By the close of the 1990s, Hamid Drake was widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in improvised music. Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion instruments and influence, in addition to using the standard trap set, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free jazz improvisers Peter Brötzmann, Fred Anderson, and Ken Vandermark, among others. Drake was born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1955, and later moved to Chicago with his family. He ended up taking drum lessons with Fred Anderson's son, eventually taking over the son's role as percussionist in Anderson's group. As a result, Fred Anderson also introduced Drake to George Lewis and other AACM members. Drake has also performed world music; by the late '70s, he was a member of Foday Muso Suso's Mandingo Griot Society, and has played reggae. Drake has been a member of the Latin jazz band Night on Earth, the Georg Graewe Quartet, the DKV Trio, Peter Brotzmann's Chicago Octet/Tentet, and Liof Munimula, the oldest free improvising ensemble in Chicago. Drake has also worked with trumpeter Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson, Mahmoud Gania, bassist William Parker (in a large number of lineups), and has performed a solstice celebration with fellow Chicago percussionist Michael Zerang semi-annually since 1991.
Drake has recorded either as a leader or a co-leader for a number of labels including Chicago's Okka Disc and Thrill Jockey, France's Rogue Art, Eremite, Nero's Neptune, and ESP-Disk, but his work as a collaborator and sideman with dozens of other artists continues to be in demand, particularly with Parker, Brötzmann, Gayle, and David Murray. The 2016 release Live at Okuden: Jungle (recorded in 2012) was the final recording curated by ESP-Disk's founder Bernard Stollman. Drake appeared in a trio setting led by saxophonist/clarinetist and flutist Mat Walerian, along with pianist Matthew Shipp. In July, Otoroku issued Song Sentimentale by the trio of Peter Brötzmann, William Parker and Drake -- their first recording together since 2003's Never Too Late But Always Too Early. The album, compiled from three nights of concerts at Cafe Oto, was issued in two volumes in different formats, each entertaining a unique track listing.