Black Thought

Tariq Trotter (born October 3, 1973), better known as Black Thought, is an American rapper, actor and the lead MC of the Philadelphia-based hip hop group the Roots, which he co-founded with drummer Questlove (Ahmir Thompson). Regarded as "one of the most skilled, incisive, and prolific rappers of his time",[1] he is widely lauded for his live performance skills, continuous multisyllabic rhyme schemes, complex lyricism, double entendres, and politically aware lyrics. With the Roots, he is a singer and rapper on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, frequently playing games with Fallon and his guests. Fallon typically addresses him as "Tariq", except when he takes part in a musical performance on the show, when he announces him as "Black Thought".

Black Thought
Black Thought 2011.jpg
Black Thought performing in 2011
Tarik Luqmaan Trotter

(1973-10-03) October 3, 1973 (age 48)
Other names
  • Tariq Trotter
  • Reek Ruffin
  • Riq Geez
Years active1987–present
Musical career
OriginPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresHip hop
Associated acts

Early lifeEdit

Black Thought was born Tarik Luqmaan Trotter, to Thomas and Cassandra Trotter, both members of the Nation of Islam. His father was murdered when Trotter was one year old, and his mother was murdered when he was in high school.[2] He spent time tagging "DT" or "Double T" with graffiti around Philadelphia. He sold crack cocaine briefly, and was sent to live with family in Detroit for a few months in high school.[2] Trotter attended the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts and Millersville University, studying journalism. In 1987, Trotter became friends with drummer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and formed a drummer/MC duo, performing on the streets of Philadelphia and at talent shows.[3] Trotter would subsequently spend some time as one of two MCs in the group the Square Roots: the other one was Malik B., whom Tariq met in college.[4] In high school, Black Thought became interested in the lessons of the Nation of Gods and Earths.[5][failed verification]

The RootsEdit

The Square Roots renamed themselves the Roots and released their debut album Organix in 1993. The Roots signed to DGC and followed up with Do You Want More?!!!??! in 1995. Recorded without any sampling, the album was more popular among alternative music fans than those of hip hop. Around the release of the album, the Roots performed at the Lollapalooza alternative music festival and Montreux Jazz Festival. Illadelph Halflife, the band's 1996 album, became its first album to chart within the top 40 spots on the Billboard 200 because of the successful single "What They Do".[3] Things Fall Apart followed in 1999, the year the band played at the Woodstock 99 concert.[6]

In 2000, the Roots won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "You Got Me", with guest performances by Erykah Badu and Eve.[7] The Roots' album Things Fall Apart was nominated for the Best Rap Album award.[8] For Jay-Z's acoustic concert for the television program MTV Unplugged, the Roots provided instrumentals.[9] Succeeding albums were Phrenology (2002), The Tipping Point (2004), Game Theory (2006), Rising Down (2008), How I Got Over (2010), Undun (2011), and …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (2014).

Black Thought with the Roots in Hamburg, Germany in 1999

Other workEdit

Black Thought starred in films such as Bamboozled (2000), and the 2001 films Perfume, Love Rome, and Brooklyn Babylon.[10]

Black Thought's numerous musical guest performances include "Pimpas Paradise", by Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley; "Hard Hitters", by Dilated Peoples;[11] "Stolen Moments Part 2", by Common;[12] "X-Ecutioner Style", by Linkin Park;[13] "My Favorite Mutiny", by the Coup;[14] "Right Now", by Fort Minor;[15] and "Rafiki", by Zap Mama.[16]

Black Thought recorded a solo album, to be titled Masterpiece Theatre and released in 2001,[10] but the project was scrapped after he learned that the album would not count toward the Roots' contractual commitments. Most of the songs from the project appeared on the Roots' Phrenology album.

