A special talent, Karriem Riggins is both an accomplished beat-maker and beat-keeper. A close associate of the late, great J Dilla’s, as a producer he’s laid tracks for the likes of Common, Erykah Badu, and Talib Kweli. And as a drummer the Detroit native’s kept time for everyone from jazz crooner Diana Krall to hip-hop mad scientist, Madlib. With Karriem’s dizzying instrumental beat suite, Alone/Together out this fall on Stones Throw, we thought we’d ask this esteemed and versatile rhythm-maker to discuss a subject near and dear to his heart – his all-time favorite drum breaks.
1. James Brown - “Funky Drummer” (King, 1970)
Karriem Riggins: Clyde Stubblefield is one of my favorite drummers. He is so undeniably funky. There are so many reasons why this break is so fresh. One of the main reasons I love this break is how Clyde used ghost notes in this pattern. That’s what makes it so funky. The placement of those rhythms makes him such a great drummer. I incorporate that into my drum machine programming and playing. It adds another element to beat-making.
2. Billy Squier - “The Big Beat” (Capitol, 1981)
Karriem Riggins: I was introduced to Billy Squier’s music through Run-DMC. This song taught me that less is more. This is a very simple pattern but it can rock a party all night. The mic placement and mix of these drums is classic. Hearing this definitely inspired me to get deeper into recording the room and find the the right position and placement of the mic.
3. Kool & the Gang - "N.T." (De-Lite, 1971)
Karriem Riggins: I’ve always been a fan of George “Funky” Brown. The break on this song is so classic and the whole album its from, Live at PJ’s, is killin’. So many have sampled this break but my favorite is the Dilla flip – “Breathe and Stop” by Q-Tip.
4. Roy Haynes - "Wonderin'" (Galaxy, 1979)
Karriem Riggins: Roy Haynes is one of my favorite jazz drummers. He’s played with people like Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Stan Getz so I was so surprised to find this funk record by him! AND for $6 when I was in high school. This song shows how versatile he is. One of my all time favorite grooves/drummers!
5. Al Green - "Love and Happiness" (Hi, 1973)
Karriem Riggins: Al Green Records all have a signature sound. I love pretty much everything that he put out. Drummer Al Jackson Jr. had a really hip way of tuning his snare. I’m very intrigued by the sound he got from the drums. This song has positive vibes!
6. Melvin Bliss – "Synthetic Subsitution" (Sunburst, 1973)
Karriem Riggins: Bernard “Pretty” Purdie played drums on this classic break. There are so many hip-hop classics with this break. Purdie is all about BIG pocket and his bass drum pattern has such a hump. Not only have I sampled this break, I’ve also practiced to it to try to cop the feeling in it.
7. Isley Brothers – "Footsteps In The Dark" (T-Neck, 1978)
Karriem Riggins: If I’m not mistaken, Ernie Isley played drums on this song. When I first heard it I was amazed by how hip the hi-hat pattern was over such a simple groove. This break inspired me to program drums with the same type of simplicity. Simple and straight funky!
8. Mountain - "Long Red (Live)" (Windfall, 1972)
Karriem Riggins: Laurence “Corky” Laing was the drummer on this crazy break. I was introduced to this record by Pete Rock. I’ve always loved this break and it has so many other sounds and loops in the song.
9. The Meters – "Here Come The Meter Man" (Josie, 1969)
Karriem Riggins: Zigaboo Modeliste played drums in this group. He’s a HUGE influence on me. There’s a distinct hump that drummers have in New Orleans and a lot of it is inspired by Zigaboo’s second-line funk. Ridiculous pattern and how he rides the bell of his cymbal is crazy!
10. Parliament - "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)" (Casablanca, 1976)
Karriem Riggins: Jerome “Big Foot” Brailey was the drummer and co-writer of this song. I think people sleep on “Big Foot.” He’s another HUGE pocket player and major influence on me. I’ve taken wide open snare and hi-hats from this song many times. Classic drummer!!!