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The 10 best big beat tracks released pre-'98

Some absolute stompers here

  • Max Penny-Barrow and Dave Turner
  • 10 August 2018

Big beat was an amalgamation sounds, one big melting pot of them that came crashing together in the '90s. Hip hop, breakbeats, acid, punk, funk, whomping bass and a ridiculously heavy amount of sampling. These ingredients formed a genre that was shown to the world by the likes of Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy. The latter's 'The Fat Of The Land' even topped the charts in the United States.

The tracks big beat spawned still bang today and we decided that needs to be celebrated. We dug into the crates, pre-1998 only, to revisit some of the biggest beats of them all. Caution: they're absolutely huge.

1
The Prodigy 'Breathe'

The second number one single from ‘97’s The Fat of the Land', this classic features a quintessential Prodigy guitar riff with clever use of a Wu-Tang whiplash sample from 'Da Mystery of Chessboxin' and a heavy, pacy bassline coming together to form one big beat banger. Of course, Keith Flint is present providing the no-nonsense punk vocals that help this track, like many others in the big beat scene, transcend genres.

2
The Chemical Brothers 'Block Rockin' Beats'

Based on another hip hop sample, this time from Schoolly D's 'Gucci Again', this funky, bassline-driven track from big beat pioneers The Chems is filled with intricate percussion patterns and a dense plunging bass drum. Later, the song is tinged with acid synths and a climax that leaves us with that familiar screeching sound on loop.

3
The Crystal Method 'Busy Child'

No big beat list would be complete without Crystal Method featuring at least once. Dripping in acid and completed with yet another hip hop sample, this time ripped from Eric B. & Rakim's 'Juice (The Ledge)', Crystal Method’s big beat belter includes powerful drops and comes to a closing crescendo in the form of a springy orchestral section. Massive beat.

4
Propellerheads 'Spybreak'

A single from their only album 'Decksanddrumsandrockandroll', 'Spybreak!' is an anthem driven by a organic sounding hi-hat alongside a punchy, sneaky bassline. The record is slightly indicative of a spy theme on the bass-heavy Propellerheads album, with the duo remixing Bond soundtracks in the shape of 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' and collaborating with Shirley Bassey for 'History Repeating'.

5
Fatboy Slim 'Everybody Needs A 303'

Referencing the legendary Roland TB-303 bass synth, Norman Cook’s debut and techno-influenced big beat track has it all: a warped guitar riff, an uplifting vocal sample and, of course, thick 303 synth lines taking centre stage at the end. Everybody needs this one on their big beat bill.

6
Hardknox 'Psychopath'

A synth line that builds to an insane pace, beatboxing, an oscillating siren and a pnuematic drill-type drum. It all comes together so beautifully before arriving at a dub-flavoured bassline. More layers are added in the vocal channel, encouraging us to feel the wrath of a psychopath.

7
Groove Armada 'Vanilla'

Before the Groove Armada fellas tasted chart success with the ass-shaking 'I See You Baby' and 'Superstylin'', they had a few lesser-known 12"s out on Tummy Touch. 'Vanilla' is far from the boring, bland connotations that word generates. Percussion rattles relentlessly, going head-to-head with a rowdy guitar riff, before rolling out into a full-blown breakbeat workout combined with emotive shrieks of "when I look at you..." Proper hectic.

8
Cut La Roc 'Hip Hop Bibbedy Bop Bop'

The opening bass kicks on this one could lead you into thinking it's gonna be a sweet-flavoured garage tune, but it soon transcends into that familiar big beat formula of meaty drums, scratching and choppy samples. You might have already guessed from the title, but the vocal is a sample of the hip hop tune that changed the game: Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight'. If you're after a bit of fun, this one will probably tickle your fancy.

9
Lo Fidelity Allstars 'Kool Rok Bass'

Without Skint Records, the path of big beat may well have gone a different route. The label's been responsible for releasing records by Fatboy Slim and Hardknox and Lo Fidelity Allstars were another band who had a tight relationship with it from 1997 to 2007. 'Kool Rok Bass' was their debut release and it's a kind of messed-up intergalactic trip, loaded with cosmic synths and probing acid stabs. It's part of their album 'How To Operate With A Blown Mind', the title of which makes a lot of sense 'cause your brain will need a bit of rejuvenation after listening to this one.

10
Death In Vegas 'Rocco'

Opening lyrics of "if I die where he be" paint a glum picture from the off, so it's no surprise 'Rocco' descends into four minutes of ragged and erratic chaos. It's bruising dance music flowing with punk's aggression and exactly the type of tune you'd expect featuring on an album called 'Dead Elvis'. And a group called Death In Vegas, of course.

Max Penny-Barrow is a freelance journalist, follow him on Twitter

Dave Turner is Mixmag's Digital News Editor, follow him on Twitter

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