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Always Expanding His Roots

BY Christine Benedetti | July 13, 2017 | Feature Features

Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter talks about Jazz Aspen Snowmass' Labor Day Experience, Hamilton and working with Jimmy Fallon.
Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter (center left) and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (center right) pictured here with The Roots.

Seventeen years ago Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson broke onto the American music scene when their band, The Roots, earned a Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group. Since then, they’ve become household names as Jimmy Fallon’s band on The Tonight Show. But don’t think Trotter and Thompson are content with that. Trotter took a moment to chat with us about his foray into Broadway, why he likes The Bachelor, and The Roots’ show during Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day Experience.

What’s it like knowing you’re on TV in the living rooms of many Americans every night?
It’s a cool feeling. I feel blessed. It lends validity to all other endeavors. It holds a certain amount of weight in the world of entertainment to be able to say that you’re on any sort of primetime show.

How has performing on The Tonight Show changed your trajectory?
I think I’ve become a little more measured as an artist. There’s a lot more calculation that goes into what I’m putting out because I have such little time within which to do all things non-The Tonight Show. We have about eight weeks in a year that I’m not there. ... There’s no time to mess around.

What’s your favorite part about being on the show?
I really enjoy the opportunity to flex my comedic muscle. I really enjoy playing the games: Password, virtual reality Pictionary, charades—and it gives me an opportunity to act. And I like the reenactments of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette.

2016 was big year for you. Talk a little bit about Hamilton and your role as an executive producer for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.
It was a dream project in that any artist would have jumped at the opportunity to work with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire. I feel like we captured lightning in a bottle. ... It’s the meeting of two totally different worlds: the world of credible hip-hop, and just the theater and Broadway musicals, also credible. Hamilton will be the barometer. It will be pre-Hamilton and post-Hamilton, and Hamilton represents an era or an artistic empire. It was a blessing to be along for that ride.

Will we hear any of The Roots’ new material from your forthcoming album at the Labor Day Experience?
Probably not. We do different interpretations of the classics, and there’s also an element of karaoke. We do covers of some of our favorite songs in different arrangements.

Do you have any expectations on returning to Aspen ?
I hopefully won’t be too put off by the altitude.

We’ll make sure there’s some oxygen onstage. [Laughs]
Keep me a little canister on deck.

5pm, Sept. 3, Snowmass Town Park, $70-$2,750

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