The 30 Greatest Hip Hop Drum Breaks & Samples of All Time!


I absolutely love lists. I make lists for things that I need to do when at home, on my way to work, at work, and even while I’m at the movies. There’s one list that I’ve been thinking of for the past three weeks and has caused me agony beyond reasonable comprehension… The top 10 drum breaks of all time! Can you imagine that such a thing might exist? After all we are talking about, at the most, a ten second snippet of a couple of kicks, snare, and maybe even some high hats.

This is madness, right? Well, for over a fortnight I’ve tossed, turned, gritted my teeth, and had more arguments with myself than the American Psychological Association has deemed mentally healthy, but I’ve finally finished my list. The closest I was able to get it down to was the greatest 30 breaks with only the top 3 being in any particular order. So, here it is, for your listening and debating pleasure… The Top 30 Greatest Hip-Hop Drum Breaks of All Time!!!

  1. Melvin Bliss – Synthetic Subsitution
  2. The Honeydrippers – Impeach The President
  3. Skull Snaps – It’s A New Day
  4. Little Feet – Fool Yourself
  5. Billy Squire – Big Beat
  6. Al Green – I’m Glad You’re Mine
  7. The Soul Searchers – Ashley’s Roachclip
  8. Power of Zeus – Sorcerer of Isis
  9. Kool & The Gang – NT
  10. Isley Brothers – Footsteps In The Dark
  11. Q65 – Get Out My Life Woman
  12. Jeff Beck – Come Dancing
  13. Mountain – Long Red (Live)
  14. Manzel – Midnight Theme
  15. The Meters – Here Come The Metermen
  16. The Headhunters – God Made Me Funky
  17. Dexter Wansel – Theme From The Planets
  18. Young Holt Unlimited – Wah Wah Man
  19. Roy Ayers – The Boogie Back
  20. James Brown – Funky President
  21. Orange Crush – Action
  22. Joe Tex – Papa Was Too
  23. Funk Inc. – Kool Is Back
  24. Silhouettes – Fonky First
  25. Bad Bascomb – Black Grass
  26. Kool & The Gang – Jungle Jazz
  27. The Turtles – I’m Chief Kamanawanalea
  28. Donny Hathaway – Magnificent Sanctuary Band
  29. Little Richard – The Rill Thing
  30. Funkadelic – Good Old Music

1,655 thoughts on “The 30 Greatest Hip Hop Drum Breaks & Samples of All Time!”

  1. Dude.

    This is f*cking hot.

    My only hate is that the streams are only 12 seconds long.

    I WANT 30 second clips.

    A pod cast.



  2. Good choices. A few that should have been on here

    William Bell- Born Under a Bad Sign
    Jimi Hendrix- Flashing
    Rolling Stones- Honky tonk Woman
    EdwinStarr- Rapper Dapper clapper

  3. nice nie…….but i was wondering why the amen brother break isnt in there?….it is one of the most famous breaks as what i know of…….its being used is striaght out of compton nwa……plus the snares and kicks have been use in alot of dnb songs

  4. This list is completely FUBAR! You left out the #1 break of all time. Not only did you not make it #1 but its out of the list completely!!!! This is surly a crime! Punishable by being forced to stay awake in a chair while listening to said break for a week, no less.

    Winstons, The “Amen Brother” (Metromedia MMS-117)

    This one record is so influential, it started a seperate dance music genre called Jungle or as it is called today, Drum & Bass. It was best used as the back beat of UK ‘Ardkore tracks pre-jungle such as in DJ Seduction’s “Come On”, Harmony & Extreme’s “Music”, and Carl Cox’s “I want you (forever)”

  5. Hey there. The Skull Snaps are playing at the Knitting Facotry this Friday opening for Slick Rick. Also, would you be interested in interviewing Skull Snaps leader, Erv Waters, for your blog?


  6. Aside from the aforementioned Winston Brothers….another glaring omission is James Brown’s Funky Drummer, which admittedly, is one of the most overused samples in Hip Hop history…but not without reason.

    • I could not agreee more, when i started as a dj funky drummer was the key to life itself. If in doubt get the funky drummer vinyl out, got me out of a lot of messy mixes

  7. If i bought one of your sample packs, would it still work on my Mac running reason even though the download says windows only?

  8. props on posting the skull snaps. just saw them (like, JUST saw them) at the knitting factory tonight before slick rick. they killed.

    thanks for the sample wednesday mention as well. keep doing your thing. peace!

    Palms Out

  9. “This list is completely FUBAR! You left out the #1 break of all time. Not only did you not make it #1 but its out of the list completely!!!! This is surly a crime! Punishable by being forced to stay awake in a chair while listening to said break for a week, no less.”

    thought you were going to say Funky Drummer!

    Long Red is str8 Pi$$ though

  10. I’m sorry but there’s no arguing this. 2000 rappers and dj’s can’t be wrong.
    James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” is the IT!!!
    After that, take your pick. How could you not have it in your top 30???
    Trying too hard to be avant garde? Fess up!

  11. I totally agree with your #1 spot, however Funky Drummer and Amen should be on the list. Although Amen is a bit over-rated, it’s a classic but it’s over-rated.

    • ive been working on transcribing these for a minute. but its for a drum machine or mpc sequencer 001.01.00(language) . Im assuming your looking for transcription for a live drummer. Ive seen drum transcription books which is more like written music for drums. I would definetly be interested in help working on this i need to figure out how to write it in transcription language. You can do it yourself, time consuming though. i have a some methods kinda hard for me to explain unless you know how to use step record on a drummachine/sampler. hit me up with any further info or i could try to show you the ones i have.

