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Beyoncé’s Drummer, Kimberly Thompson, Is Our New Fav Badass

Music
Photo via KTMUSICPRODUCTION

Get to know the woman behind the beats

At an intimate theatre space in Manhattan, Kimberly Thompson sits in front of her drum set in a tight, black lace cocktail dress. She wants to go into beast mode without giving the audience a different kind of show, so she has draped a gold shawl across her lap. She is calm as she and her band segue into “Hills of Macedonia,” a song on her new album, inspired by the women percussionists who paved the way centuries before her. Thompson’s face glows in the gentle spotlight.

As the track progresses, her face no longer belongs to her. It now belongs to the frenzy of the song. She becomes a different kind of pretty. The kind that makes people nervous because—like a fiery beat itself—it can’t be contained.

“Being submissive hides the fact that we have super strength. We have to accept that part of ourselves and own it,” says the drummer, the day before the concert as she reflects on being a woman in a male-dominated field. Raised in Missouri and currently residing in Los Angeles, Thompson’s accolades are plenty and diverse: she’s performed worldwide at prestigious venues, played in Seth Meyers’ house band as well as toured with Beyoncé’s all-woman band for more than six years.

Regardless of Thompson’s distinctive solo career, it’s hard to imagine anyone could escape the pop powerhouse’s grip without at least a little Queen Bey-fication. Hence, Thompson’s business ideals weave into her theories on feminism which include being assertive and graceful while getting the job done. “But not masculinizing yourself is important. Honing in and keeping your femininity—be a lady about it,” says Thompson.

Her support of like-minded women is evident on her album from musical influences of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald to her track, “A Presidential March Dedicated Hillary Clinton, ” a musical endorsement of her chosen candidate. “I feel a spiritual closeness with her… She’s intelligent, down-to-earth and well, she’s a Scorpio,” says Thompson.

Treasures Abound, the sixth album on her own label, KTProductions, yields notes from Thompson’s musical and personal evolution. A jazz drummer who’s dipped her toes into every genre, she pays homage to the greats in her standards and strives to open minds with her original compositions. “[There’s] no longer this sleepy type of facade associated with jazz,” she says. “It actually has this energetic pulse—a millennial pulse.”

At Thompson’s album release show, “Hills of Macedonia” is now in full swing. She goes from providing a rhythmic backbone for the track to an aggressive drum solo, evoking audience approval and then awe. She does fancy tricks with her sticks. She does not break a sweat. And while she’s undoubtedly received the “compliment” that she plays like one of the boys, she does not. There’s something unmistakably feminine about her ferocity.

Thompson moves between circles, professionally—gigging for big names, creating film projects for PBS, and teaching private lessons for a select group of aspiring musicians. Her thirst for knowledge and experience belies any desire to stay in one lane. “When there’s a drum set or a piano or something to be learned, I won’t eat. I won’t sleep. I won’t go use the restroom,” she says. “I used to play basketball so I’m very athletic. There’s all this energy. I never get tired.”

Fitness plays a big role in not just Thompson’s tenacity, but her students’ as well. She takes them to gym as a part of their training, encouraging meditation and an increased awareness of their physical presence. “You’re your own instrument,” she tells them. “You are your art.”

Thompson asserts the importance of expression, physically and emotionally, in music. Her lingerie-like dress one evening is jeans, a leather bomber, and a fedora on another. Thick, ‘80s style jewelry adorns her neck sometimes. And then there was the Beyoncé-approved mohawk.

Thompson recalls a feeling, while on tour with the pop icon, of craving change. Something that would take her from “sweet and nice,” which were the traits often used to describe her, to a little more edgy. So she opted for a mohawk. But even with something like a haircut, she had to tread lightly. “I couldn’t have done it without Beyoncé’s approval. I had to show it to her and she had to say ‘okay.’ It’s a part of her packaging and branding. She agreed with it. She loved it,” says Thompson.

This is jarring since Thompson doesn’t come across as the type to seek anyone’s approval. But she stresses the importance of moving seamlessly between roles in her career. Just because she wears the bandleader hat now, doesn’t mean she dismisses the significance of supporting another artist. 

“I like making my bosses smile. I’m a boss, myself so I like my players to solo and do their thing when were all together,” she says. Her current band, who play supporting roles on her album—Carlos Homs, Aaron Burnett, and Will Slater—slay at her show. They are in tune and at ease with their lady boss, which isn’t the case sometimes in other environments.

“I’m a very loving person and I’ve seen it all so I’m very sensitive to people’s situations but at the same time we have to get things done,” says Thompson. “There needs to be a balance.”

Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images.

It marks her third duet with Nas

Here are some words that I never expected to read or hear again: There is a new song with Amy Winehouse. But here we are in 2019, and Salaam Remi has granted me a wish. On Valentine's Day, the Grammy-nominated producer and frequent Winehouse collaborator (also responsible for hits like Miguel's "Come Through & Chill") released "Find My Love" which features rapper Nas and that powerful and haunting voice that I have come to love and cherish so dearly.

Representatives for Remi said that the Winehouse vocals were from an old jam session the two had. Remi was a producer on both of Winehouse's albums, Frank and Back to Black. "Find My Love" marks the third time Winehouse and Nas have done duets under the direction of Remi. They were previously heard together on "Like Smoke," a single from her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures, and "Cherry Wine" from Nas' 2012 album Life Is Good. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, before they could complete production on her third album. My heart is still broken about it as she is by far my favorite artist.

"Find My Love" is set to appear on Remi's Do It for the Culture 2, a collection of songs curated by him. Check it out, below.

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Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

"In the midst of chaos there's opportunity"

Following the travesty that was Fyre Festival, Ja Rule wants to take another stab at creating a music festival. Good luck getting that off the ground.

On Thursday, the rapper spoke to TMZ, where he revealed that he was planning to relaunch Icon, an app used to book entertainers, which is similar to Billy McFarland's Fyre app. He told the outlet that he wanted to create a festival similar to Fyre to support it.

"[Fyre Festival] is heartbreaking to me. It was something that I really, really wanted to be special and amazing, and it just didn't turn out that way, but in the midst of chaos there's opportunity, so I'm working on a lot of new things," he says. He then gets into the fact that he wants to form a music festival. "[Fyre] is the most iconic festival that never was... I have plans to create the iconic music festival, but you didn't hear it from me."

Ja Rule actually doesn't seem to think he is at all responsible for what came from Fyre Fest, claiming in a Twitter post that he was "hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hood winked, led astray." Even if that's his feeling, he should realize that anyone involved with Fyre shouldn't ever try their hand at music festivals again.

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