Karriem Riggins is best known as a jazz drummer and hip-hop producer for artists like Common, Kanye West, The Roots, and Kaytranada, but he doesn't categorize himself as anything but an artist. "You don't have to put yourself in a box...there's so many different ways to go," Riggins says. A student of late jazz bassist Ray Brown, he tours with another Brown protégé, Grammy Award winner Diana Krall. He spent much of 2016 at work on Common's much-heralded Black America Again album, which included a performance at the White House as part of NPR's "Tiny Desk" series. The son of late keyboardist Emmanuel Riggins, names of some of the jazz artists he's backed reads like the genre's hall of fame – Hank Jones, Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson, Donald Byrd and Ron Carter.
For Headnod Suite, his second album on Stones Throw Records, Riggins expertly builds on his credentials with 29 tracks of pure hip-hop – each track deftly crafted with swing that only a drummer would know. Swing is the weapon. And there's always a message, be it verbal or instrumental. "Headnod Suite is a concept of several rhythmic ideas fused together," Riggins says. "I wanted to explore the power of interludes and marrying different styles and harmony together." On Headnod Suite, Common makes a reciprocal vocal appearance on "Yes Yes Y'all," which gives way to literal grunts from James Brown and the 1-2 shot of "Trombone Love" and the 16-bit funk "Crystal Stairs."
If 2012's Alone Together was right at the intersection of hip-hop and jazz, Riggins' current path is less the jazz found in his family and career lineage, and more the hip-hop culture he found on his own.