2 x LP U.K.
- Afro / Afrobeat
BBE, Barely Breaking Even just about sums it all up. Of course, for those in the know, it also happens to be the name of one of the finest disco records of all time (by the Universal Robot Band). Funnily enough, its where our story starts.
Sometime after the Universal Robot Band and sometime before where we are now, a pair of DJ/promoter/whatevers, Pete Adarkwah and Ben Jolly, ran a successful club night named after our eponymous song, playing a joyful mix of all they considered good. Wouldnt it be fun, they mused, To release some of these tunes? And so BBE was born.
Its first release was Stop & Listen Volume 1, compiled by venerable fellow traveller, Dr Bob Jones, with a selection that could have been a calling card for the nascent label, including jazz funk classics like Eddie Russs Zaius, next to house killers like Sohos Hot Music and Sarah Vaughans big band rendition of Inner City Blues. Thats a recipe, right there.
Series were born, one after another. There were further chapters in the story of Stop & Listen; there were Keb Darges Legendary Deep Funk compilations, the Spectrum genre runs like a Model T-Ford, as well as the Barry White-referencing Strange Games & Things that, as Pete noted, was a fans fave with a lot of the BBE faithful. I compiled the first one in 15 minutes and it became an instant favourite.
All these were, of course, reissues of older music. A few years after those first early successes it seemed a natural progression to instigate artist-led albums, with the classics theyd been hungrily devouring being a collective reference point for this new venture. Welcome 2 Detroit was the first artist record on BBE and really was a turning point for the label, explains Pete. BBE may have stayed a compilation label without the noise it made. And what noise!
Over the past ten years, they have continued to release multi-genre compilations, mixed with some killer artist contributions while still finding time to introduce the occasional new series (The Kings Of .) and always, always working with venerable veterans of the finest stripe, among them Roy Ayers and John Morales.
The main key to the success of BBE is quality. Their disco albums have been curated by some of the most respected collectors and DJs around (Dimitri From Paris, Joey Negro and Sean P), their funk albums have been compiled by Keb Darge, Pete Rock and Kenny Dope, their jazz collated by Bob Jones, hip hop tended to by DJ Premier and their house aided by Terry Farley and Masters at Work. If they needed something doing, they consulted the best.
As the label fast moves towards an incredible 20th anniversary, its managed to morph and change to accommodate the way the music industry has changed, yet always with the same ethos they carried with them into those early BBE parties: polymaths with attitude. Long may they break even.