Based in Cricklewood, NW London, Barely Breaking Even Records was first set up in 1996 following the success of a London club night of the same name that Peter helped to promote. The label’s mission is to release ‘real music for real people’ and BBE prides itself on being able to champion diverse and eclectic music styles.
In February 2001, BBE released ‘Welcome 2 Detroit’ by Jay Dee, an LP of jazz-tinged beats and rugged rhymes from a producer who has worked with respected acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, The Pharcyde and Slum Village. The acclaimed album was the first Beat Generation project to be released. The series is dedicated to the craft of hip hop’s premier beat-makers and, in Peter’s opinion, it should appeal to “music lovers, beat diggers, anoraks and people who are not hardcore hip hop heads”.
As BBE is an independent record label, keeping it afloat has not been without its challenges. “Cash-flow problems are unavoidable,” Peter admits. “Licensing material from [major labels] is hard work for an independent, if not impossible”. So, his advise to would-be indie label execs is simple: “Don’t do it! Find something else to do. It’s a good way to lose money.” That withstanding, Peter has managed to develop BBE into a successful enterprise. To date, the label has released over forty compilation albums covering funk, soul, disco, hip-hop, latin and house music genres. In addition, Pete Rock’s ‘Petestrumentals’ LP from The Beat Generation Series has become BBE’s best selling original artist release.
Like most of BBE’s other releases, Adarkwah has found that the response to the Series has so far been greater in the States than here in the UK. Attention has been received from not only record buyers but also from artists. “A lot of American producers with a strong fan base have been in touch, so I’m kind of inundated with material,” Peter reveals. Questlove (from The Roots), DJ Spinna and 88 Keys have all already been earmarked to contribute albums, and Peter doesn’t rule out the possibility of British producers featuring on The Beat Generation Series. “Simon from the Creators played me some ill beats and so has Force from Nash and The Ali G Show. Whether anything materialises, only time will tell. So far, the Americans are showing way more love.”
The next Beat Generation project to be released is from DJ Jazzy Jeff (of Fresh Prince and Jill Scott fame). “His album should be completed in January 2002,” Peter states. “So far, it sounds like a classic. Expect a few Philly collaborations. It will probably be out in May.” Albums from King Britt and DJ Spinna are also due to be delivered in February. The Beat Generation is clearly set to continue developing in 2002, a year for which Peter has clear goals for his label as a whole: “getting people to realise that there is more to BBE than the Beat Generation and also not to turn [the Series] into a Police-Academy-15-type-thing! I’ll stop at about ten and develop some other concept.