right off the back. I hope you enjoy the interview below, which has been edited for clarity and length.
BREAKBEAT LOU: I want to congratulate you on your work. Not many women are out here doing the work you’re doing, and I think it’s very brave and I applaud you.
SAINT: Thank you. You know the entire Heist Society team are people of color, and I think all of us except for one or two are women of color…What could you say you’ve noticed about representation of women of color in the industry?
BREAKBEAT LOU: I mean, unfortunately, representation for women in the industry is dismal. I believe that there is no way that anything can evolve without women being involved. I was raised mainly by my mother and my grandmother. And she always said that God’s greatest creation was woman. And I still believe that to this day. There have been and there always has been since the beginning, women involved in hip hop. And on every side of it. You had women MCs, of course, but also women graf writers, and b-girls. And they were doing amazing, incredible work. I mean one of my friends, Lorraine Murphy founded MIRA, the Metropolitan Independent Retailers Association. And she was doing incredible work, there were the six big record label distributors at the time, and her business brought so many independent labels together and through MIRA she changed the big six label distributors and how they looked at things. With MIRA, they wanted to prove to the majors that independent retailers are the true backbone of the industry, that the same amount of traffic goes through independents, and that they deserve the same amount of advertising dollars. And this work was essential.
SAINT: It’s honestly such a relief to hear the names of these women brought to the surface again. I worry that they may have been lost if we don’t speak them. That sort of brings me into my next question--the ghosts of hip-hop’s past, present, and future. You know Questlove wrote this 6 part essay series on hip-hop where he says that hip hop is in a decline, that it’s losing its steam. Do you agree with this perspective?
BREAKBEAT LOU: You know, I disagree, I do. And it’s all love to Questlove, I love Questlove, and respect him, he does amazing work. But I disagree that hip hop is in a decline because it’s not a genre, it is a culture. Rap music is not necessarily hip-hop, I mean look--hip-hop has international influence. I can go to Japan and see b-boys and b-girls there, and in Japan they could be doing graf, and that’s hip-hop culture! You can’t tell me that’s not hip-hop culture. To me, if feels like there’s no longer a record industry, because there is no longer a tangible medium. You don’t sell vinyls, or cassettes, or CDs anymore. Everything depends on the performance or marketing aspects. In today’s industry, you have to think outside the box, the steps that we used to take won’t work anymore.
//end part 1//