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100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

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Ahmir
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Lloyd Bishop/NBC/Getty54/100

54. Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson

Ahmir Thompson has taken on many roles — neo-soul superproducer, polymathic author/raconteur, talk-show bandleader, Broadway musical consultant, celebrity superfan — but those opportunities arose because he's foremost a wickedly versatile drummer whose playing has consistently upended expectations. Jaws that had previously been set skeptically against "live-band hip-hop" first dropped at that moment in the Roots' "You Got Me" when Thompson's steady pulse skitters into a simulation of the frantic breakbeats that drum 'n' bass producers had been stitching together electronically. The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon could be an easy money gig, but he accepts it as a nightly challenge to add new pages to his ever-expanding encyclopedia of rhythm, blending seamlessly with the style of any guest who shows up. "That's what's so cool about Ahmir," guitarist Charlie Hunter, who worked with Thompson on D'Angelo's classic Voodoo LP, told The New Yorker. "He can sit in that pocket and drive it and think in terms of a wider landscape."

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