Check out our conversation with noted drummer, songwriter, producer Lil John Roberts.
One of the most sought after Jazz and R & B Drummers of his generation, John
“Lil’ John” Roberts has maintained his status in the industry as the ultimate
heartbeat. A native of Philadelphia, John quickly became noted as a child
prodigy, playing along side Christian McBride and Joey Defranceso at the age of
16. Collectively, the trio was also a part of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, a
project created and directed by Wynton Marsalis, composed of 22 of the countries
best young jazz musicians.
John’s formal studies began in 1991 when he was awarded a full scholarship to
study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. John studied at
Berklee for two years where he then left to further pursue his touring career
starting with R & B and Hip Hop artist Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (Will
Smith). Afterwards he went on to tour with Dionne Farris, Xscape, Monica, The
Goodie Mob, and Joi and soon after that was called to fill the shoes of drummer
Jonathan Moffet touring with Janet Jackson at the very early age of 23. John
completed three successful tours with Janet Jackson that opened the doors to a
whole new world of opportunities.
Having worked and recorded numerous records with George Howard who turned him
onto the Contemporary Jazz Circuit. John found himself working nonstop with Jazz
artists such as Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Najee, George Benson, Rachelle
Ferrelle, Jonathan Butler, Everette Harp, Boney James, Jeff Lorber, Peter White,
Kirk Whalum, Bob Baldwin, Eric Essix, Rick Braun, Gabriela Anders and Gerald
Albright, to name a few.
His list of credits also include many of the industries greatest such as: Stevie
Wonder, Quincy Jones, Prince, Sheila E, Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Michael
Jackson, Elton John, Al Green, BB King, Paula Abdul, Yolanda Adams, Ne-Yo, Bruce
Parham, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Patti Labelle, Juanita Bynum, India.Arie, Queen
Latifah, Joss Stone, Raphael Saadiq, Lucy Pearl, Musiq Soulchild (Musical
Director), Jill Scott, Kindred, Bilal, Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dog, The Time, Frank
McComb, Mos Def, Common, Earth, Wind and Fire, again, and a host of others.
John’s television credits include: Houseband drummer for the Monique Show, The
Queen Latifah Show, The Ray Charles Tribute Live at the Staples Center, Tribute
to Quincy Jones, American Idol, The American Music Awards, MTV Awards, Billboard
Awards, Image Awards, The Trumpet Awards, VH1 Fashion Awards, BET Soultrain
Awards, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Chris Rock Show, Oprah, Ellen Degeneres, Good
Morning America, Good Day Atlanta, Jimmy Kimmel, Arsenio Hall, The View,
Saturday Night Live, the Pre Grammy Show and most recently 2 Seasons of BET’s
Sunday Best. Apollo Live, BET’s Comicview, 2013 TLC Performances and Stevie
Wonder’s A House Full of Toys holiday concert.
After writing producing with various Jazz and Funk Artists such as Walter
Beasley, Rachelle Ferrelle, as well as his band “The Chronicle” and completing
records with Anita Baker and Kirk Whalum, John has concentrated his efforts on
his debut album, Heartbeat set to be released June 2014. Heartbeat will feature
friends of Lil’ John such as Stokley of Mint Condition, Eric Roberson, Robert
Glasper, Anthony David and a number of up & coming artists.