Karriem Riggins

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Karriem Riggins
Riggins in 2014
Riggins in 2014
Background information
Born (1975-08-25) August 25, 1975 (age 48)
OriginDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
  • Record producer
  • disc jockey
  • songwriter
  • Drums
  • percussion
Years active1990s–present
LabelsStones Throw
Member of

Karriem Riggins is an American jazz drummer, record producer, DJ and songwriter from Detroit, Michigan. He met Chicago rapper Common and fellow Detroit musician J Dilla both in 1996, and served as an extensive contributor for releases by both artists. He produced for Common's 1997 album One Day It'll All Make Sense, did so on much of his further projects, and formed the musical trio August Greene with the rapper alongside fellow jazz instrumentalist Robert Glasper in 2018. Furthermore, he formed the Jahari Massamba Unit with Madlib in 2020, and has also worked with prominent music industry artists including Paul McCartney, Kanye West, Denzel Curry, Earl Sweatshirt, and Norah Jones, among others.


Riggins was born in Detroit, Michigan, son of keyboardist Emmanuel Riggins. As a child, he often watched his father perform with acts includung Grant Green and Marcus Belgrave. He joined the Kennedy Elementary school band in the sixth grade as a trumpeter, studying with Belgrave, where he played for two years in addition to drums before switching to drums full-time in the eighth grade.

Riggins was a DJ, producing hip-hop and performing in three different school bands at Southfield High School before leaving school in the eleventh grade. He joined Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead band soon after at age 17 and moved to New York in 1994,[1] later joining the Mulgrew Miller trio. He also performed in bands with Steven Scott and Benny Green before joining Roy Hargrove's band in the middle of 1995.

After three years with Hargrove, Riggins joined the trio of famed bassist Ray Brown. After leaving Brown's band, he began producing hip-hop extensively and serving as the bandleader for rapper Common's band, A Black Girl Named Becky. Riggins had met Common in 1996, and began spending time with the rapper during visits with notable hip-hop producers. He also met J Dilla, a fellow Detroit native, that same year. He then formed a close friendship with Dilla until his death; Riggins has cited Dilla as a primary influence in helping him overcome multiple creative ruts throughout his career. Riggins produced a song on Dilla's album Welcome 2 Detroit (2001) and two songs on his album, The Shining (2006).[2] He credits Dilla for purchasing the first production he ever sold, for "The Clapper" on Welcome 2 Detroit.

As a drummer, Riggins has also recorded or performed with Donald Byrd, Hank Jones, Milt Jackson, Oscar Peterson, Norah Jones, Cedar Walton, Roy Hargrove, Esperanza Spalding and Bobby Hutcherson.[3] In 2011, he collaborated with Paul McCartney of the Beatles in concert and on his album Kisses on the Bottom—McCartney's first studio release in five years. Apart from jazz, Riggins has produced for hip hop artists including Slum Village, Erykah Badu, Common, J Dilla, The Roots, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Kaytranada, Earl Sweatshirt, Phat Kat, Consequence and Dwele.[4] He has collaborated with hip hop multi-instrumentalist Madlib on his 2007 album Yesterdays Universe, they formed the musical outfits Supreme Team and The Jahari Massamba Unit.[5]

Riggins released his debut full-length album, the instrumental double-LP Alone Together through Stones Throw Records on October 23, 2012. Prior to its release, Stones Throw released the two halves of the album separately on vinyl as well as digitally exclusively through their website. Alone was released on July 30 and Together followed on October 2.[6] He extensively worked on Common's highly acclaimed 2016 album Black America Again, which featured Stevie Wonder on the titular song and included a performance at the White House as part of NPR's "Tiny Desk Concerts" series. On February 24, 2017, Riggins released his second album on Stones Throw, Headnod Suite.[7]

Along with Common and Robert Glasper, Riggins received the award for Outstanding Original Music & Lyrics at the 69th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards for Common's song "Letter to the Free," which appeared in Ava DuVernay's Netflix documentary "13th".[8]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2007, he resides in Los Angeles, California.[9]



  • Alone Together (2012)[10]
  • Headnod Suite (2017)
  • Pardon My French (2020) (as Jahari Massamba Unit with Madlib)
  • To The Jungle (2024)
  • YHWH Is Love (2024) (as Jahari Massamba Unit with Madlib)[11]

Production credits[edit]

with Common
with J Dilla
with others

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ Burrell, Jalylah. "What You Feel". Portland Mercury.
  2. ^ "The Diary: Karriem Riggins Speaks on J Dilla". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 21, 2021.
  3. ^ Jazz, All About. "Karriem Riggins @ All About Jazz". Allaboutjazz.com.
  4. ^ "Karriem Riggins | Credits". AllMusic.
  5. ^ "Karriem Riggins: True Virtuoso by Dale Coachman". Archived from the original on October 15, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ "KARRIEM RIGGINS - TOGETHER LP". Stones Throw Records. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  7. ^ Bromwich, Jonah. "Karriem Riggins: Headnod Suite Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  8. ^ Swartz, Tracy. "Common wins Emmy to move closer to EGOT honor". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  9. ^ "Karriem Riggins: True Virtuoso by Dale Coachman". Archived from the original on October 15, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ "Stones Throw Podcast 74: Karriem Riggins Produced That". Stones Throw. June 21, 2012. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  11. ^ Lindert, Hattie (December 14, 2023). "Madlib and Karriem Riggins Announce New Jahari Massamba Unit Album, Share Song: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 14, 2023.

External links[edit]