First things first, DJ Sheep is the realest. Hailing from the Land Down Under, the 5-Time Australian State DJ Champion has been the man dating all the way back to the ‘90s when he was a hired scribe for magazines like The Bomb, The Source, XXL and others. He’s also a pioneer on the Internetz, having "set up the world's first website dedicated to scratching culture, turntablism.com.” (You can check out his own personal site here.) And if the old adage “you can judge a man by the company he keeps” is indeed true, then Sheep is one bad-ass dude, as he once formed a group called Extra Chee$e with his good buddy and egotripland fam J-Zone.
All this is just scratching the surface of DJ Sheep’s accomplishments, which also includes a massive vinyl collection to be envied for sure. His recent mixes like Spring Breakz #1 demonstrate his love for not only hip-hop but for the art of digging and the beauty of perfect samples, an appreciation he’s extended further in this exclusive list of Top 10 (or 11) Break Mixes by various luminaries that he likes a whole dang lot. For the uninitiated, what you're about to hear, will be wonderful to your ear...
CLICK THE THUMBNAILS ABOVE FOR DJ SHEEP'S FAVORITE BREAK MIXES
DJ Shame — Traveling Through Sample Land (Recorded Live, February 4, 1993. Released via Rob One R.I.P.)
Listen: The first 5 minutes of Side-A
DJ Sheep: I copped this tape from The Lounge Room record store in Sydney circa 1998. Being new to world of funk and break mixes this one came highly recommended by the staff. Traveling Through Sample Land [TTSL] is considered to be the first ever "sample-break" mix. Independently released by fallen Los Angeles DJ, Rob One, TTSL borrows a page from Kid Capri's classic 52 Beats changing the formula with a smorgasbord of samples from the '90s school of rap. Featuring a heavy dose of Average White Band, Joe Farrell, Ramsey Lewis, Al Green, Roy Ayers, Johnny Hammond, Donald Byrd and the like; Boston’s DJ Shame executes this mix with extreme precision featuring clean blends and sharp cuts leaving plenty of space for songs to breathe. Bonus points for opening the set up with R.A.M.P.'s "Everybody Loves The Sunshine," this one's as classic as they get. Respect to Boston’s Vinyl Reanimators crew!
Soulman — World Of Beats Vol. 2: Dig It! (Philasoul Recordings, 1998)
Listen: The first 5 minutes of Side-B
DJ Sheep: Phil Stroman aka Soulman sent me a review copy of World of Beats 2 [WOB2] when I was freelancing reviews and interviews for hip-hop magazines in the '90s. After hitting play on my tape deck I quickly realised this one was different to the others on that week's listening stack. Soulman broke the atoms and dropped the science with copious amounts of that good stuff: jazz, funk, soul, rock, drum breaks, used, unused, old, new, cheap, rare, local, international, answering machine messages, movie skits, the works!
Soulman’s DJ skills were on point too, the drops were tight, the doubles were funky and the mix was an amazing musical journey broken-up in all the right places with the right dose of everything baked to perfection by the break mix don. Sprinkled heavy throughout this 90-minute long masterpiece were the original samples to some of my favourite rap songs. WOB2 was so inspiring that Soulman has sent me on a never-ending beat mission searching all corners of planet Earth for the dirtiest, nastiest, funkiest and grittiest breaks and beats committed to wax! Whilst I consider every mix on this list a classic, WOB2 will always be the numero uno ichiban jawn for me. I still get amped when I find a sample off this tape. Some well-known hip-hop songs were also rumoured to have sourced their samples directly off Soulman’s cassettes. WOB2 is the Blueprint ya’ll.
This tape and CD are out-of-print, but if you ask Soulman nicely he might sell you a custom-made CDr of this classic or others from his extensive back catalog. Check out the Soulman's World Of Beats site for classic diggin' articles from his Rap Sheet column.
