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    Thread: What up Black?

    1. #1
      Nesayem is offline Afrika Is In You

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      Thumbs up What up Black?


      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      What Up Black? An Interview w/ Black Thought
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
      What up, Black?

      PW catches up with the Roots’ elusive MC.

      by Paul Farber
      www.philadelphiaweekly.co...p?id=12891


      Tariq Trotter—known to hip-hop fans as Black Thought—slides into the back seat of a red Volkswagon parked in the courtyard of Baltimore’s InterContinental Hotel, reclines and repositions his black fitted Phillies hat to a perfect tilt. His handlers had warned the night before he was in a bad mood, but after a week that included a cross-country red-eye flight, a three-part video shoot, an overnight mixtape recording session and two live shows with another on deck, you might be crabby too.

      Fresh off his first real night of sleep this week, Trotter’s on a roadtrip to retrieve forgotten luggage in D.C. He’s no media darling, but today he’s open and congenial.

      “I used to get excited about this @#%$,” says Trotter with a serious look, his eyes three shades short of bloodshot, of the release his band’s latest effort Game Theory. “But I had set my expectations too high and now I try to fall back.”

      With an old-school ethos and staunch aplomb, the 33-year-old Illadelph native is a throwback with longevity. A veteran of hip-hop’s golden era, Trotter still holds his mikes like grudges and avoids half-stepping at all costs.


      Trotter is particular. He’s extreme in his fastidiousness, especially in matters pertaining to his clothing, music and hair. He once flew his barber to London to shape him up. Naysayers read such proclivities for quality control as a character flaw, but those around him see it as his strong suit.

      Over the years Trotter’s critics have frequently misinterpreted his thirst for privacy, his understated swagger and his shunning the spotlight as a form of snobbery.

      Trotter is the band’s rapping mouthpiece, but not its rock star. That title is taken by Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, the iconic, afro-picking, ever popular and uber-approachable Roots drummer. In comparison, Trotter’s seen as a prickly, hard-to-deal-with artist. He’s a reluctant visionary, hip-hop’s poet laureate—whether he enjoys the title or wishes to transcend it.

      “I feel for Tariq, but not even a pity thing,” says Thompson. “I’ve reached a point where I’ve gained a little notoriety. I’m the standard by which hip-hop drumming will be judged. But then again, there’s nobody really in my lane. It’s like for him, you’re so @#%$ good, but you’re invisible.”

      “There’s a breach in communication somewhere between me and writers,” Trotter says. “Some people—they like to talk, they like to interview. I’m just gonna answer the question, man, ’cause I don’t really wanna rap. Some people, they think it’s personal and @#%$. And it’s not really about that. I just don’t like interviews. It’s one of my demons that I deal with.”

      Trotter says his privacy jones is a product of his upbringing. “I come from a household where it’s like, ‘Close that door,’” he says. “As soon as the sun goes down and the street lights come on, you close the curtains so people can’t be lookin’ up into your @#%$. I’m that way in life.”

      Growing up mostly in South Philly’s Point Breeze neighborhood, the rapper became well-acquainted with the city’s violence at an early age.

      His father, a member of the Fruit of Islam, was killed when Trotter was an infant.

      His mother was brutally murdered when he was in high school.

      His brother Keith, who’s currently incarcerated for robbery, has been in and out of jail for more than a decade.

      This is the sort of painful fodder publicity departments like to use in their marketing schemes. For Trotter it’s taboo material that he only recently addressed on record, the lost Game Theory track “Pity the Child.” It missed the album’s final cut, but appears on J. Period’s The Best of the Roots mixtape.

      “Tariq’s never like, ‘I had a bad childhood.’ He’s like, ‘Tough nookies. Life is hard,’” says Dice Raw, one of Trotter’s best friends and a frequent Roots collaborator. “But as long as I’ve known him, I never knew. I didn’t find out till about the year 2000, and I’ve known him since 1993. To be that close to someone all that time and never know, that’s deep.”

      The discord of Trotter’s childhood was balanced by a burgeoning artistic talent. He started rhyming at 9 and writing graffiti at 10 with more established local artists like Slash and Stack. He enrolled at the High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) in 1989 as a freshman with a focus on visual arts. He planned to be an architect.

