Rapper Black Thought of the Roots is in the studio recording his debut solo album, Masterpiece Theatre, which is scheduled for an early summer release on MCA Records.
Black Thought (born Tariq Trotter) is working with a number of hip-hop's top producers on the album, which will come from a more conventional hip-hop perspective than the live-instrument approach the Roots have pioneered. ?uestlove, the band's drummer, produced two songs for the album, and is the only member who will appear.
"The difference between a Black Thought album and a Roots album is the texture, the instrumentation," the rapper said recently. "The Roots albums are completely live instruments; the Black Thought album is different [types of] production."
Among other producers cutting tracks for Masterpiece Theatre which will feature no live instruments are Pete Rock; Slum Village's Jay Dee; Japanese trip-hop master DJ Krush, who produced the "teaser" single "Hardware," which came out in November; and Scott Storch, the Roots' original keyboardist, who provided the riff on Dr. Dre's 2000 hit "Still D.R.E." Also behind the boards are Hedrush, who produced several tracks on Dead Prez's Let's Get Free; Rockwilder, who produced the Mos Def-Pharoahe Monch-Nate Dogg collaboration "Oh No," from the various-artists album Lyricist Lounge 2; and Philly's Chaos.
Following Roots human beatbox Rahzel's 1999 LP Make the Music 2000, Masterpiece Theatre will be the second solo effort from the Philadelphia crew, which released its fourth album, Things Fall Apart, in '99. (?uestlove recently completed a jazz album titled Philadelphia Experiment with acclaimed bassist and fellow Philadelphian Christian McBride that will be out this spring.)
Black Thought is also starting to make moves on the silver screen with his first lead role in "Brooklyn Babylon," directed by Marc Levin, whose highly acclaimed 1998 film "Slam" starred poet/rapper Saul Williams. "Brooklyn Babylon," co-written by Levin and veteran hip-hop journalist Bonz Malone, follows the story of a rapper who falls in love with a young Jewish woman. It was recently screened at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah, and will be released in theaters later this year, according to a Roots spokesperson.
"That's my demo. I'm tryin' to get some acting credibility, get some other work," Black Thought said. "Right now, it's like a hobby; [rapping] is my day job."
The performer will also appear alongside Omar Epps and Paul Sorvino in director Michael Rymer's "Perfume," also due later this year, and had a small part in Spike Lee's 2000 film, "Bamboozled."