Clyde Stubblefield: Funky Drummer

Clyde Stubblefield may not be a household name, but he is arguably as important to Hip-Hop as Afrika Bombarta, The Sugar Hill Gang or Public Enemy, he may never have released an album in the genre; however, he is the most sampled musician in history.

Born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1943, Stubblefield honed his drumming talent as a child by beating whatever was available to him, whether it was some boxes or a tin can. This obviously proved to be an effective way of mastering the drums and in the 60’s he began playing with James Brown.

The self styled ‘Godfather of Soul’ was to have a profound impact on Hip-Hop both socially and sonically with groups like Public Enemy influenced by both his political message and his funk sound. Many of his hits were sampled by Public Enemy and their contemporaries, and have continued to be so by Hip-Hop groups to this day.

As his drummer in the 60’s and 70’s Stubblefield played on many of these sampled records, including the entire Sex Machine album, as well as singles such as ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’ and ‘Cold Sweat’. However, it is the drum break from ‘The Funky Drummer’ which he is most recognised for.

A 1970 hit for Brown, ‘The funky drummer’ and specifically the drum break has been sampled more than any other song. It has been the foundation of hits for many artists, from Grandmaster Flash to Jay Z and most in-between. Its use in Hip- Hop is so prevalent that it is even referred to in the lyrics of some of the songs that sample it, Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ being a one such example.

Despite this influence on the genre and the continued usage of his drum breaks, as a session musician, Clyde receives no royalties when he is sampled and now lives modestly in Madison, Wisconsin. His drumming may not made him a rich man, however, it has left him with a rich legacy.

Here are five great records that sample Clyde Stubblefield’s famous drum break:

Public Enemy – Fight The Power

Mos Def – Mathmatics

Boogie Down Production – South Bronx

Dr Dre – Let Me Ride

Slum Village – 2000 Beyond

By Callum West

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