The Root's Tariq Trotter on the importance of taking risks

"What I learned over all of these years of personally staying safe is that maybe I shouldn't have."

Musician, actor, and co-founder of transformational hip-hop group The Roots, Tariq Trotter, has warned young creatives against playing it safe. 

Speaking at The One Club’s "Here Are All the Black People" event in New York, Trotter, also known as Black Thought, recounted how he managed to remain in the shadows, despite co-founding the iconic hip-hop group and performing on the "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" every night. 

"On stage, I’d been able to hide in plain sight behind the light show, the sheer sound of the audience and the instruments, the bass player, the acrobatics of it all, and of course, that big ass tuba."

"But what I learned over all of these years of personally staying safe is that maybe I shouldn't have. I come from a place and an era where drawing attention has always been frowned upon so it’s been tough to change that, but by not having a desire to be seen or heard as an individual, I had done myself a disservice and blocked many of my own blessings."

He explained that there were four key cornerstones to personal growth that he attributed to his continued success: Pay close attention to patterns, always know yourself, get outside of your comfort zone, and work hard, then work harder.

To that point, he ended up working on a musical entitled ‘Black No More,’ despite not being the biggest fan of musicals in the first place. 

"I had zero interest in anything related to musicals," Trotter said.

"I hated any dialogue that was followed by a corny musical number. I only took the meeting because the writer of ‘Black No More,’ John Ridley, had just won an academy award for 'Twelve Years a Slave,' so I thought I was going to be in some dope ass movie." 

But from there he explained how he took his own advice and leaned into the process of collaborating on the musical, which is set to launch next year. 

And while the crowd was mostly full of black and brown faces, Trotter’s words of wisdom can be applied to anyone in the creative space who may be lacking the confidence to strive for what they really they deserve. 

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