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THE HISTORY OF THE AMEN BREAK
In 1969, soul group The Winstons recorded a 7-inch record titled “Color Him Father” in Atlanta, Georgia, that would go on to win the group a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1970. What the group never could have guessed was that the record’s B-side, an instrumental titled “Amen, Brother,” carried a four-bar drum break that would alter the history of contemporary music for decades to come.
The Winstons’ drummer GC Coleman’s sprightly, organic six-second drum solo has made “Amen, Brother” the most sampled record in history. But how did this happen? The song first resurfaced in 1986 when a sound engineer by the name of BreakBeat Lou edited and released a compilation album titled Ultimate Breaks and Beats, which included the long-forgotten track. Pitching the drum break down to 33 rpm, hip hop producers, DJs and rappers alike were quick to recognize its blaring sonic potential.
First came Salt-N-Pepa, who repurposed the break for their 1986 song, “I Desire.” Then, iconic rap group NWA used it for their flagship tune “Straight Outta Compton” in 1989, and Miami DJ Felix Sama added a deep 808 kick to the beat in Success-N-Effect’s track “Roll It Up,” which soon made its way to the UK and became the definitive prototype to the genres hardcore, jungle, and drum & bass.