Lil John Roberts

Little John Roberts.

To this day I remember the shock I felt when Lil John Roberts called me up to announce his retirement. A prodigy Jazz drummer, he had risen to the top of the Hip-Hop world with acts like DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Xscape, Goodie Mob, and Monica. He had just come off one of his great tours with Janet Jackson. While he was the godfather of Philadelphia drumming at the time, he had gone a long way toward establishing Atlanta as a new hub for modern music, and the entire music world seemed to be his for the asking.

“I’m getting tired”, he said. “I think I should stand aside and let the younger guys take over from here …”

Needless to say, none of this was true. For starters, since that phone call, Lil John has continued drumming nearly constantly, with Janet Jackson of course, and with acts like George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Musiq Soulchild, Rachelle Ferrell, Quincy Jones, Jill Scott, Snoop Dogg, Yolanda Adams, Mos Def, and many more acts, including his own influential band The Chronicle. He released his first solo record,  Heartbeat, this past summer, and has just finished a nationwide tour with Stevie Wonder. He will play on Wonder’s Salute to the Oscars Television special next week, but fit in rehearsals and a performance with Ne-Yo on The Jimmy Kimmel show a couple of nights ago.

Is he tired? He recently posted a typical tour day’s schedule on Facebook— just reading it made me tired.

Is he standing aside? More likely, he is still blazing the trail for an elite group of Philadelphia- based drummers, who at any one time are touring with several of of the very top acts in music today. Drummers like: Brian Fraser Moore, George “Spanky” McCurdy, Steve McKie, Eric Tribbett, Vernell “Dooder” Mincey, Roderick Hicks, Julian Brown, Tremaine Walker and Eric Greene are also accountable for recordings with hundreds of millions in album sales as well.

A drummer this important will remain an influence to many for a long time. I am pleased that Lil John found some time for Drummeradio, to talk with us about music that is important to him. I am also pleased that Lil John shows no sign of retiring anytime soon.

Listen to the Lil John Roberts Podcast

Lil John Roberts Playlist

Get Right — Lil John Roberts, Featuring Sa-Roc and Soul Messiah

Album:, The Heartbeat, 2014
Drums: Lil John Roberts

Doin’ Da’ Butt — Experience Unlimited

Album: Rock Yuh Butt, 1988
Drum programming: Marcus Miller

Exodus — Bob Marley

Album: Exodus, 1977
Drums: Carlton “Carly” Barrett

In Your Eyes — Peter Gabriel

Album: So, 1986
Drums: Manu Katché
Additional Drums: Jerry Marotta

Chameleon (second section) — Headhunters

Album: Headhunters, 1973
Drums: Harvey Mason

Actual Proof — Headhunters

Album: Thrust, 1974
Drums: Mike Clark

In the Air Tonight — Phil Collins

Album: Face Value, 1981
Drums: Phil Collins

Ramblin’ — David Sanborn

Album: Upfront, 1992
Drums: Steve Jordan

Oakland Stroke — Tower of Power

Album: Back to Oakland
Drums: David Garibaldi

A Love Supreme “Acknowledgement” section — John Coltrane

Album: A Love Supreme, 1965
Drums: Elvin Jones

Lil John Roberts’ Website