Anybody paying proper attention knows that Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter is one of the most important rappers the game has ever seen, but that doesn’t mean that The Roots’ frontman gets all due respect. Call it a consequence of three decades as the voice of one of the best hip-hop bands to ever strut the planet – his name doesn’t always get the shine it deserves. Streams of Thought Vol. 1 finally sees Black Thought drop a solo release. A five-song EP, the piece is more a sprint than a marathon, yet the brisk 17 minutes still pack in most of the emcee’s incredible strengths.
Away from the The Roots, Streams of Thought Vol. 1 gives Black Thought the opportunity to collaborate with new people, and he chooses wisely with 9th Wonder. The chop-up-the-soul producer with a super-human ear for classic loops, helms four of the five tracks. “9th vs Thought” is lean, mean, mildly psychedelic funk number, while the snappy percussion of “Twofifteen” isn’t a million miles away from the drums Questlove has been serving Black Thought for years.
This is the rapper’s platform, though, and his dense, looping bars are tightly packed into every track. “Dostoyevsky” sees him liken himself to a mix of the Russian philosopher and Joe Pesci. “Thank You”, produced by Khrysis and the EP’s best song, is Black Thought’s tribute to all positive human beings — and even the enemies — who have motivated him throughout his life, laid down over a sample of D’Angelo’s “The Charade”. In these moments, the star unites his pen game and mic skills in a way that is totally gripping and, as fans will recognize, totally typical. If justice is served, Streams of Thought Vol. 1 will add at least a small surge of new attention to his name.
Black Thought, Streams of Thought Vol. 1 (Human Re Sources, 2018)