Kurtis Blow is the first commercially successful rapper and the first to sign with a major record label. “The Breaks“, a single from his 1980 debut album, is the first certified gold record rap song (taken verbatim from Wikipedia).
“The Breaks” is a song about bad luck and misfortune. Everybody has ups and downs in life, and when we are experiencing difficult and troubling times, then we can say, “These are the breaks!” It’s similar to the French expression que sera, sera or “whatever will be, will be.”
Clap your hands everybody
If you got what it takes.
‘Cause I’m Kurtis Blow and I want you to know
That these are the breaks.
Unfortunately, there’s no official music video to this classic hip-hop song, but I was able to find a live recording of “The Breaks” in his 1980 performance on Soul Train.
Vocabulary and Expressions
If you have what it takes, then you have the qualities, skills, and abilities to become successful. Kurtis Blow wants everybody to clap their hands if they have what it takes to handle the breaks.
But what exactly are the breaks? Losing a job… losing a friend… having a fight with a lover… These are the breaks! Everybody in the world has problems and difficult situations, and sometimes there’s nothing we can do change it. We just have to deal with it as best as we can.
If you are an aspiring actor or musician, you are waiting for your first big break, which is a successful show or performance that launches your career.
And speaking of acting, there are also breaks on a stage, and breaks on the screen. In theater, it is a common superstition to say Break a leg! instead of Good luck!
Other expressions with breaks:
- brakes (noun) – This is a homophone. It has the same sound as the word break but with different spelling and meaning. Cars, trains, busses and planes all have brakes to help them slow down and come to a stop. It wouldn’t be very safe to drive a care without brakes!
- break up something (separable phrasal verb) – to make people stop doing something. If two people are fighting, you might scream, “Break it up!”
- This phrasal verb can be both separable and inseparable, and it has many more meanings! Please check out Oxford’s Advanced Learners Dictionary to learn more ways to use this versatile phrasal verb!
- take a break (collocation) – If you work for a long time and stop to eat, drink, or relax, then you are taking a break. In English, we normally use this to mean short periods of rest and also longer breaks lasting days, weeks, or even months. If your life is hard and you deserve a break, Kurtis Blow wants you to say ALL RIGHT!
- break down (phrasal verb) – In the context of this song, break down! or break it down! means to stop what you’re doing and dance.
- This phrasal verb also has many meanings. Check them all out on Oxford’s Advanced Learners Dictionary.
Are you going through difficult times right now? Do you worry about your job or relationships? Does it feel like life is testing you every day and you can’t catch a break? In the comments below, write about a time when you couldn’t catch a break or discuss a time when your friend had a difficult problem.
This is a no judgement zone! If you write and practice your English, it will be appreciated! Hey, everybody deserves a break, don’t they?