An old school TDK SA90 Type II Compact Cassette. (Credit: Thegreenj)

The Definitive Micro-Chop Pause Tape Resource

Everything I’ve ever written, read, listened to, and/or watched regarding pause tape production.

Gino Sorcinelli
Apr 29 · 10 min read

On Wednesday, April 24th, Red Bull Music Academy published a 2500 word history of pause tape production that I’d been researching and writing for several months. If you’re asking yourself, “What the hell is a pause tape?”, here’s a brief description of the technique taken from my piece.

A good pause button and a vivid imagination were all young hip-hop enthusiasts needed to create something out of their sense of wonder. Using a boombox or stereo with dual cassette decks, aspiring DJs and producers would play and record a sample from another tape or record, pausing the tape once the sample had finished its rotation. They would then rewind to the beginning of the sample and un-pause the tape, starting the process again and extending the sampled loop for several minutes.

The Red Bull article — titled “Press Pause: The History of Pause Tape Production” — discussed some of the essential and important rap records from the 80s and 90s that used pause tape production at some point in their creation. It also examined the invention of cassette tapes, the rising popularity and falling cost of boomboxes in the 80s, and other social and technological factors that helped birth the technique.

I’m very happy with both the way the article came out and the incredible support it has received on Twitter and Instagram in the days since. Clearly, people are interested in this technique because it's so ingenious and resourceful. I also think many fans of 80s/90s rap are stunned when they realize pause tapes led to classic songs by Black Sheep, Public Enemy, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and several others. It’s almost unbelievable what these visionary artists were able to do with a piece of technology that wasn’t intended for music making.

Now that the article is out in the world, I feel like there are many parts of the pause tape story that warrant further examination. Much as I tried to be thorough and detailed in my writing, I was forced to leave so many cool aspects of pause button history on the cutting room floor — it just wasn’t possible to fit it all into one piece.

With the hope that my article inspires some other writers to pursue a story or two about pause tapes, I’ve decided to compile every single resource I have to offer on the subject.

First, you’ll see all of the Micro-Chop articles that focus on or mention pause tapes. Then you’ll find the pause tape pieces I’ve written for other venues. I’ve also organized a massive cache of articles that reference pause tapes from a broad variety of authors and publications.

Also included below are articles on general cassette tape history, as well as books, podcasts, videos, and social media posts that talk about pause tapes. Finally, I’ve also linked to some albums and DJ mixes that are either pause tapes or were inspired by pause tapes.

A quick note for the sake transparency: some of the stuff listed below only touches on pause tapes very briefly while other articles, interviews, or videos go much more in-depth. It really varies from item to item. I’ve included all of it because I still found articles that only gave a cursory mention of pause tapes helpful in building my total understanding.

Compiling all of this into one Micro-Chop article took quite a bit of time, so I’m going to ask a few favors from you as a reader: Please take a moment to check out my Red Bull Music Academy article “Press Pause: The History of Pause Tape Production.”

Also, please share this resource with anyone who might find it interesting and/or useful. I really hope this sparks a broader discussion about pause tape production among producers, journalists, music historians, etc.

If you want to talk to me about anything pause tape or music related, drop a comment below or hit me up on my personal Twitter account or the Micro-Chop feed. In the meantime, happy reading, watching and listening. I hope you enjoying immersing yourself in the resources below as much as I did.

Micro-Chop Articles That Focus on or Reference Pause Tapes

Articles and Interviews By Other Authors That Reference Pause Tapes

“Afrika Islam — The Unkut Interview” by Robbie via Unkut

Afrika Baby Bam Bio” by Afrika Baby Bam via his website

The Away Team: No Place Like Home” by Bill “Low Key” Heinzelman via MVREMIX

The Away Team Will Eat Your Food…” by Jerry L. Barrow via NodFactor

BeatTips Jewel Droppin’: True Master Interview, Part 1” by Amir Said (SA’ID) via BeatTips

Beat Construction: El-P” by Andrew Nosnitsky via Fader

Black Milk Interview” Madeleine Byrne via her website

Breaks With Tradition: ‘The Champ’ by Nate Patrin via Stereogum

Classic Pimp C Interview” by Andrew Nosnitsky via Da Shelter/Cocaine Blunts

Chuck D Explains How The #1 Public Enemy Anthem Truly Was Before Its Time (Video)” by Bandini via Ambrosia For Heads

De La Soul Reflects On The Group’s Greatest Hits” by Keith Murphy via Vibe Magazine

DJ Magic Mike” by Keith Kennedy via Ozone Magazine

DJ Scratch: Can’t Tell Me Nothin’, Part 1.” by Jerry L. Barrow via NodFactor

DJ Toomp: Look At Me Now” by The XXL Staff via XXL

The Egyptian Lover: From Uncle Jam’s Army To A One Man Empire” by Anonymous via

Exclusive Boston Excerpt From Brian Coleman’s Check The Technique 2: Life of a Kid in the Ghetto by Ed O.G” by Brian Coleman via DigBoston

Exclusive: Q-Tip Interview” by Unknown via MOOVMNT

Full Clip: Q-Tip Runs Down His Music Catalogue Ft. Tribe, De La Soul, Nas, Biggie, The Roots, Dilla & More!” by Keith Murphy via Vibe Magazine

Interview: DâM-Funk” by Chairman Mao via Red Bull Music Academy

Interview: Hip Hop Great Large Professor: Chairman Mao talks with the producer about his early days.” by Chairman Mao via Red Bull Music Academy

