Today is October 3 — and on this day in hip hop history, two legends are celebrating their birthday, while another legendary album is celebrating its anniversary.
On This Day in Hip Hop History: Black Thought Was Born (1971)
Born Tarik Luqmaan Trotter in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Black Thought enjoyed his first revolution around the Earth on this day in Hip Hop history, 1971. His parents, Thomas and Cassandra, were both members of the Nation of Islam — but unfortunately, Thomas was murdered when Tarik was only a year old. Things would only get worse when Trotter went to high school, as his mother ended up getting murdered, as well.
With such an inauspicious start, he could have fallen through the proverbial cracks. Instead, in 1987 — when he was 16 years old — Trotter linked up with Ahmir Thompson to form a drummer/MC duo. (A third member, Malik Basit — later to be known as Malik B. — eventually would also join the lineup.) Originally named The Square Roots, the release of their debut album Organix in 1993 prompted the collective to change their name to The Roots.
Trotter, for his part, became known as Black Thought, and Thompson became known as Questlove. Though The Roots certainly received their flowers from their hip hop contemporaries, it wasn’t until 2000 that they’d receive their flowers from the mainstream, as well. At that time, The Roots received their first Grammy award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for “You Got Me.”
Black Thought’s most recent single came out in August 2020, when he dropped “Good Morning” with Pusha T, Swizz Beatz, and Killer Mike. That same month and year, AllMusic recognized Black Thought as “one of the most skilled, incisive, and prolific rappers of his time.”
Also On This Day: Talib Kweli Was Born (1975)
On this day in Hip Hop history, in 1975, another hip hop legend was born.
Talib Kweli Greene — who is best known as Talib Kweli — was born on this day in Brooklyn, NY, in 1975. Both of Greene’s parents are in education: his mother, Brenda, is a professor at SUNY-Medgar Evers Collge, and his father is an administrator at Adelphi University. Greene’s brother, Jamal, is also in academia; he’s best known for his work as a professor of constitutional law at Columbia University, but he got his start in the legal field as a clerk for one of the Justices of the Supreme Court.
Kweli first rose to prominence in the rap industry as one-half of the duo, Reflection Eternal. (The other half was producer Hi-Tek.) From 1997 until 2001, he worked the indie rap scene with Reflection Eternal. But one might say that his true “big break” — at least for the mainstream — came in 1998, when he teamed up with Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey) to form Black Star.
Although Black Star only has one album to date — 1998’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star — it’s almost universally considered one of the best rap albums of all time by music critics. Kweli is also a grassroots activist, who frequently contributes his time and money to organizations like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and is known for being vocal about causes involving racism and police brutality.
Also On This Day: Jedi Mind Tricks Drop ‘Violent By Design’ (2000)
Originally formed by Vinnie Paz and Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind, Jedi Mind Tricks would go on to add Jus Allah when they recorded their second studio album. That studio album — which was released on this day in hip hop history — would become known as the critically-acclaimed Violent by Design.
Despite none of its singles clearing any of the Billboard charts, Violent by Design moved 50,000 units in its first week on the shelves. With songs like “Ghengis Khan,” “Retaliation,” and the above-referenced “Heavenly Divine,” Violent by Design was lauded by both the streets and critics alike.
Despite receiving criticism for its virulently homophobic and explicitly violent lyrics, the album established Jedi Mind Tricks as a collective — and Vinnie Paz, as an individual rapper — as one of the main tastemakers who weren’t afraid to shake the table. To this day, both Paz and Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind are highly in-demand and sought after in hip hop music.