In 2006, he began working on a collaborative project with producer Danger Mouse, titled Dangerous Thoughts.[17] As of February 2021, the album had not been released.[18]

In a June 2008 interview with Brian Kayser of the website HipHopGame, Black Thought spoke of another solo project that was scheduled for release on the Razor and Tie music corporation. He stated that there would be the possibility of Questlove working on production.[19] As of September 2014, neither Black Thought nor the solo album are listed on the Razor & Tie website.[20]

In February 2011, Black Thought, along with 10.Deep and the "Money Making Jam Boys" collective—the latter of which includes Dice Raw, S.T.S., Truck North and P.O.R.N.—released the mixtape The Prestige.[21]

Together with U.K. artist Lotek, Black Thought appeared on the song "Living in Bunkers", by Australian hip hop group Hilltop Hoods, which was released on the Drinking From the Sun album in March 2012.[22] Also in March 2012, Black Thought performed with Nneka and Clef nite at BET 106 and Park. They performed the song "God Knows Why", from the former's album Soul Is Heavy, which they collaborated on.[23][24]

In early 2013, Black Thought confirmed his continuing work, with Jim James and Tunde Adebimpe, on a solo album entitled Talented Mr. Trotter.[25] At this time, he began work on a memoir with journalist and music critic Jeff Chang, as well as filmmaker Maori Karmael.[26]

As of April 2015, the rapper has yet to release a solo album, but when asked about the long-awaited project, by a fan on Twitter, he said he's "working on it". He did not offer further details.[27]

In February 2016, Black Thought joined forces with Fashawn, Murs, and Del the Funky Homosapien to record a new track called "Rise Up" for the video game Street Fighter V. A music video for the song was released by Capcom, and includes appearances by Black Thought and his fellow collaborators.[28]

In December 2017, Black Thought appeared on HOT 97 with Funkmaster Flex where he performed a 10-minute freestyle over "The Learning (Burn)" instrumental by Mobb Deep. This freestyle went widely viral, trending over Twitter for the next days and hitting millions of views on YouTube.[29][30] Streams of Thought, Vol. 1, a collaborative EP with producer 9th Wonder, was released on June 1, 2018.[31] Streams of Thought, Vol. 2, a collaboration with producer Salaam Remi, was released on November 26, 2018.

On August 28, 2020, Black Thought released the single "Good Morning" featuring Pusha T, Swizz Beatz and Killer Mike. It was included on Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane & Able, which includes 13 tracks and collaborations with Portugal. The Man, Schoolboy Q and the Last Artful, Dodgr.[32]


Black Thought is "widely recognized as one of the most skilled, incisive, and prolific rappers of his time", according to AllMusic critic Andy Kellman.[1] Henry Adaso of praises him as "a surgeon of emceeing",[33] and he is highly regarded for his multisyllabic rhymes,[34] internal rhymes,[35] flow,[36] breath control,[37] socially conscious lyrics,[38] and live performances.[37] Questlove stated that Black Thought's clarity and logic also distinguishes him from other MCs,[39] and Stephen Kearse of Pitchfork notes that his "ability to use words as textures as much as tools has always been a hallmark of his style".[40] In the book How to Rap, Kool G Rap described seeing the Roots perform his song "Men at Work" at a show; "I never really liked to perform it that much—because your breath control gotta be crazy. But somebody sent me a clip of the Roots  ... and [Black Thought] did all three fucking verses and I couldn't believe it—he killed that shit".[37] Black Thought has influenced several hip hop artists, including Logic,[41] Joey Badass,[42] Rapsody,[43] k-os,[44] and Shad.[45]

Personal lifeEdit

Black Thought married his wife Michelle in 2010.[46][47] He has four sons and one daughter.[48]


