The Upcycled Self: A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are

Books on Tape. Nov. 2023. 3:52 hrs. ISBN 9780593663127. $57. MEMOIR
Hip-hop artist Trotter (better known as Black Thought), cofounder and lead MC of the Roots, pens a fiery and soulful debut memoir. Trotter reads the main text, with shorter sections performed by Allyson Johnson as his mother and Rhett Samuel Price as his deep-voiced uncle. Trotter first describes a pivotal event in his life when, at six years old, he accidentally burned down his childhood home. Reflecting on that moment, he notes that the incident taught him to understand the true meaning of loss. From there, he recounts the struggles and victories that came with growing up in Philadelphia in the ’70s and ’80s. His life was often unstable as he moved from selling crack to becoming a graffiti artist, then gravitated toward rap and hip-hop. Through it all, art became a savior and a lifeline. Throughout this memoir, Trotter dwells upon the four groups of relationships that shaped his life: community, friends, art, and family. He explores these relationships by sharing childhood memories, some humorous and many heartbreaking and emotional. Trotter’s memoir is poetic and deftly written and is made even more powerful by his passionate, heartfelt performance of the audio.
VERDICT A portrait of an artist’s evolution that should resonate with hip-hop lovers and Roots fans alike. It’s short and will leave listeners wanting more.
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