Drummer Rexsell Hardy Jr. Rexsell Hardy Jr. came up in Chicago’s Gospel scene and started out playing drums in his grandfather’s church when he was just five years old. By age six he was playing around Chicago with his father’s Gospel group, The Hardy Brothers. “As I got older,” the drummer explains, “I began listening to other Gospel drummers from Chicago, like Teddy Campbell, Oscar Seaton, and a friend I grew up with, Calvin Rogers. I really wanted to follow in their footsteps. Whatever they did, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Rex’s career took off in 2003, when he landed the gig with Mary J. Blige, with whom he’s currently on a worldwide tour in support of her most recent release, Growing Pains. “I think I bring energy to her gig,” he says. “That’s always a good thing in an R&B/hip-hop gig. Mary’s an artist who performs off the vibe, so if you have a great vibe going, that makes her more comfortable with what she’s doing. She can feel that you’re into what’s going on and that you’re not acting. It’s pretty much a good deal from then on. So I play with a lot of energy, but I try not to get carried away. Playing in church, you have to have chops, but I know to stay in the pocket without playing over her.”

Gail Worley