Broken beat is usually traced back to west London in the early 1990s. With influences as diverse as jazz, dub, hip-hop, funk and drum and bass, its eagerness to hybridise reflects something of the broadly multicultural context in which it bloomed.
The name Broken Beat is actually a bit of a misnomer: for all its syncopation and polyrhythms, it’s usually bedded in a solid groove and four to the floor kick routine. Often skirting the line between deep house and minimal, its smooth grooves and emphasised percussive elements are generally supplemented by warm chords and subdued organic timbres.
IG Culture is credited with the birth of the sound, 4Hero gave it momentum and these days Gilles Peterson and Bugz In The Attic are keeping it fresh. Not to mention Crossfadr’s own obscenely talented David Larkin!
4Hero’s seminal 2001 album Creating Patterns goes a long way to giving a voice to the genre. With vocals by legendary Jill Scott and Ursula Rucker, it marked a departure from the drum and bass on which they’d cut their teeth and settled them, and a maturing EDM subculture, into a more relaxed groove.
Broken beat is a good example of the ways genres tend to swim into and through one another, sometimes bonding and sometimes clashing. Already a mongrel with too many direct progenitors to keep in check, my money’s on the dark, driving rhythms of Afro-Cuban as the next place Broken Beat makes its presence known.