Muro & Lord Finesse — King Of Diggin' #5 (Savage! 1999)
Listen: The first 5 minutes of DJ Muro's “Tokyo” Side
DJ Sheep: The East-West connection does it with so much class on #5 of the King of Diggin' series, perfectly co-signing each others selection with Finesse (no pun intended). The "Tokyo" side and "Bronx" side feature mixtape-exclusive intros with both diggaz flexing a self-produced beat and rap.
Lord Finesse's impressive "Bronx Side" showcases solid mixing, top-notch cuts, doubles and a super-smooth selection. Opening up with a David Axelrod sureshot, Finesse let “The Edge” play past the Dr. Dre / Missin' Linx sample. It was the first time I’d ever heard that and damn near burnt out my Walkman’s play / rewind motor. Bonus points to The Underboss for rocking what I assume would be the original record he sampled for O.C.'s "Jewelz."
With 4 mixes in the series under his belt, Japan’s DJ Muro opens the Tokyo-side with the Bob Azzam drums and you know that King ain't playing! Brother Muro goes in with the classics and a hefty sample of treats from the top shelf. Tokyo’s finest keeps it cool from start to finish with moody dramatic soul funk and soundtrack vibes, keeping in-line with the benchmark Finesse set. Personally, this is my favourite tape and biggest inspiration after Soulman’s World of Beats 2.
Related Anecdote: Flashback to 1999 and I was in Japan with DJ Yoda to check out the Vestax World DJ Finals featuring the entire X-Men, Beat Junkies, Invisibl Skratch Piklz, A-Trak and more. It was an insane show. Whilst diggin' earlier that day we hit up Muro's store SAVAGE! and both walked out with doubles of this tape and "The Vinyl Athletes" 12", SUPER excited. As we were standing at the Shibuya crossing marveling at the delights Japan offered visually, reflecting on the DJ battle ahead, Lord Finesse and DJ Muro popped up on the big TV screen, SP-1200 beat blazin’ with Finesse sayin' "Konichiwa Japan.” Both Yoda and I were buggin' out, jaws to the floor, tapes and wax in hand! Respect to the O.G. Shibuya record stores: Spice, Banana, Savage!, Sounds of Blackness, Cisco, Yellow Pop, Hi-Hat, Mr. Bongo, Recofan, etc.
( The original cassette has a blue shell and came with a vinyl sticker sheet. Re-released in 2008 as a double CD package. Check out Muro's flagship store, DIGOT in Harajuku, Tokyo. You might get lucky diggin’ and get a copy!)
Kon & Amir — On Track: Volume 5 (On Track, 2000)
Listen: The first 5 minutes of Track 1
DJ Sheep: Bobbito opens this mix with a shout-out and Kon & Amir get straight to business with the sample for Outkast's "So Fresh, So Clean." It's game over from that point as East Coast’s finest go in hard (pause). It's not even worth discussing the track list because Kon & Amir had records from all over the globe reppin' the entire spectrum of music alongside all the hottest known AND unknown samples for the dopest songs of the '90s into the 2000s!
I can't express how dope this shit was when it dropped. Endless phone calls with the homie Arks talking about the track list. This was also the first of the On Track series that came out on CD, split into 4 sections. I always thought that was a really good way to format break-mix CDs. Respect to K&A!
Paul Nice — Breaks For Days (Super Break Records, 2002)
Listen: The first few minutes of Side A
DJ Sheep: "Yo Paul, lace me one time please…" Any true digger knows what's about to happen after hearing these words boom from the box. This one has “classic status” written all over it, a CD that upped the ante for break mixes. Paul sent me a copy of this mix on the strength and I got amped when I recognised one of the albums pictured on the back cover, it was an Australian joint so I hit the store and nabbed doubles... I know a lot of breaks, but I say no names.
Reppin' Poughkeepsie, Paul Nice is one hell of a respected and travelled DJ, digger & producer. On Breaks For Days, Mr. Nice dominates break loops flexing sharp scratching and DJ skills alongside his knack for programming seamless mixes. Paul rocks two copies of dollar bin joints, rock, soul, funk and keeps it heavy on the dramatic “What the fuck was that?!” tip. The timing and selection are impeccable on this mix with Paul’s personality and individualism shining through via the use of one-shot samples and other sprinkles of audible goodness. Volume 2 of this masterpiece is supposedly coming out soon, and that’s great news.
