Throughout his 20-plus year career Black Thought has been responsible for composing some of the most cinematic verses to be put on record. Whether he was documenting the stress of a failed courtship on “Silent Treatment” or narrating the life of a fictional hustler on Undun the Philadelphia MC born Tariq Trotter is a proven master of the linguistic visual arts.
Having added actor to his resume with turns in 2001’s “Brooklyn Babylon” 2014’s James Brown Biopic “Get On Up” and many more, Thought has combined his two interests by discussing films with great soundtracks as part of a new live event series. In April he held his first event, a screening of the 1985 cult classic The Last Dragon, which included a live interview with the film’s star Taimak and El DeBarge, whose family performed the hit “Rhythm Of The Night.”
For the second event Black Thought is screening the celebrated film Juice at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC on July 2nd, followed by an interview with the director Ernest Dickerson, actors Khalil Kain & Jermaine Hopkins and Rakim, who performed the title track “Juice (Know The Ledge).” The afternoon will close with a live performance from Rakim, Black Thought, and J. Period.
WatchLOUD spoke with Black Thought about what inspired the series, the influence of Juice and who he would want to play him in the biopic of his group.
WatchLOUD: What inspired you to start this film series?
Black Thought: There are certain films that had such an impact on me as a young person that they contributed to my decision to pursue a career as an artist. Often it was about how the actual screen performances captured me. But on rare occasion, the chemistry, synergy and balance between what took place on screen and what took place musically on the soundtrack inspired me in a far greater way. This series is one of the ways in which I’m able to pay homage to those performances. It also presents an opportunity to introduce these screen and soundtrack gems to a new audience and in some cases, reintroduce the classics to the generation with whom they resonated the most to begin with.
I know a lot of DJs who say they were inspired to start by watching Omar Epps character Q in Juice. What impact did this film have on you as an artist and/or rapper-turned-actor?
The character Epps plays in Juice was easily relatable to what it was like for me growing up in Philadelphia. My friends and I faced many of the same situations based on coming of age in a community without any creative outlets or positive role models. For the Epps character in the film, music was one of the few ways out of an otherwise uncertain future, so he chose to pursue it. Some of his friends made different choices that set them on a less promising trajectory in life. Even though Epps was trying to do something positive, he was still faced with the very real decision of how to follow your dreams without losing the credibility that allows one to function within the aggressive street environment. I was faced with the same choices in life. I also chose music. I’m one of the rare cases of young men who somehow made it out by the skin of their teeth and managed to realize their potential, but where I come from there was an element of “Q” in all of us. The entire cast was very relatable in the same way, for that matter. They all felt like people I knew personally at the time.
Tupac was only 21 years old with only one album out when he was cast in Juice. What new artist would you cast in Juice in 2016?
I would cast Kendrick Lamar in the role of Bishop in a modern day Juice. I feel they occupy a similar space with regards to relevance, reach and the ability to lead a movement and/or carry a film. Tupac was a revolutionary. Kendrick is a different type of revolutionary, but a revolutionary no less. I believe he might bring a different dimension to the role.
Has your time on television with Jimmy Fallon made you more comfortable conducting live interviews yourself?
To be honest, I don’t think my time in front of the camera has made me any more comfortable as an interviewer. However, I do believe that my audience has a desire to see a different side of me as an artist and within this space, I’m able to give a more intimate and in-depth look into what makes me tick. I’m not necessarily more comfortable, but I realize that it’s for the greater good and I’m willing to sacrifice my own comfort zone for art’s sake.
When the day comes for The Roots biopic who do you want to play Black Thought?
In The Roots biopic, whoever portrays me would have to be someone who came up as a true Black Thought fan. Someone who understands the Philadelphia sensibility and someone who’s aware of the nuances that make me the complicated character that I am. I don’t know how good of an actor Wale is, but I definitely think he understands me as an artist. He’s studied what I do for a long time. He’s always championed my brand and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to make him resemble a younger version of me on camera. This isn’t a definitive answer, but Wale immediately comes to mind.
Details for the screening of Juice are below:
What: Black Thought Presents: Juice
When: Saturday, July 2, 2016 from 12:30 PM to 4:00 PM (ET)
Where: Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker St., NYC
Tickets are $30 for seated, $22 for standing and can be purchased here: bit.ly/juice0702.