Interview: Tall Black Guy Bringin’ Us That Oldskool Sound!” by Rishma Dhaliwal via I Am Hip-Hop London

Inside L.A.’S Early Hip-Hop Scene With Egyptian Lover” by Evan Wood via Frank151

Jungle Brothers: ‘Hip Hop culture is a conscious thing and it’s a community’” by Ash Blewer via The Night Bazaar

Key Tracks: Chuck D on “Public Enemy №1” by Chuck D via Red Bull Music Academy

Large Professor: Revolve Around Science” by Jerry L. Barrow via NodFactor

Large Professor Tells All The Stories Behind His Classic Records: Eric B & Rakim ‘In The Ghetto’” by Daniel Isenberg via Complex

Lord Finesse & Large Professor Australian Tour Interview!” by OHHS Staff via Australia’s One Stop Hip Hop Shop

The Making of Mobb Deep’s The Infamous: ‘Survival of the Fittest’” by Insanul Ahmed, Noah Callahen-Bever, and Toshitaka Kondo via Complex

Me and the muse: DJ Shadow on his sources of inspiration” by Killian Fox via The Guardian

Moka Only” by 319 and Andy via UGSMAG

Mostly Interview: The Jungle Brothers” by David Vincent via Brum Notes

Old To The New Q&A (Part One) — Daddy-O” by Ryan Proctor via Old To The New

Pete Rock, Hip-Hop’s ‘Soul Survivor’” by Richard Harrington via The Washington Post

Pete Rock Interview: Soul Brother #1” by RiotSound Staff via RiotSound

Pharoahe Monch Discusses Early Hip-Hop Experiences & Why He Still Loves H.E.R. (Video)” by Paul Meara via Ambrosia For Heads

Prince Po— The Unkut Interview” by Robbie via Unkut

Protege of Puffy Brings In the Funk” by Havelock Nelson via Billboard

Q-Tip: ‘No Time For Hibernation, Only Elation’” by Ginger Lynn via Okayplayer

Questlove: Back To The Roots” by Timothy Orr via DRUM! Magazine

Seven Tracks: DJ Premier” by Anonymous via Clash

Slum Village — ‘Tell Me’” by Jeedo via bling47

Son of Detroit: The Oral History of J Dilla” by Ronnie Reese via Wax Poetics

Spiritualized” by Kelly “K-Fresh” Frazier, Tate McBroom, T3 via Real Detroit Weekly

Super Ugly Hall of Game” by Andrew Nosnitsky via Pitchfork

Talking You’re No Fun with Illingsworth” by Madeleine Byrne via Passion of the Weiss

Timeless: Dres Revisits Black Sheep’s A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” by Paul Arnold via HipHopDX

Ultimate Breaks and Beats: An Oral History” by Robbie Ettelson via Cuepoint

Articles on General Cassette Tape History

Cassette deck” Wikipedia page

Compact Cassette supremo Lou Ottens talks to El Reg” by Bob Dorman via The Register

Happy 50th birthday, Compact Cassette: How it struck a chord for millions” by Bob Dorman via The Register

Keith Richards and His Amazing Portable Cassette Recorder” by Phil Patton via Design Observer

Rewound: On its 50th birthday, the cassette tape is still rolling” by Lily Rothman via Time

Podcasts That Reference Pause Tapes

Hank Shocklee: ‘We Had Something to Prove’” Podcast and Text, Interview by Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley via Microphone Check

Large Professor, Part 1: ‘We’re Living In The World of Hip-Hop’” Podcast and Text, Interview by Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley via Microphone Check

Statik Selektah On Boom Bap And His Mom’s Favorite Rapper” Podcast and Text, Interview by Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley via Microphone Check

Stones Throw Podcast 80: ‘ADDDJ (Pause Mix ’96) aka I Wanna Get My Dick Sucked’” by guest DJ Jimi Hey

Videos That Reference Pause Tapes

Artist Interview: Adrock (Beastie Boys) Deleted Scenes” via Propellerhead

Behind The Beats Presents Khrysis” Interview by Gadget via Digital Hustle Films

Egyptian Lover” Video and Text, Interview by Andrew Nosnitsky via Red Bull Music Academy

El-P” Video and Text, Interview by Chairman Mao via Red Bull Music Academy

Live From the Writer’s Bench Episode 16: Grap Luva Interview Part 1” via Live From the Writer’s Bench

Public Enemy- WBAU Public Enemy №1 Radio Promo” (Pause Tape Demo) via Phill Most

Q-Tip” Video and Text, Interview by Chairman Mao via Red Bull Music Academy

Nashiem Myrick On The Making of ‘Who Shot Ya’” via Grind Music Radio

Pause Tape Albums/DJ Mixes and Albums/DJ Mixes Inspired By Pause Tapes

Best of 1986 Mix broadcasted on Stu Allan’s Souled Out by Paul Mulhearn (RIP)

Lewse Joints VI by Ohbliv

Pause Button Mastermix 1985 by Kirk Degiorgio

20 Years of Beats [1996​-​2016]:‘96​-​’97 [Pause Tapes] by 14KT

If you enjoyed this piece, please consider following my Micro-Chop and Bookshelf Beats publications or donating to the Micro-Chop Patreon page. You can also follow me on Twitter.


Dissecting beatmaking, DJing, rapping, and sampling.

Gino Sorcinelli

Written by

Freelance journalist @Ableton, ‏@HipHopDX, @okayplayer, @Passionweiss, @RBMA, @ughhdotcom + @wearestillcrew. Creator of and @bookshelfbeats.


Dissecting beatmaking, DJing, rapping, and sampling.