Hutchings was born in 1984 in London. He moved to Barbados at the age of six, began studying classical clarinet aged nine and remained until sixteen. Shabaka's primary project is the group Sons of Kemet, which won the 2013 MOBO Award for Jazz Act of the Year. In June 2014 Shabaka was invited to join the Sun Ra Arkestra, performing with them and recording a session for BBC Radio 3. He has performed and recorded with Courtney Pine's Jazz Warriors, Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics, Polar Bear and Soweto Kinch. Some of the many notable musicians he has shared the stage with include Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra, Louis Moholo, Evan Parker, King Sunny Ade and Orlando Julius to name a few.
As part of the Caribbean diaspora, he sees his role as that of pushing the boundaries of what musical elements are considered to be Caribbean. Constantly evaluating the nature of his relationship with musical material and tradition, he describes his attempts at composition as wrestling matches with questions of where and how the Caribbean can be encoded, and what happens when it is exposed to the western classical music cannon.