Keith LeBlanc, influential hip-hop and dub drummer, dies

Influential hip-hop and dub drummer Keith LeBlanc has died.

The news of his passing was confirmed by Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound label, with which LeBlanc enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership, working on various projects released by the imprint stretching back to the 1980s. "All of us at On-U Sound are heartbroken to share the news that the great Keith LeBlanc has passed away," the label's social media post read. No cause of death has been disclosed.

LeBlanc started out as a session drummer with Sugarhill Records in the early 1980s, forming the Sugarhill House Band with fellow Americans Doug Wimbish (bass) and Skip "Little Axe" McDonald (guitar). He contributed to some of the '80s biggest rap hits, including the Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight' and Grandmaster Flash's 'The Message'.

In 1983, LeBlanc made the ground-breaking sample-based track 'No Sell Out', using cut-up Malcolm X speeches and producing one of the earliest examples of then emerging sampling technology. He was introduced to Adrian Sherwood that year, with the label owner and producer subsequently inviting LeBlanc to join him in London to work on various label projects.

Sherwood and LeBlanc cut records together as Fats Comet for more dancefloor-focused material, and as Tackhead for more politically-motivated music. They also joined up as an incarnation of The Maffia, the backing band of The Pop Group's Mark Stewart.

In 1986, LeBlanc released a solo album, 'Major Malfunction', which was billed as a response to the Challenger space shuttle disaster of the same year.

Over the course of his career, his writing and production was enlisted by the likes of The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and Peter Gabriel. As a drummer and programmer, he worked with Depeche Mode, Sinead O'Connor, James Brown, The Stone Roses, R.E.M. and Tina Turner, among many others.

In a tribute, Sherwood said: "Keith was a major, major talent... incredible drummer, producer and musician. Along with Doug, Skip and also dearly missed Mark Stewart, we enjoyed some of the most creative times together that shaped my musical life. Thank you Brother Keith. Love Forever. Heart and Soul."

More tributes have come from across the musical spectrum following the news of LeBlanc's passing. Listen to 'No Sell Out', and read some of them below.