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The Upcycled Self: An Evening with Black Thought from The Roots

Book signing to follow. Books will be available for purchase at the event. Visions and Voices will also provide free signed books to USC students on a first-come, first-served basis.

Admission is free.

We are no longer accepting online reservations for this event. Rush tickets will be available at the “General Check-in” tables in front of Bovard Auditorium. Check-in opens at 6:15 p.m.

“Tariq Trotter . . . could be hip-hop’s Dostoyevsky. Like the Russian novelist, Mr. Trotter has refined literary fire from the soulful furnace of pain and suffering.”—The New York Times

Tariq Trotter—better known as Black Thought—is the platinum-selling, Grammy-winning co-founder of The Roots, and one of the most exhilaratingly skillful and profound rappers the culture has ever produced. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop and Trotter’s brand-new book, The Upcycled Self: A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are (November 2023), Trotter will discuss his life and work in an intimate conversation with Jason King, Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music.

Trotter’s story begins with a tragedy: as a child, Trotter burned down his family’s home. The years that followed are the story of a life snatched from the flames, forged in fire. In The Upcycled Self, Trotter explores the four powerful relationships that shaped him—community, friends, art, and family—each a complex weave of love, discovery, trauma, and loss. But beyond offering the compellingly poetic account of one artist’s creative and emotional origins, Trotter tells a beautifully bluesy story of a boy genius’s coming of age that illuminates the redemptive power of the upcycle. 


Tariq Trotter—aka Black Thought—is one of the most prolific, prescient, and powerful voices in Hip Hop. Co-founder of The Roots and a critically acclaimed solo artist, actor, writer, producer, and creator, he has won four Grammy Awards and three NAACP Image Awards. The Roots have released eleven applauded albums and have been a mainstay of late-night television for over a decade as The Tonight Show house band. Trotter co-produced the Grammy Award–winning original Broadway cast recording of Hamilton and made his theatrical debut in Black No More.

Jason King, Dean of the USC Thornton School of Music, is a multitalented Canadian American scholar, journalist, author, musician, performer, producer, songwriter, radio and video host, and event curator. Before his appointment at USC, King was chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, where he also served as a James Weldon Johnson Associate Professor. King has taught classes for more than two decades on popular music history and geography, identity and cultural politics, artist development/A&R and music marketing/branding, and the social aspects of music technology. King is an internationally recognized music journalist and cultural critic whose work has appeared in Pitchfork, The Village Voice, The Root, and Vice, among others. King is an inaugural member of the Hip-Hop Culture Council at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Presented by USC Visions and Voices in partnership with the USC Thornton School of Music. Co-sponsored by the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs.

Event Details

  • Alicia Quihuis
  • Brooklyn Nelson
  • Sofia Frandsen

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