Classic Breaks: Seven Minutes of Funk

If you listen to hip-hop, you know “Seven Minutes of Funk” by Tyrone Thomas and the Whole Darn Family.  Even if you can’t identify it by name, or have any idea who Tyrone Thomas or his apparently massive family are, the first twenty second of this track have been indelibly etched into your subconscious. Have a listen:

A quick search of the sample database at The Breaks shows that “Seven Minutes” has been sampled for thirteen songs.  I suspect, however, that that list is incomplete given how damn funky and perfectly sample-able the song is.  Because – and let’s be honest – as soon as you hit ‘play’ your head was nodding.  It took me three hours to write this post because I start dancing every time I hear Woody Hughes’s (or Paris Ford’s, depending on who you read) “emphatic bass playing” and Tyrone Thomas’s “steady drumming.”* 

According to allmusic, “Seven Minutes” is from The Whole Darn Family’s 1976 release Has Arrived.  More information about the band is surprisingly difficult to find.  Fortunately, My Bass Rocks has a great post on “Seven Minutes” which includes some background info on Thomas and his fam.  The band was apparently formed in 1974, and the track was written after a gig in North Carolina.    

Like a lot of ’70s music, “Seven Minutes” gained far more exposure as a hip-hop sample than it ever did in its original incarnation.  The song’s opening seconds have been looped to great effect by a diverse group of emcees, largely because its infectious bass line is compatible with a seemingly endless variety of hip-hop subgenres, from g-funk to East Coast boom-bap to old school party music.  

Although sparse, the break is compelling enough to be used alone.  Nor does it need to be extensively chopped.  In fact, producers nearly always keep it intact, preferring to harness its already palpable groove than to risk mutating it into something far less interesting.

Below are four examples of the sample in action.  My favourite is EPMD’s “It’s My Thing.”  It seems to capture the fun, get-down-on-it spirit of the original.  Lines like “Rhymes fresher than fresh, never heard me fess/scored 110 on my emcee test, ” especially when delivered in the smooth cadence of an emcee like Parrish Smith, accompany the sample perfectly.  Grandmaster Flash’s “Superrappin'” is also interesting to consider because it uses a less-recognizable sample from the middle of “Seven Minutes.”  Anyways, check ’em out:

Jay-Z – Ain’t No N**** ft. Foxy Brown (Reasonable Doubt, 1996)

[audio:http://www.4080records.com/music/jz-ann.mp3]

EPMD – It’s My Thing (Strictly Business, 1988)

[audio:http://www.4080records.com/music/epmd-imt.mp3]

Dru Down – Pimp of the Year (Dru Down, 1993)

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – Superrappin’ (?, 1979?)

* Clearly not my own words.  My description of the track would include more phrases like “sexy-ass bass line” and “dope-tastic drums”.

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