Breakbeats are drum parts—usually culled from funk, R&B, and classic rock records—sampled to form the foundation for hip-hop songs and various strains of dance/electronica. While hardcore punk music might not seem like an obvious source for these funky drum breaks, the fertile cross-pollination of musical influences that thrived in the NYHC scene provided some surprising and groove-worthy samples.
I picked my favorite song intros that feature these beats. The following are not the last word on the subject, they're just the ones that immediately popped up in my head. I'm sure that there are plenty more just as deserving out there, but, for now, let's give the (NYHC) drummer some.
"Ignorant," Urban Waste (1982)
John Dancy from Urban Waste lays down a syncopated, cymbal-heavy beat that I could easily see looped as the foundation for one of those classic, early rap posse cuts—as performed by Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash at Harlem World, circa 1981.
"With Time," Agnostic Front (1984)
In the opening to this classic jam off Agnostic Front's Victim in Pain album, drummer Dave Jones plays the prototypical "tribal mosh" beat that would become synonymous with NYHC. A hypnotic pattern that adequately reflects the cacophonous urban metropolis that inspired the band and their followers.
"Youth Crew," Youth of Today (1985)
The beat that influenced dozens of Youth Crew bands and a significant catalyst for the second wave of NYHC in the mid to late '80s was laid down by Darren Pesce, who—ironically enough, according to Youth of Today's John Porcelly—"wasn't into punk at all... a total guido kid." That might have been the case, but this catchy drum intro perfectly complements the song's sing-along nature.
"Friends Like These," Altercation (1987)
The energetic intro in "Friends Like These," Bonham-like in its intensity, as performed by Altercation's Andy Guida, is a fluid display of economy in motion that would not seem out of place on a P-Funk/Funkadelic record, or other similarly groove-obsessed outfits.
"The Hardway," Outburst (1989)
Joe "JoJo" Songco from Outburst lays down a leisurely paced rhythm that anchors this hard, mid-tempo pounder that could—in a parallel universe—serve as the source for one of those moody, noir-ish instrumentals someone like the RZA from Wu-Tang Clan is so adept at producing.
"Where it Ends," Project X (1988)
Sammy Siegler cannot have been older than 15 when he played on this Project X song. I bet they were going for that slow, pounding burner that always finished one side of all those classic Boston hardcore LPs they worshipped, but, to my ears, this intro referenced the direct, streamlined beats found on those early Def Jam 12"s.
"Mass Movement," Underdog (1989)
Here's a slight change of pace, showing the versatility of NYHC drummers. I could totally see Lee Perry in his fabled Black Ark studios, in 1970s Jamaica, working his alchemical dub magic on the roots-heavy riddim played by Underdog's Dean Joseph/Iglay.
"Drown," Burn (1990)
Burn drummer Alan Cage is a breakbeat lover's wet dream, as three of the four songs on their debut EP features funky, muscular drum rolls that kick things off, setting the stage for their atypical powerhouse sound that took NYHC into new dimensions while staying true to its origins. It's tough to pick my favorite, but this one always blew me away.
"Engine," Supertouch (1990)
After Altercation's demise, Andy Guida moved on to the more musically ambitious Supertouch, as heard on this polyrhythmic intro to their 1990 album, The Earth is Flat. Taken out of context and sped up, this beat could serve as the foundation for one of those multilayered drum 'n' bass dance jams; and their current related subgenres like dubstep, IDM, breakcore, etc.
"The Storm," Judge (1990)
Judge drummer Sammy Siegler lays down a beat that echoes his earlier work in Project X. The benefit of experience and higher production values anchor this slow, reverb-heavy pounder like thunder strikes, complementing the song's subject matter.