Related Anecdote: I remember the first time I met Paul, the year was 1999 in San Francisco. We didn’t know each other and he came up [to me] in a club and casually said, “I heard you have a DJ Muro VHS that I need to have.” Homie did the Jedi Mind Trick and we’ve stayed in communication since, trading records, beat tapes, memorabilia, Biz Markie dolls and more… A solid iron clad dude!
Diplo & Tripledouble — AEIOU: Volume 2 (Handmade CD-R,2003)
Listen: The first 5 minutes of Track 1
Listen: Kanye West Shout Out
DJ Sheep: Philly's Diplo & Tripledouble rocked the absolute crap out of the decks on this mix. Whilst not a traditional "sample mix," D&T dug deep and got creative with the effects 'n' loops and ooze creativity with their DJ skills, rockin' a heavy selection on the world, psych, funk and drum break tip. There's a nice splashing of kids records, sitar, easy listening, spoken word, jazz, phone calls and other wild stuff on this here. Artists such as Motherlode, SCRA, Can, Dave Pike, George Freeman, Klaus Wunderlich, Exit 9, etc. The one section on the mix that always gets me hype is when they rock a heavy drum break over Odetta's "Sakura" – SO FUCKIN’ DOPE! These guys put Minoru Muraoka’s “The Positive And The Negative” on the map too, LONG before the current hype on that record. This mix opened me up to the doors of the good side of rock and the weird side of everything. Thanks Tony! There's nothing else that sounds just quite like this mix! It’s like a psychedelic version of Brainfreeze. Bonus points for the early shout out from Kanye West claiming that Diplo has "the most old records he'd ever seen in his life."
BONUS: Diplo & Tripledouble — AEIOU: Volume 2 (Entire Mix)
Kon & Amir — Pop-In Trans Europe Express (On Track, 2003)
Listen: The first 5 minutes of Side A
DJ Sheep: A CD of nothing but European records mixed by the American “Kings” of diggin'? Yes please!!! There was a lot of hype around this mix and not only did it deliver, but it sent Europeans, “raer breakz kidz” and diggers on message boards scrambling [through] the crates to decipher the track list! European Breaks were relatively unexplored territory and with this mix I felt Kon & Amir co-signed the notion that it's O.K. to dig in your own backyard. Trans Europe Express definitely motivated me to hunt for regional heat whilst travelling. Kon & Amir play nothing but the highest caliber and taste in sound from Europe, with UK library records and easy listening pieces thrown in for good measure. When Placebo’s “Humpty Dumpty” comes on early in the mix, you know this one’s going to be a trip! This was a groundbreaking mix at the time and gave diggers worldwide, especially those unsavvy to the Internet, a new blueprint to work from.
Related Anecdote: I remember being on tour in Europe with J-Zone finding the “Funky Gangbang” joint off this CD. I was buggin’ while Zone was busy in the German New Wave section. On that tour I copped all three “Missus Beastly” joints, the Atlas with “Ain’t No Sunshine,” some Niagara joints, the Klaus Weiss library on “Golden Ring”, a Coloursound joint and ended up trading with my man Grope for a copy of Jacky Giordano’s “Pop-In Devil’s Train” that Kon & Amir used for the cover of the mix. It’s dope how all that came together in a weekend. On behalf of diggers worldwide, thanks for the inspiration and knowledge guys, for real!
The Silver Child & MSA — Still Searchin' 3 (Beat Design, 2005)
Listen: The first 5 minutes of Side A
DJ Sheep: Well respected in Japan, The Silver Child & MSA [TSC&M] rep for the Vinyl Romanticists crew outta Kobe, Hyōgo. Together the duo has dropped FOUR of the illest mixes in the genre. I copped Volume 2 of the Still Searchin' series as soon as I moved to Japan in 2004 and by the time Volume 3 was ready to drop the year after I was at the record store checking daily. Still Searchin’ 3 is nothing but TSC&M firing shots of heat rocks out the speaker! FIRE samples from The Alchemist, Game, Dilated Peoples, Kanye, Ghostface, Just Blaze and a wrap-up of the hottest joints for the 2003-2005 period of rap sampling. Heavy on the library, soundtrack and drama rock tip, my favourite part of the mix is when they drop the sample for Gang Starr’s "Deadly Habitz.” It gets me hype every time!
