Bring the Break-Beat Back!

Authenticity and the Politics of Rhythm in Drum ‘n’ Bass

  • Chris Christodoulou University of Westminster; London South Bank University


This article focuses on the critical divergences between rhythm and repetition in contemporary drum ‘n’ bass music in three key ways. First, it shows how the characteristic “chopping” and acceleration of sampled break-beats emphasises continuity with the past, thereby placing the genre in a continuum of Black Atlantic cultural practice that articulates historical recuperation as a political priority, while signifying the discontinuity of time in an accelerated culture. Secondly, it addresses the persistent use of live break-beats as an impulse within the genre to emphasise competing discourses of authenticity in the context of Black Atlantic cultural memory. Thirdly, having examined the embodied performativity valorised in the sampling of live break-beats, the article shows how the critical valuation of rhythmic characteristics can function as a catalyst of genre mutation and sub-genre development in drum ‘n’ bass and other electronic dance music genres.