Today in Hip Hop History: Breaking Atoms

Breaking Atoms (1991)

July 23, 1991

It’s been a whole quarter of a century. Wow, older than I am, but I’m still able to appreciate the greatness that is Main Source’s album, Breaking Atoms. On this day in 1991, the old school alternative hip hop group Main Source released their debut studio album, Breaking Atoms, through Wild Pitch Records. Alongside the early 90s anti-gangster rap movement, including De La Soul, The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest and several others, Breaking Atoms explored new sonic territory and pushed hip-hop music production to unprecedented levels.

The 3 man group of Main Source consisted of Canadian DJ’s K-Cut and Sir Scratch, and legendary Queens producer and MC Large Professor. Production was done mostly by the group, with the help of Pete Rock, and took place at Homeboy Studio, Power Play Studios, and Libra Digital in New York City in 1990-1991.

At the time, Breaking Atoms was renowned for its usage of jazz and soul music samples. The production of the album has been highly regarded by critics and musicians as their original and significant use of sampling influenced hip hop producers for a considerable portion of the 1990’s and the Golden Age of hip hop.

Breaking Atoms is also known for debuting Queensbridge rapper Nas, who appears on the track “Live at the Barbeque”. His part of the track was then sampled and used on “Genesis”, the intro to his classic debut album Illmatic.

In addition to a largely youthful and playful atmosphere, Breaking Atoms encompassed rather profound and heavy subject matter,  as is apparent on “Just A Friendly Game of Baseball.” The track interweaves socioeconomic and racial issues into (largely American) baseball-themed rhymes. Quite the irony, with a bit of friendly acknowledgement, pardon my pun.

To this day, the album’s influence on future hip hop remains its most significant legacy. The second track “Just Hangin’ Out” samples the 1982 reggae song “Bam Bam,” which Kanye famously re-sampled 25 years later in his controversial song “Famous.” Additionally, the make up of Main Source propelled the sampling obsession in hip hop culture, which is one of the greatest aspects to come of the music and its culture.

Listen to the album below, and let us know what you think in the comment section. For all other things hip hop, keep reading here at True Too.

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