      “I knew him only as the art guy,” recalls Thompson, who says most of his initial interactions with Trotter were he and his crew clowning him. “He was trying to get his hustle on, molding Africa medallions and hawking ’em for $10 a pop. His @#%$ was really sculpture.”

      From his first days at the school, Trotter’s rep was Fonz-worthy. From getting suspended on opening day for allegedly being caught in the bathroom with a senior ballerina to developing lyrical prowess as one of the school’s fiercest freestylers, he became an in-school legend.

      “I’d run to the basement and play a breakbeat and come up six flights of stairs at CAPA and just start playing my sampled beats on my lil’ cheap toy Casio [SK-1 sampler],” remembers Thompson. “It’d be Tariq, Shawn [Stockman, later of Boyz II Men], and it’d be like eight of ’em. What set Tariq apart was that he had an amazing talent to play the dozens. He was always four steps ahead of someone else.”

      Trotter and Thompson went on to form the proto-group the Square Roots. They’d play at talent shows and small bars in the city, and later established themselves as bona fide live performers on the corner of Fifth and Passyunk. They made more than $4,000 in tips and countless connects during the summer of 1992, and within months secured their first major label deal with Geffen.

      “Back in the day people used to be scared of him,” says Dice. “They were really frightened of him lyrically. No one wanted to battle him. Nobody wanted to rhyme with him. ’Riq stood out.”

      Trotter, who graduated from Germantown High after being kicked out of CAPA, went to college briefly at Millersville University in Lancaster County (where he firmed up his rhyming relationship with prodigal Roots MC Malik B) and later at Temple, where he studied journalism.

      “I once talked to him about when he was in college why he was a journalism major, ’cause he’s not Mr. Media Guy now,” says Nikki Jean, vocalist for the Roots-backed Nouveau Riche. “He said, ‘’Cause there’s enough bullshit in my life on a day-to-day basis without me creating more for myself.’”


      For his part, Trotter hits Game Theory running, making paranoia and discord the CD’s most compelling motif—as on the dire opening track “False Media,” and on “Baby,” in which he packages his palpably nostalgic take on the state of black music. (Thompson has called Trotter’s styling “Bobby Womack after his fourth glass of whiskey.”)

      On the album’s final song “Can’t Stop”—a tribute to the late hip-hop producer and friend J Dilla—Trotter pens an elegy not just to his fallen friend, but to the culture as a whole. In mourning, he found urgency.

      “He knew what he wanted to say from day one,” says Dice of Trotter’s writing. “And he was just saying it. You can hear it in the rhymes. That’s his best rhyme of all time. ‘The last of the hip-hop-loving MCs.’ These motherfuckers don’t love hip-hop. It’s a new generation.”

      As for his renewed chops, Trotter tries not to pat himself on the back too forcefully. He’s an ardent team player. His own unreleased 2002 solo project Masterpiece Theater was allegedly scrapped and turned into the band’s Phrenology in the interest of contractual obligations to the band’s label and not diluting their consumer base.

      “I strive for improvement. I want to be a master of my craft,” Trotter says. “And I don’t know if that’s a work ethic that transferred over from the musicians I was around in high school, but that’s how I get down. I want to be at the top of my game. That’s what pushes me to go back to the drawing board and try to come up with some @#%$ that’s going to be fresher.”

      Having arrived at the hotel in D.C., Trotter, hat still immaculately tilted, squints in the intense summer D.C. heat. “There are a lot of people who put out records that are catchy, that we may tap our feet to,” he says. “But in the long run, there’s only a handful of music that makes a difference. Put that @#%$ in the article.”

    2. #2
      Raha's Avatar
      Raha is offline Be EASY.

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      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!
      An excellent interview with one of THE greatest MC's today (if not THE greatest). It gives a more in-depth look into his demeanor.

      P.E.A.C.E.
      Pyrrhic Victory (New songs are up!): http://www.reverbnation.com/pyrrhicvictory

      Some people take themselves WAY TOO SERIOUSLY, when in actuality, no one else is really taking them as seriously as they think.

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