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,” he 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 been playing ever since, currently serving as her live tour musical director. “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.”
In 2010, Rex hit his next major career milestone when he landed the much coveted drummer’s chair on FOX TV’s smash hit, American Idol. Taking over from Teddy Campbell, another Chicago worship scene player, Rex’s ability to nail any track on the first take made him a natural to handle the show’s rigorous schedule and massive song list. Little wonder then that he’s received nothing but rave reviews for his work on the show since taking over from Campbell.
Outside his high-profile work with Mary J. Blige and American Idol, Rex’s résumé features some of the greatest artists on the R&B and gospel scenes, including Chaka Khan, Kirk Franklin, Keri Hilson, Wyclef, Michelle Williams (of Destinys Child) and Marvin Sapp.
Despite his star-studded résumé, when he’s home, Rex plays every Sunday at his parent’s Chicago church. Family is important to Rex, as is the church where he got his start. How important? Well, Rex bought his parents the house next door, his sister the home next to theirs, and his grandmother lives directly across the street.
Rex has recently completed construction on a recording studio in his home, allowing himself the flexibility to work more on production and songwriting, his two other obsessions. “It’s a studio studio,” says Hardy. “It has a drum room, a vocal booth, a control room, and a waiting room. So definitely look for me to be more heavily involved in the production side of things.”