This past Thursday, September 26th, Tariq Trotter aka Black Thought sat down with Professor Millery Polyné for New York University’s Albert Gallatin Lecture Series. The free event was held at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study’s Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts and was attended by roughly 150 students, alumni and public listeners.
The Roots’ frontman spoke at length on topics such as his first rap group (which included Beanie Sigel), the visual arts being his first love, his relationship with Bill Cosby and his involvement in the Soulquarians: “It was a movement. We inspired each other. The competition strengthened the union, raising the bar as a collective.”
Ever the proud Philadelphian, Black Thought drew surprised laughter when he compared Will Smith‘s storyteller flow to Slick Rick‘s: “Will Smith was Slick Rick before Slick Rick, only more PC and less jewelry.” But the response was more subdued when he compared Schooly D‘s cadence to Ice-T‘s: “Ice-T rapped just like Schooly D, only with a California accent.”
While explaining the reason for the political nature of his rhymes, the Grammy-winning artist revealed that his father died when he was two, and his mother when he was 16. Growing up hearing stories of his father’s involvement in the Islamic community gave him a social awareness that he possesses to this day.
“Where you are from and where you are going are coordinates that define where you are right now.” – Black Thought
A recent full-circle moment for Black Thought was being honored with a mural by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. What makes this accolade so poignant is that the program began as the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti network, through which Trotter was once sentenced to 150 hours of “scrub time” for scrawling his art on a public building.
Stay tuned for an appearance by Black Thought in Sonia Sanchez‘ upcoming documentary as well as the release of his first solo album, The Talented Mr. Trotter.
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