by Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer
The subject of Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter’s new book, “The Upcycled Self” is the Roots rapper himself. The co-leader of “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” band is an actor, college professor, stand-up comic, and now author.
But there’s another character in Trotter’s book — subtitled “A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are” — that plays just as significant a role in the tale Trotter has to tell.
That would be the city of Philadelphia, where he grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.
“The values that city stamps on its youth are like brands seared into our flesh,” he writes in the book’s prelude. “Our history leaks a particular radiation into the blood of those born within its city limits. Loyalty, fight, pride, honor.”
“My only experience as a young person was the Philadelphia experience,” Trotter, 50, says. “And Philadelphia is the sort of place that can and will chew you up and spit you out. It’s very much survival of the fittest,” he told The Inquirer over the phone before a taping of the Fallon show.
In a whirlwind week — so busy he had to reschedule The Art of the MC class the rapper teaches at New York University, Trotter was getting set for a book tour that will bring him back to Philadelphia. He now lives in north Jersey to ease the daily commute to Manhattan, which began in 2009 when the Roots took the house band job with Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.