Drum beats only exist because one DJ, Grandmaster Flash, decided to get ‘scientific.’ In an interview with the Washington Post, the hip-hop pioneer recounts the inspiration and creation behind the drum break:
“My mother and my sister used to have house parties. What I noticed is the part [of the record] where there was a drum solo, the crowd would become more reactive at that point. I’m like oh wow — so why isn’t that most of the record? How can I take this 10-second part that I, personally, thought should be the whole entire record and — If I was speaking in 2016 — manually edit it and cut and paste it on time to the beat?”
To spin the record counterclockwise, Flash had to experiment with all facets of the turntable including the needle, rubber matting, experimenting with hardening some felt — materials that he stole from his mother who was a seamstress.
“I came from a scientific approach. Once I came up with the queuing, the proper needle, the “wafer,” duplicate copies of records, the mixer, which I had to rebuild, I was able to take a 10 second drumbeat and make it seamlessly 10 minutes.”
He then tested his own recorded vinyl albums on various turntables: Fisher Price, Magnavox, before landing on Technics which nailed the right record speed. Flash was doing all this at a time when even putting fingerprints on a record was “a major violation to vinyl.”
As soon as Flash had all the tools and identified the “the get down” or climax of the song, he was able to create drum loops in a process called the backspin technique or “quick-mix theory.” It wasn’t before long he teamed up with MCs to rhyme over the beats, thus laying the foundation for hip-hop.