Roots vocalist Tariq Trotter, AKA Black Thought, recently sat down with the New York Times for a wide-ranging interview discussing everything from his favorite Philadelphia barbers to the time he burned down his family's house as a youngster growing up in Mount Airy.
As Trotter told the Times, burning down the his family once lived in is one of his earliest memories. He was 6 at the time, and had a habit of burning off the limbs of plastic green army men to "make it seem like they were wounded."
In one incident, however, Trotter said the "lighter got too hot," causing him to throw it against some curtains, causing a fire:
The incident, Trotter said, resulted in his brother being arrested after fighting with firemen who he accused of destroying furniture and stealing jewelry. The Roots emcee added that the event likely put his brother on a path that lead in and out of prison:
Trotter also discussed the murder of his mother, who was killed when the rapper was just 16 years old (his father, meanwhile, was killed before Trotter turned one). As the rapper explains, his mother was addicted to crack cocaine at the time, and regularly went "AWOL for a day."
After his mother once went missing for an entire week, Trotter told the Times, his family began calling jails and hospitals. They eventually found a woman in the morgue who matched her description, and the woman later turned out to be Trotter's mother after dental records were used to verify her identity.
Trotter's mother had been stabbed to death, the victim of "a 22-year-old dude who lived a few blocks away" from her in Southwest Philly, police would later learn.
"He was arrested and was supposed to have gotten the death penalty, but then through some clerical error, there was almost a mistrial and he had to be tried again," Black Thought told the Times. "He was found guilty again in the second trial, and he is serving a life sentence."
Trotter added that the incident, while tragic, inspired him to be resilient and pursue music, causing "that tragic experience [to] become a positive motivation."
"I said to myself: 'I'm going to win, and I'm going to be a success,'" Trotter said. "My mom would want me to achieve greatness in life."