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Question and Obsession: Drop the Beat

Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters joins us in discussing flavorful hip-hop and R&B guitarists.

Question: Who is your favorite guitarist in the hip-hop and/or R&B genre?

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

Chris ShiflettFoo Fighters
A: Honestly, I don’t listen to much hip-hop except what my kids put on in the car, and there usually isn’t a lot of guitar on what they play. I remember Carlos Alomar playing some ripping leads on a Run-DMC track back in the day. I love R&B guitar style but I can’t point to one guitar player or another. The guitar playing on funk and R&B records from the ’70s is probably my favorite stuff. One of these days, I gotta sit down and figure some of those tunes out—lots of cool shapes and there’s usually more to it than meets the eye (or ear).

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Current obsession: I just took out my little old blackface Fender Princeton Reverb on my last run of solo dates and I loved it! Usually I’ll take something bigger and louder and crunchier, but I really fell in love with the tone of that thing. Plus, it makes for a little more room in the van ’cuz it’s so teeny. Perfect van tour amp.

Tom FisherReader of the Month

A: Chris Sholar’s work on A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service is mind-blowingly smooth. His guitar playing took that album up another level. Makes me want to sharpen my jazz chops!

Current obsession: Baroness’ Gold & Grey. It’s one of my favorite records of the year that I can’t stop going back to! It's a constant source of inspiration.

Rich OsweilerAssociate Editor
A. A tough call given my continued affinity for the Beastie Boys and Ad-Rock’s wicked riffs, but Nile Rodgers sits at the top of my list. Rodgers has hardly been limited to hip-hop or R&B over his career, but his unmistakable, chucking rhythm style and groove has served as a spark and foundation for so many tunes in both genres, and more. He didn’t actually play on “Rapper’s Delight,” but the man certainly played a huge part in ushering in and influencing hip-hop.

Current obsession: I’m not a fingerstyle player per se, and the slack-key curve isn’t exactly a breeze, but learning some tunes is a 2019 resolution I’ve actually been sticking to so far. Kīhōʻalu!

Tessa JeffersManaging Editor
A: Jimmy Nolen, who trailblazed in James Brown’s transcendent funk explosion in the ’70s, paved a way for hip-hop guitar. Today, Isaiah Sharkey is one to watch. I saw him in John Mayer’s band, locking in with Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan, creating groove and fire. H.E.R. is a current female R&B artist on the scene whose Prince-influenced solos have my attention. But Adam Horovitz of Beastie Boys has been my number one since I was 12.

Current obsession: Sturgill Simpson’s Sound & Fury. His guitar tones are absolutely menacing and exciting to listen to: They give me chills. I’m also reading the Beastie Boys Book, which starts with their roots as a hardcore band and unravels the birth of the NYC hip-hop scene in the early ’80s.