The 25 Most Popular & Influential Black Drummers

From prominent jazz drummers Elvin Jones and Max Roach to popular drummers today, like Questlove, the most influential Black drummers deserve more recognition.While some are more popular than others, every one of these famous Black drummers have had some musical impact, whether it was recording alongside popular Motown bands or shaping the music we love today.

With so many music legends on this list, it's difficult to decide on the best Black drummers. Feel free to vote up the top Black drummers based on their session recordings, live performances, or overall careers. 

  • 1
    14 VOTES
    Omar Hakim
    Photo: user uploaded image

    Like many other drummers on this list, Omar Hakim started drumming as a child and performed with his father's band. After joining jazz fusion band Weather Report in 1982, Hakim would later play drums on David Bowie's albums Let's Dance and Tonight. He also recorded with Dire Straits for their album Brothers in Arms, with Sting on The Dream of the Blue Turtles, and replaced longtime Journey drummer Deen Castronovo in 2015. During the 90s, Hakim was a session musician, recording with pop stars Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Jewel. In 2017, he became the Chairman of the Percussion Department of Berklee College of Music.

    • Age: 63
    • Birthplace: New York City, USA, New York
  • 2
    17 VOTES

    Take a listen to any of John Coltrane Quartet's records, and you'll here the distinctive drumming of the late Elvin Jones working the groove. In the 1960s, few were as talented on the drums than Jones, whose aggressive style of drumming paved the way for the "free jazz" movement. After leaving the Coltrane group, Jones established several of his own jazz bands, played drums for Allen Ginsberg's Songs of Innocence and Experience, and appeared as a villain in the 1971 musical film Zachariah. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music in 2001.

    • Age: Dec. at 76 (1927-2004)
    • Birthplace: Michigan, USA, Pontiac
  • 3
    12 VOTES

    Art Blakey's aggressive style of drumming known as hard bop set the stage for the evolution of jazz in the 1960s. In the 1940s, Blakey formed The Jazz Messengers, a session band for Blue Note Records. Over the years, the group developed into a collective, which established young talent, like Jackie McLean, Freddie Hubbard, and Donald Byrd. Blakey was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 and 2001, and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

    • Age: Dec. at 71 (1919-1990)
    • Birthplace: Pittsburgh, USA, Pennsylvania
  • 4
    15 VOTES

    Starting in the New York jazz scene, Lenny White performed with saxophonist Jackie Mclean during the late 1960s. White then joined Return to Forever and helped infuse jazz fusion into their music. Later on, he released several albums aa a solo artist and formed the jazz/soul group Twennynine. The three-time Grammy winner is generally considered as one of the pioneers of jazz fusion. 

    • Age: 72
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America