Elvin Jones: 1. Born 1927 in Pontiac, Michigan. 2. Known for his ability to drum in 3/4 while the rest of the band plays in 4/4. 3. See: recordings with John Coltrane such as “Crescent” and “Pursuance.”
J Dilla: 1. Born 1974 in Detroit, Michigan. 2. Known for introducing “swing” to hip-hop music by placing the snare drum, kick drum, and high-hat just moments before or after where they typically would land. 3. See: songs such as Slum Village’s “The Look of Love.”
Karriem Riggins: 1. Born 1975 in Detroit Michigan. 2. Known for following in the footstep of Jones, Dilla, and numerous other Detroit-born rhythmic innovators. 3. See: KAYTRANADA’s “BUS RIDE.”
Although “BUS RIDE” features instrumental accompaniment from River Tiber and credits KAYTRANADA as its producer, it really belongs to drummer Karriem Riggins. Tiber and KAYTRANADA imbue the song with ethereal harmonies that lead nowhere. The sounds of a tinny piano and airy strings create a dreamy texture that leaves listeners in the clouds. Like crashing waves, the music continuously loops back onto itself. And like the crash of waves, it’s beautiful to listen to. But it’s not unique. With your eyes closed, you couldn’t tell one beach from another.
But Riggins makes sure you remember the drums. The kick hits an iotæarlier than expected; the snare comes slightly later than usual. The s i x t e e n t h notes on the high-hat are not quite s i x t e e n t h notes and the ghost notes on the snare sound like a man sTumbLinG into work drunk. Towards the end of the song, Riggins launches into a double-time frenzy. He transforms sixteenth notes into thirty-second notes. He plays ghost notes which spill over into the. Next beat. He begins to organize kick drum hits into quickly-played groups-of-three while the underlying pulse still relies on group-ings-of-four. His drumming is unquantized. It’s swung. It’s polyrhythmic. It uses hemiola. It’s indebted to his hometown.
There would be no “BUS RIDE” without the Motor City.