When one looks back on the hip-hop culture of the early to mid-1980s, one of the first things that comes to mind is breakdancing. In those days, it wasn't uncommon to see young breakdancers on the sidewalks of New York, L.A., Philadelphia, and other cities where they surprised pedestrians, doing their thing with their acrobatic moves. Breakers' music of choice was hip-hop, although they weren't unreceptive to R&B and new wave (some of which was influenced by hip-hop) if the beat was right. The main focus of this 1999 compilation is the hip-hop that breakdancers were moving toward during that period. East Coast rap classics like Grandmaster Flash's "Flash to the Beat," the Boogie Boys' "A Fly Girl," Newcleus' "Jam on It," and Pumpkin's "Here Comes That Beat" are dominant, but the CD also successfully detours into synthesizer-driven new wave with New Order's "Confusion" and Gary Numan's quirky "Cars," and into R&B as well with Freeez's "I.O.U." and Chaka Khan's very hip-hop-minded remake of Prince's "I Feel for You." One of the CD's most groundbreaking tracks is Blondie's "Rapture," which in 1980, marked the first time that pop-rock stars acknowledged hip-hop in a major way. To be sure, Breakdance! is far from the last word on 1980s breakdance music -- Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" and Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" are missing. The collection also doesn't contain anything by Kurtis Blow, Run-D.M.C., Whodini, or L.L. Cool J.; nor does it get into the "Planet Rock"-influenced electro-beat music that L.A. residents like the Egyptian Lover, the World Class Wreckin' Cru, the Arabian Prince, and the Unknown D.J. provided before the rise of gangsta rap. Nonetheless, Breakdance! is full of essential classics and is easily recommended as an introduction to the hip-hop and hip-hop-influenced sounds that breakdancers were craving in the early to mid-1980s.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson