Black Thought is very much a figurehead within the older hip-hop community. With his career origins in the mid-1990s, Black Thought’s primary attraction is his lyrical ability and extremely conscious lyrics alongside a very soulful and jazz-inspired type of sonic. The rapper is also a known poet, infusing his work with a literary poise.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, the rapper (real name Tariq Trotter) was born to parents who were both part of the Black-Islamic religious movement, The Nation Of Islam. As a result, his music is extraordinarily Afro-centric and politically controversial.
Although Trotter is extremely lyrical and has a distinct flow, in an interview with Pitchfork, the rapper explained who helped him develop his style. The emcee cited George Clinton as an inspiration for his early musical influences.
Reminiscing about the P-Funk icon, Trotter stated, “I remember a certain level of creative freedom in the atmosphere in the late ’70s. It was infectious. And it was traceable back to a few artists, one of whom was George Clinton and all the different configurations of his collectives.”
He continued, “When I think of One Nation Under a Groove, I’m immediately taken back to sliding across the backseat of a big body vehicle, one of those gas guzzlers like a Nova, back in the day before seatbelts was a thing. That was the soundtrack. It transports me to the safe space of community I had as a young person.”
However, there was one emcee who Trotter claimed changed his style forever, and that artist was the iconic Brooklyn rapper Big Daddy Kane. Elaborating on why he was so inspirational, Tortter divulged, “Questlove and I were a group at that point, and Kane revolutionised my style of storytelling and influenced my cadence. He was one of the first rappers I heard rhyming in iambic pentameter, in that Shakespearean flow.”
He concluded, “I feel like the lexicon from which Kane put his bars together—the word bank from which he withdrew—conjured so much new imagery for me.” You can hear his favourite track ‘Long Live The Kane’ below.