Is there such a thing as black thinking?

Trotter enrolled at Millersville University, 75 miles from Philly, but the music called him back to the city: He met fellow rapper, Malik B., who would join the group Roots; A year later, they performed in Europe, freestyle with the sax and solo. Back in Philly, Trotter lives in an apartment with books and musicians as his companions. “I don’t have a phone, I don’t have a TV,” he said. “I had almost no belongings in my place at the time. Only books, lots of books and CDs. ” Ghansah told me that Trotter had become an autodidact. “He was the reader,” she said. “He put everything in. Everything is a reference, be it a citation. And then it all boils down to his Philadelphia Negro uplift – he loves his Black. ”

Around this time, Trotter discovered the music of Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti, whose example became another lasting influence on his style. “Finding Fela was like finding my spiritual animal,” he told me. He was at Tower Records with his childhood friend, singer Santigold, who was buying a Fela record for her father’s birthday. Intrigued, Trotter listened as Santigold’s father played the piece, which was a revelation. “I was blown away by all the regal sounding music, political messages, how free he was on stage,” he said. Fela’s work ethic – he tends to perform frequently and intensely – and big band sensibility let Trotter understand what it means to be an artist.

“Feels like James Brown meeting Bob Marley with Nigerian flair,” says Trotter. Trotter’s gift as a lyricist is his penchant for turning observation of the world around him into social commentary. When Trotter’s verse hits the street, it adds complexity to the stories of violence that some rappers tend to praise. Foreshadowing an argument legal scholar James Forman Jr will make in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Lock Up Yourself,” Trotter, in the song “Panic!!!!!” from the Roots’ 1996 album (their second longest-running release), “Illadelph Halflife,” rhymes that while “police levels have gone up,” “there’s still crime on the streets.” The lyrics point to Trotter’s perception that in Black communities, a police presence does not guarantee protection. Another song on that album, “Section,” Trotter raps about his shared experience with street runners: “We agree, lying on the corner with the trauma’s unit.” While Trotter demonstrates his familiarity with street life and its prevalence in communities like him, he ignores the violence that often accompanies that life. In an era when gangster rap dominated the charts, Trotter may have fabricated tales of disaster and street disaster. But, he told me: “I was born into a family of gangsters and street dwellers. Both my parents, that’s what they started, they got in. My extended family, my brother. And it never ends well. It is always short-lived. I don’t want the career version of that. Trotter and the Roots crew emphasize that Black Lives Matter is more than stories about violence and street life.

In part, this vision of an intellectually curious and socially interactive hip-hop was inspired by the Roots’ longtime manager, Richard Nichols. “That’s Rich, man,” Trotter told me. “Rich takes us into a concept, like the concept of nuclear half-life, nuclear fallout,” an idea that inspired the title “Illadelph Halflife.” Nichols, who died in 2014 at the age of 55 from complications of leukemia, was a Philadelphia native and student of Black culture, whose thinking became central to Trotter’s intellectual development and band identity. “He’ll throw you a book – Chinua Achebe, check this out. Watch this Malcolm Gladwell,” Trotter recalls. Nichols was (literally) a pupil of Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, architects of the Black Arts Movement and literary successor of the Harlem Renaissance. Nichols brought Trotter into that tradition. Trotter told me: “Rich is the brains of this activity in many different ways. “He is a visionary. He is an artist. He went above and beyond as a manager or producer. He is our prophet. He is Obi-Wan Kenobi. ”

In other words, Nichols envisioned the group as an example of hip-hop’s relationship to a broader black subculture. Because of Nichols, the Roots crew got to know Black Art Movement poets such as Baraka and Ntozake Shange personally. Sonia Sanchez, the Philadelphia poet who pioneered Black studies programs, is Trotter’s “Sister Sonia.” Usually, his lyrics foretell his relationship with this lineage. “I am as dark as the inner thoughts of John Henrik Clarke in the Harlem Renaissance,” he once rapped, naming the leading historian of the Black experience. It’s perhaps no surprise that Trotter has found its way to “Black No More.” Schuyler’s original novel is a classic of the Harlem Renaissance, even if it’s a far cry from that era’s complicated love affair with Blackness. Schuyler derided his contemporaries as racist fools, but “Black No More” is an equally engaging book into the Renaissance’s relentless inquiry into the nature of what is known. what we call the “Black Experience”. And while Schuyler’s novel says that black Americans aspire to be white, Black Thought’s remix asserts that Black’s experiences can be interrogated independently of whites. Is there such a thing as black thinking?

Fry Electronics Team

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