A graduate of the New York School of Music and Art, Omar Hakim began his career recording with various pop and soul groups. His father, Hasan Hakim, had played trombone for Duke Ellington and Count Basie and that influence helped to warm the younger Hakim's ear up for the part he would play in one of the most famous jazz fusion acts ever, Weather Report.
In 1984, Hakim did most of the drum work on Dire Straits' album Brothers in Arms, when the previous drummer Terry Williams' performance was found unsuitable for the desired sound of the album after most of the songs had already been recorded. Hakim recorded all the drum tracks on the album in two days and then left. Williams was, however, brought back for the tour.
By this time, Hakim was teaching himself to program drum machines, which put him in even greater demand as a pop, rock, and R&B session musician, and landed him work with Madonna. Meanwhile, he continued his work as a jazz fusion drummer; just a partial list of his credits over the 1980s and '90s includes work with Miles Davis, David Sanborn, Roy Ayers, George Benson, Joe Sample, John Scofield, Lee Ritenour, and Najee. In 1989, Hakim released his first solo album, Rhythm Deep, which occupied a middle ground between jazz, R&B, and pop, and gave him a chance to showcase his vocal abilities as well. The results earned Hakim a Grammy nomination.
During the 1990s, Hakim continued to improve his skills in the realm of electronic percussion, keeping abreast of new technologies and thereby keeping his session career in good stead. He performed on albums by Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Jewel, among other successful pop stars, and initially kept his jazz work going as well, though it had tapered off by the middle of the decade.
In 2000 Hakim released his second solo CD, The Groovesmith, which was produced, recorded and mixed in his personal recording studio "The OH-Zone". He is in the final stages of production on his long-awaited third album, entitled We Are One.
On June 18, 2015 Journey announced that Hakim would replace longtime drummer Deen Castronovo on their North American tour after Castronovo was arrested for domestic violence in Salem, Oregon.
Between 1988 and 1989 he appeared regularly as the house band drummer in The Sunday Night Band during the first half season of the acclaimed music performance program Sunday Night on NBC late-night television. After being temporarily replaced by drummer J. T. Lewis for the remainder of that season, Hakim reappeared in the band for the second season in the fall of 1989, when the program returned under the new name Night Music.