Black Thought, who is arguably one of Hip Hop’s most sophisticated spitters, has settled into his role as a seasoned veteran, but behind all the talent is a troubled past that he has now opened up about.
On Tuesday (November 14), The Roots MC’s memoir hit bookstores and streaming platforms. The Upcycled Self has been published under his real name, Tariq Trotter, and gives readers a close look into the struggles that he turned into creative expression.
In the first chapter of the book, the MC reflects on accidentally burning down his family home when he was six years old and playing with a lighter. During an interview with CBS Mornings that aired on Monday (November 13), he looked back on the incident that sped up his growth.
“My mother was super forgiving about the fire,” he said. “There was something lost in the fire that, y’know, you would never be able to get back … I think a certain innocence, a certain level of security.”
A little later in the interview, Black Thought discussed losing his mother to the crack epidemic
“To lose my mother in the way that I did at the time that I did was — it was my worst nightmare,” he remembered. “Young Tariq, y’know, came to understand that you can’t change everyone, you can’t save everyone.”
Fortunately for him, he was able to find a way to overcome the cards he was dealt through art, which he credits with being his “saving grace” and “salvation.”
His relationship with The Roots co-founder Questlove, however, was just as important to his stability and development. That said, the two have also had their ups and downs over decades of working together.
During an interview with NPR earlier this month, the 50-year-old addressed a fight he had with the drummer during the outfit’s formative years in the early ’90s.
“We had a brief sort of scuffle, kerfuffle, a little 30-second altercation when we were young and just starting out,” he said. “We were displaced, living in London and there was just lots of angst and anxiety … with all the energy associated with anyone’s first time putting out a record. … So, yeah, just the perfect storm of events.
“It led to us coming to blows right quick. And it was the sort of thing that I’d forgotten about it before we left the place [where] it had taken place. But I think it’s the sort of thing that it stuck with him in a different way. Is it a grudge that he’s held? I don’t think so. But I definitely don’t think it’s something that he has ever forgotten.”