The Building Blocks Of Jungle: 10 Samples That Sculpted The UK Sound

Words: James Keith
Photography: David Katz

One of the best things about jungle—and there really is a lot to love—is the detailed sampling. There are a whole heap of clips and soundbites that are used by pretty much every jungle producer, from the early days right through to the 2000s jungle revival. In any other format, this could get repetitive, but in jungle, the effect is more like a movie trope, a piece of familiarity that draws you in and gets you clued-up as to what you’re about to hear. We’ve all heard them, even if we’ve only ever listened to a handful of tracks. These fall into two categories: the first are those like the ringing phone sample, sirens and laser sounds that accent the track. The second are those all important breaks. While the treatment of those breaks moulds them into something unrecognisable from the source, finding the right drum break still relies on having an ear that can see the potential for high-octane raving in the most surprising places.

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The Winstons’ “Amen, Brother” (1969)

This one’s about as famous as it gets. The legend behind the track is a pretty well-trodden tale by now, tirelessly repeated by any and every music bore. The original song came from The Winstons’ “Amen, Brother”, a seminal reggae track that launched a thousand raves. Though the track was originally released back in 1969 as the B-side to their second ever single “Color Him Father”, it was a track that would go on to define their career. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that Winstons’ frontman and rightsholder Richard Spencer received any remuneration for the sample. British DJs Martyn Webster and Steve Theobald set up a GoFundMe, raising £24,000 for Spencer (still a criminally low amount), but no actual royalties have ever been paid to either Spencer or anyone else in the band. Tragically, the drummer who actually played that beat, Gregory Coleman, died homeless and broke in Atlanta, Georgia, long before the fundraising campaign.

Listen to Ed Rush’s “I Want To Stay In The Jungle”.

Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It)” (1972)

Another immediately recognisable one (possibly because it’s been sampled over 2,000 times), this one originally comes from Lyn Collins’ “Think” (fun fact: it was produced by James Brown who we’ll be seeing a lot more of in this list) and was a staple sample for music producers long before the early ‘90s explosion of jungle. Heavy D famously used the track, as did Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock (whose “It Takes Two” takes a lot more from the track besides the break). Those are two of the most notable examples, but it was 4Hero’s “The Scorcher” in 1990 and 2 Bad Mice’s “Hold It Down” in 1991 that mutated the sample into its current junglist form. The easiest way to spot this sample is the warped vocal that goes hand in hand with it. You know the one, it’s that bit that sounds like a chipmunk shouting “power drill!” In fact, that was an ad-lib in the background of the original track of someone shouting “Go on, girl!” but because stems and .wav files didn’t exist back then, it’s inextricably linked with those harsh, gnarled breaks we love so much and in itself has become a famous jungle signifier.

Listen to Remarc’s “Sound Murderer (Loafin’ In Brockley Remix)”.

The Dub Siren (1970s)

One of the most iconic tools to be used in dub, jungle, drum & bass and dubstep, the ‘dub siren’ or ‘rasta box’ is pretty much an essential element of jungle, so much so that omitting the sample can leave your jungle production sounding a little naked. The sound originally gained popularity in the ‘70s through the work of dub sound-system masters Jah Shaka, King Tubby and The Scientist, who took a basic test tone used to calibrate mixing desks and manipulated it into an echoing siren. In turn, jungle producers of the ‘90s twisted that to varying degrees for either a screeching siren or shrill ringing phone. There’s a whole bunch of options when it comes to sampling the sound or here’s a YouTube tutorial to show you how to create it yourself.

Listen to Listen to Congo Natty’s “Junglist” f/ Peter Bouncer.

The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” (1973)

As with several other breaks in this list, the drum fill from The Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” has a history that stretches back before the days of jungle. The track was most famously plundered for samples by the Sugarhill Gang on “Apache” back in 1981. It’s easy to hear from those cataclysmic, funk-soaked drums why jungle and D&B producers are so drawn to the tune. Even untreated, both the original version of “Apache” and the Sugarhill version absolutely slap. Once ‘90s D&B and jungle producers got hold of it, though, it was a game changer. It was a breath of fresh air from the usually harsh and gritty snares of the Amen break (however funky they are), using the more rounded bongo drums to give their productions even more bounce.

Listen to Goldie’s “Inner City Life”.

Rotary Connection’s “Life Could” (1968)

One of the more obscure acts to be sampled in this list, this is definitely one to be filed under “utterly unrecognisable”. The big, room-filling brass and the overall grandeur of the original track are a world away from the gnarled, caustic rhythms of DJ Zinc’s “So Damn Fresh”. It’s something of a running theme; taking loose, laid-back grooves and kicking them through a meat grinder to become something noisy and in your face. “So Damn Fresh” is also pretty indicative of the kind of golden-age jungle that Ganja Records were known for and as good a reason as any to investigate their jaw-dropping back catalogue.

Here’s a clip of the break that’s been looped.

Listen to DJ Zinc’s “So Damn Fresh”.

James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” (1970)

Known as much for its use in hip-hop as jungle, the “Funky Drummer” sample is about as iconic as it gets. Coincidentally, “Funky Drummer” would later be collected together in a compilation of Brown’s work called In The Jungle Groove. James Brown famously compared being sampled to having someone tearing pieces from your favourite coat, but without this break, the worlds of hip-hop and dance music would be much poorer places.

Listen to Metalheads’ “Terminator”.

Orange Krush’s “Action” (1982)

Pulled from the creative wild west that straddled the worlds of funk, disco and the nascent sound of hip-hop, Orange Krush’s 1982 “Action” is dripping in early ‘80s cool, but its tempo is so laid back that it’s further testament to the genius sample hunters that laid out jungle’s blueprints. Running parallel across the pond, Jay Z, Common, Lil B and Kanye were all sampling the track on “Primetime”, “Sweet”, “1 Time Remix” and “We Major” respectively.

Listen to Roni Size Reprazent’s “Heroes”.

The Commodores’ “Assembly Line” (1974)

While we mostly remember The Commodores for gifting the world the wonderfully smooth Lionel Richie, it’s easy to forget just how hard some of their ‘70s tunes knocked in the club. Big, meaty bass lines and whipcrack drum fills were what these guys were known for in their day, and thankfully that was something some of our favourite jungle and drum & bass producers recognised. Although this is a jungle list, we have to concede this one works best in smoother D&B cuts, even liquid D&B.

Listen to Future Cut’s “Obsession” f/ Jenna G.

Kurtis Blow’s “Do The Do” (1981)

Both sampler and sample-ee, Kurtis Blow’s “Do The Do” from his second album, Deuces, came at a pretty exciting time in music. Sampling was just beginning to come into its own and there was a brief crossover period when both live instrumentation and samples were being employed in productions. That ‘leave a penny, take a penny’ approach has put him in an interesting position when it comes to his WhoSampled page. Surely, Kurtis Blow has to be the artist with the most extensive lists on that site. Regardless, as with James Brown, we owe him a huge debt.

Listen to Adam F’s “Circles”.

James Brown’s “Tighten Up” (Live) (1968)

Yes, another sample from James Brown. Okay, so maybe we could begin to see why he was so against sampling. When copyrighting laws—particularly those relating to sampling—were in their infancy and he was being sampled so regularly, maybe Brown’s ire is understandable. That said, who could resist those skittish drums and galloping bass licks? Besides, without Brown samples, hip-hop, house music, jungle and drum & bass would sound very, very different—if they even existed at all.

Final Fun Fact: the track below is actually a combination of this and the “Apache” break.

Listen to DJ Trace & Pete Parsons’ “Sniper”.


Posted on November 09, 2018