In 2013, after a 8-year hiatus, TSC&M dropped Volume 4 in the series as a promo-only CD for friends and fans. These mixes are a pure source of inspiration. Still Searchin’ 3 is still the CD I grab before diggin’ trips, it puts me in the right state of mind and no one ever complains about what’s playing!
Related Anecdote: I was chillin' with Taka (The Silver Child) in Japan recently and we were up in the DJ Honda offices bumping freshly made beats. Taka was naming samples like it was no thing; songs that aren’t even out, telling me the samples I used for my beats too — he’s a genius, a walking sample encyclopedia! Bonus points to Taka for being the first guy to hip me to the "Spacy" drums as well as the "Sadistic Mika Band" break where his DJ name originated.
BONUS: The Silver Child & MSA - Still Searchin' 3 (Entire Mix)
DJ XXXL — Nippon Breaks & Beats - Volume 1 (BBP, 2005)
Listen: The first 5 minutes of Side A
DJ Sheep: Nothing but Japanese records dropped by a good mate of DJ Muro (hint, hint). This came out when I thought I had it all under wraps with the Japanese joints. Upon hearing this mix I realized there was a hell of a lot more diggin' to do! Nippon Breaks & Beats #1 was so inspiring because I was already on a mission for this stuff. Muro has always showed me cool Japanese records the times we’d hung out in his store or old lab in Shibuya, so I knew he was on that tip but XXXL inspired a thirst to discover the perfect Nippon Break & Beat which saw me scouring second-hand stores in the Japanese countryside, hittin’ every diggin’ spot I could for months on end, a mission that ended in over 5,000 records being shipped home, turning my 18-month long working holiday into a 18-month long dig. EASILY the best I’ve ever had!
Volume 1 barely scratches the surface of the Wamono Rare Groove scene delving into rock, soul, jazz, soundtracks, cop show funk, soul, BGM crates and more, all blended by the mysterious undercover Japanese digger. Currently up to Volume 6 in the series, there seems to be no shortage of that local heat from XXXL’s crates.
Related Anecdote: I fondly remember walking into the old Universounds record store in Shinjuku and diggers Ryuhei The Man and Daisuke were trying to figure out the track list to this mix with some frustration. After some trust, they showed me their list and we quickly figured they knew the jazz joints and I knew the BGM stuff, we knocked that one out quick, T.I.T.C. (Teamwork in the Crates).
Check out XXXL’s stuff via Muro's flagship store in Harajuku, DIGOT.
Arks - Dinner Set (Red Bull, 2013)
Format: MP3 / CD
Listen: The first 5 minutes of Arks' Dinner Set
DJ Sheep: Aside from the Silver Child and XXXL mixes, I wasn’t bumping much when it came to break mixes. This mix breathed new life into the game and expanded musically on the tested break mix format. Whilst still focusing on samples, Arks kept things smooth, on beat, on time and in tune with their superior mixing and DJ skills.
One of Australia’s O.G. diggaz and a mentor of mine, Arks came correct on the all live, 100% vinyl, 100% original pressing, Dinner Set for Red Bull. A student of the break mix, Arks opens with Whatnauts’s classic, “Message From A Black Man.” Melbourne’s diggin’ master runs through a couple of crates of records that would make any digger envious. After spending time in crates between Australia, America, Canada and Japan, Arks lets loose over a decades worth of diggin’ with his unique soulful flavor. Three songs on this mix catch me every spin: Ann Sexton, Weldon Irvine and Spice’s “Sweet Norma Jones”. Definitely Classic.
BONUS: Arks - Dinner Set (Entire Mix)