Karriem Riggins - Headnod Suite LP

(Stones Throw, 2017)

 

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"The veteran beatmaker had a banner year in 2016, executive producing Common’s Black America Again, providing the blueprint for Kanye West’s '30 Hours,' and collaborating with Kaytranada, Esperanza Spalding, and the Roots. Four years after Karriem Riggins' first solo endeavor, Alone Together, put him on the map as more than just a standout session musician, Riggins’ musical life seemed richer than ever.

Alone Together's sequel, the new Headnod Suite, echoes the template laid out by its predecessor. The record is, again, a nearly hour-long selection of more than two dozen expertly-made beats, seemingly linked by very little other than the fact that Riggins considered them strong enough to make the album.

Riggins focuses on rolling out gem after gem, with careful thought given to the little details that distinguish a cubic zirconia from a diamond. Riggins is such an expert drummer that it can be hard to identify him as having any kind of percussive signature. These features—the perfectly chopped sample over the tiptoe-light beat on “Sista Misses,” the atmospherics and perfectly placed guitar riff on “Other Side of the Track,” the clatters and snaps that open “Bahia Dreamin,’” the complex bass work underlying the candy-sweet, teased-out melody on “Crystal Stairs”—give him his voice as a producer.

Riggins’ abiding love for hip-hop is showcased throughout Headnod Suite. On 'Never Come Close,' a selection of Prodigy’s verse from “Shook Ones Pt. II” leads out of the track as if it were a final showstopping instrumental flourish, while on 'Keep It On,' Common’s ad-libs are swaddled in a steady beat and warm instrumentation, like a beloved child. Even the interludes that Riggins commits to exploring throughout the record come off as a tribute to the skits and exclamations that adorn rap albums—little breaks where vocals communicate an attitude and sense of place." - Jonah Bromwich for Pitchfork