The Chemical Brothers single-handedly created the "Big Beat" music genre with one song - "Loops of Fury". Repetitive sampling and sirens are a hallmark of their work, and much big beat out there. Big Beat is characterized by the emphasis (and volume) on the main bass line breakbeat - everything else in the track is focused on building up crescendos around this beat or complimenting it. The musical structure of this beat is somewhat loose, but a good guide is 1 2 33 4 with a bass drum on the first beat. Usually there will be a synthesised melody playing in the background, playing against the beat. Big Beat tracks are usually catchy, simple and repetitive. Big Beat artists like Norman Cook (FatBoy Slim) and Damian Harris (Midfield General) string their samples around the beats, so it combines to form the main tune. Basic components of a big beat track:
1) Vocal Sample (when used)
(usually provided by samplers)
(heavy defining bass line)
4) Clever Production
Some Big Beat classics are almost entirely lifted from other peoples music. The main beat and the sample for "The Rockafella Skank" - Fatboy Slim ("the funk soul brother") was lifted from old records. Old obscure records are preferred, according to Fatboy Slim, because a) they are cheap to license and b) they are not likely to be recognized.
It is somewhat hard to classify which music is Big Beat, as a lot of UK dance around the mid-90s was influenced by the genre. Here is a sample of songs I would class in the genre;
The Chemical Brothers - Loops of Fury, Leave Home, Block Rockin' Beats, Hey Boy Hey Girl, Out of Control
FatBoy Slim - The Rockafella Skank, Right Here, Right Now, Micheal Jackson
Prodigy - Voodoo People, Poison, Breathe, Firestarter
Midfield General - Devil in Sports Casual
There is some doubt as to whether Big Beat actually exists anymore. Recent albums by The Chemical Brothers have turned their back on the heavy bass breakbeat of "Block Rockin' Beats" preferring an eclectic trancey synthpop. FatBoy Slim has moved away from Big Beat to more house-orientated tunes on his "Half Way Between the Gutter and the Stars".(he says he suddenly realised he was making music "for kids") Underground producers are still making Big Beat records and probably will for some time to come. (see mp3.com) Whether we will ever again see chart toppers such as "Block Rockin' Beats", "Hey Boy Hey Girl" or "The Rockafella Skank" is not as certain.
Primer - http://phobos.plato.nl/e-primer/breakbeat.htm (includes samples