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The Upcycled Self

The Upcycled Self

A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are

Black Thought
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From one of our generation's most powerful artists and incisive storytellers comes a brilliantly crafted work about the art--and war--of becoming who we are.


upcycle verb
up-cy-cle ˈəp-ˌsī-kəl
to recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item
to create an object of greater value from (a discarded object of lesser value)


Today Tariq Trotter--better known as Black Thought--is the platinum-selling, Grammy-winning co-founder of The Roots, and one of the most exhilaratingly skillful and profound rappers the culture has ever produced. But his story begins with a tragedy: as a child, Trotter burned down his family's home. The years that followed are the story of a life snatched from the flames, forged in fire.

In The Upcycled Self, Trotter doesn't just narrate a riveting and moving portrait of the artist as a young man, but gives readers a courageous model of what it means to live an examined life. In vivid vignettes, he tells the dramatic stories of the four powerful relationships that shaped him--community, friends, art, and family--each a complex weave of love, discovery, trauma, and loss.

But beyond offering the compellingly poetic account of one artist's creative and emotional origins, Trotter explores the vital questions we all have to confront about our formative years: How can we see the story of our young lives clearly? How do we use that story to understand who we've become? How do we forgive the people who loved and hurt us? How do we rediscover and honor our first dreams? And finally, what do we take forward, what do we pass on, what do we leave behind? This is the beautifully bluesy story of a boy genius's coming of age that illuminates the redemptive power of the upcycle.


Tariq Trotter--aka Black Thought--has quietly affirmed himself as one of the most prolific, prescient, and powerful voices in hip-hop. Co-founder of The Roots and a critically acclaimed solo artist, actor, writer, producer, and creator, he has won four Grammy Awards and three NAACP Image Awards. The Roots have released eleven applauded albums and have been a mainstay of late-night television for over a decade as The Tonight Show house band. Trotter co-produced the Grammy Award-winning original Broadway cast recording of Hamilton and made his theatrical debut in Black No More.


  • Publisher: ‎One World (November 14, 2023)
  • Language: ‎English
  • Hardcover: ‎176 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎0593446925
  • ISBN-13: ‎9780593446928
  • Item Weight: ‎12.3 ounces
  • Dimensions: ‎5.5 x 0.53 x 8.25 inches
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