Lil' John Roberts

Class of

One of the most sought after jazz and R&B drummers of his generation, John "Lil' John" Roberts '92 has maintained his status in the industry as a force to be reckoned with. A native of Philadelphia, Roberts quickly became noted as a child prodigy, playing alongside 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.

Roberts' formal studies began in 1991 when he was awarded a full scholarship to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, afterwards pursuing a touring career starting with R&B and hip-hop artist Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith). He later went on to tour with Dionne Farris, Excape, Monica, the Goodie Mob, and Joi, and soon after that was called to fill the shoes of drummer Jonathan Moffett touring with Janet Jackson at the very early age of 23. Roberts completed three successful tours with Janet Jackson that opened the doors to a whole new world of opportunities. 

Watch Lil John Roberts perform the track "Space":

Having worked on and recorded numerous records with George Howard who turned him onto the contemporary jazz circuit, Roberts found himself working nonstop with jazz artists such as Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Najee, George Benson, Rachelle Ferrell, Everette Harp, Boney James, Jeff Lorber, Peter White, Kirk Whalum, Bob Baldwin, Eric Essix, Rick Braun, Gabriela Anders, and Gerald Albright, among many others.

His list of credits also include many of the industries greatest such as Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Prince, Sheila E., Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Al Green, B.B. King, Paula Abdul, Yolanda Adams, Bruce Parham, BeBe and CeCe Winans, Patti LaBelle, Juanita Bynum, India.Arie, Queen Latifah, Musiq Soulchild (musical director), Jill Scott, Bilal, Jamie Foxx, Snoop Dogg, and countless others.

Roberts's television credits include: the Ray Charles Tribute, American Idol, The American Music Awards, Billboard Awards, Image Awards, VH1 Fashion Awards, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Late Show with David Letterman, Chris Rock, Oprah, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live, the Arsenio Hall Show, The View, Saturday Night Live and the pre-Grammy show. Currently, Roberts can be seen weeknights in the house band on the Mo'Nique Show, BET's late night talk show.

Recently, Roberts has concentrated his efforts on writing and producing with various jazz and funk artists such as Walter Beasley, Rachelle Ferrell, Dionne Farris, Russell Gunn, Blackbeard, up-and-coming artists, as well as his band the Chronicle. He released his debut solo album The Heartbeat in 2014, reaching number 26 on the Billboard charts.

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