  12. hey guys,
    i just wanted the name for the drum break that Kanye uses in “heard em say”
    u know, the one with the echo effect on it. cheers





  14. The # 1 song i think yall forgot about is …………The Funky Drummer,now tell me how many song you heard that on.And the real Greatest of all time is Planet Rock,Shakin that ass is a way of dance ,Stippers Stand Up !

  15. I feel that some of these individuals don’t have these breaks that are posted, so
    get out there and dig and it’s an education like none other.


  17. As has been mentioned numerous times, Amen Brother being excluded from the list is a unforgiveable error. So is ditching The Funky Drummer. Although I’m not surprised from an author who starts off his article with “I love lists.” Lists are reductionist and detrimental. Instead of discussing the breaks and contextualizing their importance within hip-hop and the artists that have used them, what you’ve done imo is obscured their importance and relevance. Moreover, lists inherently always leave shit out but they never seem to acknowledge that. Music isn’t about rows and columns, that’s for the industry people to fight over, not us music lovers.

  18. I know people have said it before, but it can’t said too many times: Where is the “Amen Break?” It is the most important break beat of all time – not just in hip-hop, but in all of popular culture.

    Oh, and people who write in all caps are morons.

  19. What about “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, which has been looped or sampled by everyone from The Beastie Boys to Massive Attack via Tears For Fears of all people. No-one ever hit a snare as sweet as John Bonham did on “Levee”, which was recorded at the bottom of a stairwell at Headley Grange, a Victorian country house.

  20. the aforementioned “Funky Drummer”, “Apache”, and “Amen” are obvious omissions.
    The AWB shoutout, I agree with, if you’re talking about “School Boy Crush”.
    The other glaring omissions, to me, are the Lyn Collins (JBs) “Think (About It)”, and Sly and the Family Stone’s “You Can Make It if You Try” and “Sing a Simple Song”.

    But Good Jebus, this list could (and should) go on forever.
    I hadn’t even brought up Bob James’ “Take me to the Mardi Gras” or “Nautilus”. And a personal favorite is Black Oak Arkansas “Hot and Nasty”, but I don’t know that that should be in a tops list. But I should stop.

  21. This is lacking one amazing drum intro. Trucker’s Atlas by Modest Mouse. Everyone should go hear it.

    • Peace!!! I think you’re kinda missing the point Joe. What makes these joints Hip Hop is the feeling/attitude they convey, as well as the way they’re manipulated (like Theodore’s needle dropping). You look at a joint like Orange Krush- ‘Action’ and you hear it on a real sound system NOT an iPod with ear buds, you’d feel them the way they’re meant to be heard. The attitude in that cut gets me hype every time I go back and forth on it. Herc, Bam, and Flash (along with countless others) were cuttin’ these while MC’s like Busy Bee, Cold Crush 4, and Funky 4+1,etc were rhyming over top, and laying the foundation of this Hip Hop thing. When you listen to the old park jam tapes you hear Jazzy Jay cuttin’ up Mary Mary, Assembly Line, or the Mickey Mouse break….you lose your mind (I do anyway,lol!!). When you see how B-Boys get loose on these jams….that is the physical manifestation of Hip Hop right there.

      (But I digress)…..The Turtles break is a psych rock record….The Donny Hathaway break is a soul record….Mountain (Live) is a rock record….Bobby Byrd’s ‘I’m Coming’ is just pure Funk in your ass (respect to Pissed Up Raver for calling out this one). Thin Lizzy’s Johnny The Fox (THAT..IS..MY…JOINT!!!) is a rock record. However if you listen if listen to those drums at the beginning….that’s straight up funk backbone. If you really wanna be literal Joe, then no…..they’re not. But it’s very important that you look at these in context. That’s my 5 cents….Peace 2U!!!

  22. Friggin sweet list man! Nice work, couldn’t have done better myself, however…

    say what you want about limp bizkit but their track Let me down has the sweetest drum intro I’ve ever heard. 11 seconds of John otto magic.

    also couldnt help notice a serious lack of stevie wonder, the man can write a beat.

  23. Funky Drummer! c’mon son! We will always have our own favourites, but Funky Drummer… that’s break beat 101 – even if the break last more than 10 seconds 😛 Anyways, I enjoyed the listen 🙂

  24. PEACE!!! You wanna talk about missing breaks on this list…..

    Incredible Bongo Band- Apache (I can’t believe no one mentioned this anthem)
    Thin Lizzy- Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed
    Lafayette Afro Rock Band- Hihache
    Fatback Band- Fatbackin’
    D.C LaRue: Face of Love (12″ version)

    These are just a few of my faves. Most peoples are stressin’ Amen Brother???? Pfffff…if I don’t hear that for a while, it’s no loss. I don’t even play my copies (for now,lol!!).

    • Looks who’s too cool for the Amen Break. In shear influence and prolific application, Amen Brother HAS to be on the list of greatest hip hop breaks. Sorry. No two ways about it.

  25. Here are some more recent ones. They have evolved from which we have already heard. Masters of their craft…

    Sunlight Square – from the cosmos (Steve Gadd)
    Herbie Hancock – Palm Grease (Mike Clark)
    Herbie Hancock – The Traitor (Mike Clark)
    Lettuce – Dizzer (Adam Deitch)
    Christian McBride – Say Somthing (Terreon Gully)
    Greyboy Allstars – The Browns at Home (Zak Najor)
    Los Lobos – Revolution (Louie Perez)

    all good stuff,


Comments are closed.