Studio albums


With the Roots

Guest appearancesEdit

List of guest appearances
Title Year Other artist(s) Album
"Meiso" 1995 DJ Krush, Malik B. Meiso
"Da Jawn" 1996 Bahamadia, Malik B. Kollage
"Get This Low" 1997 Jedi Mind Tricks, Jus Allah The Psycho-Social
"Stolen Moments, Pt. 2" Common One Day It'll All Make Sense
"Listen to This" Walkin' Large Listen to This
"The Agenda" Inoran Sou (CDS)
"Live from the Stretch Armstrong Show with Your Host Bobbito "The Barber"" 1998 Common, Pharoahe Monch, Absolute Lyricist Lounge, Volume One
"It's About That Time" Pete Rock, Rob-O Soul Survivor
"Super Lyrical" Big Pun Capital Punishment
"Tabou (Roots Remix)" 1999 Les Nubians Tabou (VLS)
"Burnin' and Lootin' (Remix)" Bob Marley Chant Down Babylon
"Respiration (Flying High Mix)" Black Star Respiration (VLS)
"Cold Blooded" 2000 Common, Roy Hargrove Like Water for Chocolate
"Hurricane" Common, Dice Raw, Flo Brown, Jazzyfatnastees, Mos Def The Hurricane (Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture)
"Network" The Pharcyde Plain Rap
"Hard Hitters" 2001 Dilated Peoples Expansion Team
"Zen Approach" DJ Krush Zen
"Clap!" 2002 Soulive Next
"Guerilla Monsoon" Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch Quality
"X-Ecutioner Style" Linkin Park, Sean C, Roc Raida Reanimation
"Live from the PJs" 2004 The X-Ecutioners, Ghostface Killah, Trife Revolutions
"Appreciate" 2005 LaToya London Love & Life
"Flutlicht" Curse Sinnflut
"Pimpa's Paradise" Damian Marley Welcome to Jamrock
"Right Now" Fort Minor, Styles of Beyond The Rising Tied
"Love Movin'" 2006 J Dilla The Shining
"My Favorite Mutiny" The Coup Pick a Bigger Weapon
"Yes, Yes Y'all" Sérgio Mendes, Chali 2na, Debi Nova, Timeless
"Clean Up" 2007 Strong Arm Steady, Saukrates Deep Hearted
"Give It Up" 2008 Muja Messiah Thee Adventures of a B-Boy D-Boy
"Hold Tight" Skillz The Million Dollar Backpack
"Cause I'm Black" Styles P Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman)
"Hot Shyt" 2009 Wale Back to the Feature
"Live Forever" Cradle Orchestra Velvet Ballads
"Philly Boy" BK-One Rádio do Canibal
"Reality TV" J Dilla Jay Stay Paid
"Slow Down" Chiddy Bang, eLDee the Don The Swelly Express
"Philadelphia Born and Raised" 2010 Meek Mill, Freeway, Young Chris Flamers 3: The Wait Is Over
"Ill Street Blues" STS More Demand 2
"In tha Park" Ghostface Killah Apollo Kids
"Let Freedom Reign" Chrisette Michele, Talib Kweli Let Freedom Reign
"Philly Sh*t (Remix)" Young Chris, Meek Mill, Eve N/A
"The Masters of Our Fate" 2011 Raekwon Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang
"Too Long" Saigon The Greatest Story Never Told
"Million Star Motel" Nikki Jean, Lupe Fiasco Pennies in a Jar
"Riot" Thurz L.A. Riot
"God Knows Why" Nneka Soul Is Heavy
"Mathematics" OCD: Moosh & Twist The Welcome Mat
"Living in Bunkers" 2012 Hilltop Hoods, Lotek Drinking from the Sun
"TNT (Remix)" ¡Mayday!, DJ Khaled, Stevie Stone, Jon Connor, Jay Rock N/A
"Congregation" Talib Kweli, Ab-Soul Attack the Block
"Art Imitates Life" 2013 Talib Kweli, Rah Digga, ALBe. Back Gravitas
"Try Again" k-os Black on Blonde
"Bird's Eye View" Statik Selektah, Raekwon, Joey Badass Extended Play
"Thought Process" Tony Touch The Piece Maker 3: Return of the 50 MC's
"Codes & Cab Fare" Black Milk No Poison No Paradise
"Rapid Eye Movement" 2014 Pharoahe Monch PTSD
"The Imperial" Statik Selektah, Action Bronson, Royce da 5'9" What Goes Around
"Money Makes Us Happy" 2015 Skyzoo Music for My Friends
"Immortals (Remix)" Fall Out Boy Make America Psycho Again
"Extradite" Freddie Gibbs Shadow of a Doubt
"Wishin' II" PRhyme PRhyme (Deluxe Version)
"Rise Up" 2016 Del the Funky Homosapien, Murs, Fashawn Street Fighter V soundtrack
"Nobody but Me" Michael Bublé Nobody but Me
"America" 2017 Logic, Chuck D, Big Lenbo, No I.D. Everybody
"Who Want It" David Banner, Watch the Duck The God Box
"Ng'yekeleni" Cassper Nyovest Thuto
"Nobody" Rapsody, Anderson .Paak, Moonchild Laila's Wisdom
"Roman Candles" 2018 The Alchemist, Roc Marciano Bread
"Diamond Cutters" Roc Marciano Behold a Dark Horse
"Crowns for Kings" 2019 Benny the Butcher The Plugs I Met
"Education" Freddie Gibbs, Yasiin Bey Bandana
"Yah Yah" 2020 Eminem, Royce da 5'9", Q-Tip, Denaun Music to Be Murdered By
"Hustle Don't Give" Apollo Brown, Che Noir As God Intended
"Fight the Power: Remix 2020" Public Enemy, Nas, Rapsody, YG, Jahi, Questlove What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?
"The Black Renaissance" Sa-Roc The Sharecropper's Daughter
"Ishkabibble's" Westside Gunn Who Made the Sunshine
"The Healing" Statik Selektah The Balancing Act
"Pravda" Your Old Droog, Mach-Hommy, El-P, Tha God Fahim Dump Yod
"Momentum" Russ, Benny the Butcher Chomp
"Rolling 110 Deep" 2021 DJ Kay Slay Accolades
"When We Move" Common, Seun Kuti A Beautiful Revolution, Part 2



