By Eddy Lim
There’s a strange phenomenon involving Tariq Trotter, aka the legendary emcee Black Thought. Ask anyone who knows anything about hip hop and you’ll most likely hear one word about the rapper – underrated. For some reason or another, Thought seems to fly under the mainstream radar, or simply swept under the rug. Perhaps people seem to lump him together with The Roots, one of the greatest hip hop bands of all time, and as such may tend to dissociate Thought as a solo artist.
However, that soon may change.
Released on June 1, Streams Of Thought Vol. 1 is an exemplary collaborative effort between Black Thought and esteemed producer 9th Wonder. The joint project was announced at the beginning of 2018, and more than lives up to its hype. After Black Thought’s monumental 10 minute freestyle with Funkmaster Flex took the internet by storm, it was clear that the world was crying out for more hip hop with real substance and significance.
At 46 years old, Trotter has aged like a fine wine, maintaining and even improving his lyrical abilities since the 90s. Simply saying that Thought’s bars are ‘clever’ would be a huge understatement. Thought’s personal history, diverse range of references and jabs are seamlessly woven into his characteristic flow, critically reflecting his years of experience in the game. His voice is a deadly weapon; not only does he spit fire, but venom and daggers tenfold. There are no choruses, no hooks or gimmicks. Just unrelenting streams of unadulterated genius that make it seem like he’s emulating his legendary episode on HOT 97.
Instead of The Roots, production duties are handled by 9th Wonder. It’s classic 9th – come prepared with your neck brace and fire extinguishers. While the beats feature heavy hitting, soulful drums in addition to extremely tasteful sampling, they never feel too busy or overpowering, and allow Thought and other featured guests to freely take centre stage. Rapsody and Styles P go bar-to-bar with Thought on “Dostoyevsky” and “Making a Murder” respectively, which in itself is no simple feat. KIRBY adds an element of contrast with her soothing vocals on “Thank You,” and is a welcome addition to the EP.
While this isn’t Thought’s first attempt at releasing his own solo material (Masterpiece Theatre was scheduled for release in 2001 but was eventually absorbed into The Roots’ Phrenology), this EP certainly won’t be his last. Thought and 9th have promised more content in the near future, and we can only cross our fingers for a release announcement soon.