NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “One of hip-hop’s greatest MCs, unpacking his harrowing, remarkable journey in his own words, with enough insights for two lifetimes.”—Lin-Manuel Miranda, award-winning songwriter, producer, director, and creator of In the Heights and Hamilton
From one of our generation’s most powerful artists and incisive storytellers comes a brilliantly crafted work about the art—and war—of becoming who we are.
upcycle verb up·cy·cle ˈəp-ˌsī-kəl : to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item : to create an object of greater value from (a discarded object of lesser value)
Today Tariq Trotter—better known as Black Thought—is the platinum-selling, Grammy-winning co-founder of The Roots and one of the most exhilaratingly skillful and profound rappers our culture has ever produced. But his story begins with a tragedy: as a child, Trotter burned down his family’s home. The years that follow are the story of a life snatched from the flames, forged in fire.
In The Upcycled Self, Trotter doesn’t only narrate a riveting and moving portrait of the artist as a young man, he gives readers a courageous model of what it means to live an examined life. In vivid vignettes, he tells the dramatic stories of the four powerful relationships that shaped him—with community, friends, art, and family—each a complex weave of love, discovery, trauma, and loss.
And beyond offering the compellingly poetic account of one artist’s creative and emotional origins, Trotter explores the vital questions we all have to confront about our formative years: How can we see the story of our own young lives clearly? How do we use that story to understand who we’ve become? How do we forgive the people who loved and hurt us? How do we rediscover and honor our first dreams? And, finally, what do we take forward, what do we pass on, what do we leave behind? This is the beautifully bluesy story of a boy genius’s coming-of-age that illuminates the redemptive power of the upcycle.
About the Author
Tariq Trotter, aka Black Thought, is one of the most powerful voices in hip-hop. Winner of three GRAMMY® Awards and three NAACP Image Awards, he has delivered eleven albums with The Roots and leads the house band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. His albums outside of The Roots include the three volumes of Streams of Thought, Cheat Codes (with Danger Mouse), and Glorious Game (with El Michels Affair). He co-wrote, co-composed, and starred in the Off-Broadway play Black No More and boasts acting credits in The Deuce and Tick, Tick . . . Boom!, among others.With Questlove, Trotter launched the production company Two One Five Entertainment, home to Hip-Hop: The Songs That Shook America, Descendant, and others.
Praise for Tariq Black Thought Trotter and The Upcycled Self
“One of hip-hop’s greatest MCs, unpacking his harrowing, remarkable journey in his own words, with enough insights for two lifetimes.”—Lin-Manuel Miranda, award-winning songwriter, producer, director, and creator of In the Heights and Hamilton
“The lyricist renowned for rapid-fire intellectual freestyle gets a chance to slow down the self-reflection. . . . He’s out to reconstruct his ‘communally built self,’ honoring the many family members who strove to nurture a young man with artistic promise, while their own lives often fall prey to the destructive forces that besiege[d] South Philadelphia in the 1980s and ’90s. . . . The memoir is a deeply moving testimony of a young man who ‘upcycles’ himself by fusing the scattered scraps of family love and wisdom into a life-affirming philosophy.”—The Washington Post
“Tariq Trotter, a founder of the music collective The Roots . . . could be hip-hop’s Dostoyevsky. Like the Russian novelist, Mr. Trotter (also known as Black Thought) has refined literary fire from the soulful furnace of pain and suffering.”—Barry Michael Cooper, The New York Times
“No one has ever been markedly better at rapping than Black Thought, and precious few musicians on earth have perfected their instrument to the extent that he has.”—Jack Hamilton, Slate
“The densely arrayed metaphors, the calibrated poise, and casual displays of erudition . . . Black Thought, née Tariq Trotter, is one of the greats in the pantheon of hip-hop.”—Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker
“A striking portrait of perseverance and creativity . . . Trotter powerfully gives due to the process of self-reinvention that has defined his life: ‘What if we . . . undid the stitches of ourselves that no longer served us, forgave them, and wove new legacies of old scraps?’ Candid, visceral, and written with the hard-won wisdom of hindsight, this leaves a mark.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An eloquently insightful autobiography from an iconic rapper and wordsmith . . . The book’s lyricism, clarity, and tone beautifully reflect Trotter’s facility with words, which he has demonstrated for years in the studio and on stage. . . . The author’s vulnerability, circumspection, and compassion render this an outstanding read.”—Kirkus Reviews