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  2. ^ a b Cooper, Barry Michael (2017-11-01). "The Roots' Black Thought on Philadelphia Style. And His Beard". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
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  17. ^ "The Paybacks". XXL. 2006-08-18. Archived from the original on 2009-03-13. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
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  22. ^ "Drinking from the Sun (Deluxe Version) Hilltop Hoods". iTines Preview. Apple Inc. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  23. ^ "NEW TRACK: NNEKA – "GOD KNOWS WHY" FT. BLACK THOUGHT + MP3, BET 106 & PARK TODAY, & TOUR DATES". Giant Step. Giant Step. 6 March 2012. Archived from the original on 8 September 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  24. ^ Yolanda Sangweni (20 March 2012). "New and Next: Meet Nigerian Soul Singer, Nneka". Essence. Essence Communications Inc. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  25. ^ Black Thought Talks Lifestyle Change, Confirms Talented Mr.Trotter Still in Works & More Archived 2013-04-25 at the Wayback Machine. (2013-02-26). Retrieved on 2013-08-25.
  26. ^ ?uestlove to Publish Memoir, Black Thought Working on Solo Album With Jim James, TVOTR's Tunde | News. Pitchfork (2013-02-27). Retrieved on 2013-08-25.
  27. ^ "Black Thought Working On First Solo Album". 2015-04-17.
  28. ^ "Rise Up feat. Del the Funky Homosapian, Murs, Fashawn, Quest Love, Black Thought & Domino". 2016-02-15. Retrieved 2015-02-15.
  29. ^ Madden, Sidney (2017-12-14). "Black Thought Shows Off The Art of the Unrelenting Freestyle". NPR.
  30. ^ Cobb, Jelani (2017-12-17). "The Lesson Of Black Thought's Viral Freestyle". The New Yorker.
  31. ^ Yoo, Noah (2018-05-25). "The Roots' Black Thought & 9th Wonder Announce New Project". Pitchfork.
  32. ^ Rose, Jordan (August 28, 2020). "Black Thought Shares New Track "Good Morning" f/ Pusha-T, Killer Mike, and Swizz Beatz". Complex. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  33. ^ 50 Greatest Rappers of All Time. Accessed on August 28, 2020.
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  36. ^ Edwards (2009), p. 133.
  37. ^ a b c Edwards (2009), p. 290.
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  39. ^ Coleman (2007), p. 377.
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  43. ^ Rapsody – Related. AllMusic. Accessed on August 28, 2020.
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  45. ^ "Shad raps about school, spirit & inspiration". Retrieved August 28, 2020.
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  49. ^ DeFore, John (15 March 2011). "Yelling to the Sky: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 March 2012.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit