Hip hop is an excellent genre for drummers to get into. The drum parts are typically quite simplistic, but it’s the feel and pocket that you need to focus on.
There are several drummers known for being very good at pulling these drum parts off, but there aren’t too many drummers that are exclusively known for being hip hop guys.
We’re going to list ten of the best hip hop drummers of all time. While they’re not drummers who only play in hip hop groups, they’re drummers who have played with major hip hop artists or who are known for having solid hip hop grooving skills.
- 1 Hip Hop and Drumming
- 2 Do Hip Hop Artists Perform with Live Drummers?
- 3 Best Hip Hop Drummers
- 4 Final Thoughts on the Best Hip Hop Drummers of All Time
Hip Hop and Drumming
Before we get into all the popular hip hop drummers, it’s important to mention that most hip hop groups don’t utilize live drummers. The style is all about programming drum parts and sampling, so live drummers rarely make it into the studio for the production of hip hop albums.
It’s for this reason that there aren’t nearly as many famous hip hop drummers as there are jazz drummers or rock drummers. It’s also why drummers who play hip hop typically play for artists that perform other styles as well.
Hip hop often draws influence from jazz and funk, so most famous hip hop drummers are amazing jazz and funk drummers as well.
Do Hip Hop Artists Perform with Live Drummers?
While you won’t find many live drummers being utilized for the production of hip hop albums, you’ll find a lot more drummers being used when those artists perform live.
A lot of rappers simply perform with backing tracks, but you get a much better watching experience when you go to a hip hop concert with a full band.
Artists like Jay-Z and Anderson .Paak always use full bands for their gigs, and all the hired musicians are incredibly good at what they do.
All the drummers that we’ve mentioned below are ones that perform live with artists. A few of them are also producers themselves that produce hip hop music.
Best Hip Hop Drummers
With hip hop drumming mostly being dominated by samples and electronically created beats, you may not have heard of some of the drummers listed below. It was quite tough to compile a list of hip hop drummers, but we did our best to find players with major credits in the hip hop industry.
If they didn’t play with major artists, we picked drummers based on important contributions that they have made in other ways.
Questlove was the easiest option to pick for this list. When you think of famous hip hop drummers, he is always one the first names that come to mind.
He’s been one of the most well-known drummers in the world for years, thanks to his role with The Roots on The Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon. However, his skills and accolades go way above what people see on TV.
Questlove has an amazing sense of feel and timing, and his grooves are always locked in very tightly. He has produced incredible albums with big names such as Jay-Z and D’Angelo, and his hip hop drumming skills have helped him along the way.
He’s one of those drummers that everyone in the music industry knows and loves.
Anderson .Paak is another majorly famous musician. He’s mostly known as a singer and rapper, but one of the best things about him is that he has fantastic drumming abilities.
He often plays drums himself when he sings and raps, and that is something highly unique that sets him apart from all the other hip hop musicians out there.
It’s even more impressive that he’s able to play intricate drum fills while keeping everything together. His work with his band is incredible, and it’s always fun to watch him play behind the kit.
He also performs with Bruno Mars in a project called Silk Sonic, where he often plays drums as well.
Lenny ‘The Ox’ Reece
Lenny ‘The Ox’ Reece is a relatively unknown name to most people. However, his drumming style is so unique that he easily makes his way onto this list.
Lenny’s drumming is resemblant to the grooves that J Dilla was so famous for creating. They’re referred to as Dilla beats, and they involve the pulse being pushed and pulled throughout the grooves.
Lenny mainly plays with his band called The Lesson GK. They’re a hip-hop group that regularly perform throughout the US.
You only need to watch one video of Lenny Reece playing to see why he’s so highly regarded as a drummer. His voice behind the kit is extraordinary, and it’s one that any hip hop fan will enjoy.
Tony Royster Jr.
Tony Royster Jr. has often been regarded as one of the most skilled modern drummers in the world. He has the ability to play blazing-fast chops around the kit without looking like it’s even remotely difficult. However, he also knows how to lay down a solid groove, and he proved that over all the years that he played drums for Jay-Z.
Jay-Z is one of the biggest hip hop artists out there, so Tony being his drummer for so long is what solidified his place on this list.
Check how simple the groove is that Tony Royster is playing in this linked video. Even though it’s simplistic, he makes it feel so good when you hear it!
Chris Dave is another incredible drummer that many people are influenced by. His current big gig is with Robert Glasper, but he’s played with plenty of other jazz, hip-hop, and Gospel artists in the past.
He’s another drummer on this list with a noticeably unique playing style. He often plays syncopated rhythms that don’t seem like they’ll fit in his grooves, but they always do. He also often plays with several snare drums in his kit setup.
He’s a master at playing those laidback grooves that are so popular in hip hop settings, but he also has a strong ability to rip it up around the kit.
Aaron Spears is one of the busiest working drummers in the hip hop industry. He’s played with artists like Usher, Backstreet Boys, Lil Wayne, and Ariana Grande.
He comes from a Gospel drumming background, but his musical abilities have seen him become the live drummer for all these big hip hop acts.
One of the big videos that put him on the map was where he played drums to Usher’s song, Caught Up, at a drum festival.
Clyde Stubblefield was never a hip hop drummer in the sense that he played with hip hop artists. He was more of a funk and soul drummer that played with artists like James Brown and Fred Wesley.
However, he’s one of the most sampled drummers of all time, meaning the grooves that he professionally recorded have been used for countless hip hop albums.
He was an amazing groover, and his drum part for Funky Drummer became one of the most well-known drum breaks ever.
Travis Barker isn’t a drummer that you may have expected to be on this list. After all, he was the drummer for one of the biggest punk bands of the early 2000s. With that being said, he moved over to hip hop music in the past decade.
He became a fairly successful producer, and he has collaborated with several big names in the hip hop industry over the past few years.
While his hard and fast drumming style is still prominent, he blends it very well within hip hop tunes. With all the collaborations he’s done, it’s been like the rapper community has welcomed him in with open arms, which is great to see!
Adam Deitch is another drummer that is fairly unknown to general music lovers, but he’s a hugely popular name in the drumming and hip hop industries. He’s worked with big artists like 50 Cent and Talib Kweli.
His biggest strong point is his grooving ability, and he’s yet another drummer on this list that you could happily listen to grooving all day.
He’s also a successful producer, continuing the trend of producers being good hip hop drummers if they do play drums.
Brody Simpson is a session drummer who became well-known through all his groove videos on Instagram. He runs an incredibly successful business where he sells the grooves that he makes, and they get used for styles like hip-hop where grooves can be repetitive samples.
When you scroll through his Instagram page to watch all the videos, you’ll get the sense that every single groove you hear could easily fit into a hip hop tune, and that’s what puts his name on this list.
Final Thoughts on the Best Hip Hop Drummers of All Time
Every drummer that we mentioned above has highly impressive grooving skills. They’re drummers that you could watch play the same beat for hours, and that’s what makes them such good hip hop players.
With hip hop drumming being so repetitive, you need to focus on important aspects like pocket, musicality, and feel. Check out all the videos that we linked, and you’ll see just how good each of these drummers is.