Black Thought has revealed what he believes helped Beanie Sigel deliver the “legendary verse” on The Roots’ 1999 album Things Fall Apart that “catapulted his career.”
In a new interview with HipHopDX, Thought revisited his relationship with the former Roc-A-Fella rapper, which dates back to their days growing up in South Philadelphia.
“He’s a couple years younger than me and he had an older sister who was my classmate,” Black Thought explained. “So, when I was in the third and fourth grade, Beans was in the class maybe one year younger or two years younger than me; he was in the classes of some of my cousins who went to the same school. But he lived one block behind my cousin, maybe two blocks away from me.
“So, we played together, we grew up together from the time I moved to South Philadelphia – all of which I talk about in the book. From the time of nine or 10, Beans, or Dwight as I knew him initially, he was a part of my life.”
While the two were part of a rap group during those early years, The Roots’ front man says that he did not realize that, like him, Beanie Sigel had continued to hone his skills as an emcee in hopes of forging a career in music.
“I didn’t know it was a thing of his until we were working on the Roots album that introduced the world to Beanie Sigel,” Black Thought recounted. “And that was just by chance: another close friend of mine who was from the same part of town as Beans and I had a studio at his house, and he was like, ‘Yo, guess who came to my house and recorded some vocals? And they’re crazy.’ I couldn’t even wrap my head around it being the same Beans.”
As for what allowed the much less experienced emcee to hold his own alongside The Roots on their fourth studio album, Black Thought attributes that to practice.
“And it was that appearance on the song ‘Adrenaline!’ that really catapulted his career,” he says. “That’s where he got the work ethic from because he came into the studio with The Roots, and he was doing a verse that had already garnered some street popularity; it was like a legendary verse in the hood that he modified to put on ‘Adrenaline!’ But it took him two weeks to get that take. So he came to the studio every day and our manager Rich would listen to the take and be like, ‘Nah, that ain’t it.’”
Thought continues: “He worked and it got better and better and better. And the performance that you see on ‘Adrenaline!,’ I think, is one of the most energetic, most dynamic introductions to an emcee. Like he came out on “Adrenaline!” feeling like a legend, feeling like a veteran already. And part of that is attributable to the fact that he had been doing that verse for week and a half, two weeks every day.”
Although he recognizes that all artists may not share the same values as him when it comes to music, Black Thought expresses that he feels today’s rappers may not be giving themselves a fair shot at making the types of impressions Beanie Sigel made on his debut.
“There’s something lost in the sort of microwave work ethic of emcees and the way artists put out music today,” he adds. “I think there’s something lost in the “more is more” of it all. Sometimes we can put out too much music in too short a period of time without enough focus on actually producing the vocals, on nuance and on detail and raising the bar. But everybody’s not concerned with that.”
Check out the full clip below:
Black Thought (real name Tariq Trotter) is still doing the media rounds in support of his new memoir The Upcycled Self: A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are, which arrived in November 2023.
explained why he felt now was the right time to release his memoir after over three decades in the game.
“I think now or never; now more than ever,” he said. “I’m at a point in my career and my life and my journey where I don’t have to do anything. Everything that I do is essentially for the love of something, or where there’s an exchange that’s taking place — an exchange of energy.
“It’s about engaging in that which you’re gonna ultimately benefit from as much as — that’s art at its best, right? When the artist, the creator gets as much out of it as the beholder, or when you stand to learn as much from the way someone else receives your art, you know? When that teaches you something about yourself, I think that’s dope.”
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon regular also gave fans an update on the status of the long-awaited new Roots album, revealing the group have recorded lots of music for it and that it’s “definitely coming.”