BBE Records
Major record companies may have the financial clout to attract music’s biggest stars, however, Peter Adarkwah’s independent BBE label has been able to tap the talents of hip hop’s most influential producers for its Beat Generation album series.

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.

BBE Records 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”.

Through his DJing and club promotion work, over time Peter has been able to meet and build up personal relationships with many of the hip hop producers of whose work he has had a great appreciation. “I’ve made contact with a number of my idols,” he says, “and the lure of owning some original material [of theirs] proved too much to resist.” In creating The Beat Generation Series, Peter has given some of the producers he admires complete artistic freedom to create albums that draw on all their influences. “I want the series to reflect as much as possible the producers’ musical inspirations,” he states. Since the release of Jay Dee’s LP, The Beat Generation Series has flourished with projects from Pete Rock, Will I Am (of Black Eyed Peas) and Marley Marl hitting the stores.

BBE Records 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.”

BBE Records 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.

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