Black Thought Talks Star-Studded ‘Juice’ Screening, Tupac, And The Roots’ Next Album

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One of the ‘90s most influential urban films will receive a much-deserved spotlight this weekend. Juice, the seminal 1992 hip-hop-fueled drama, directed by Ernest Dickerson and starring Omar Epps and the late legendary rap icon Tupac Shakur, will be celebrated in a special screening in New York this Saturday at Le Poisson Rouge.

Hosting the 12:30 p.m. event will be none other than the Roots frontman and the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon emcee Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter. If that weren’t enough to peak your trapped-in-the-90’s interest, there will be a conversation with the aforementioned Dickerson, Juice actors Khalil Kain and Jermaine Hopkins, and celebrated rhyme deity Rakim, who performed the classic title track, “Juice (Know the Ledge)” to the influential East Coast-based movie.

For fans lucky enough to be on hand for the once-in-a-lifetime gathering (there are only a limited number of seated tickets on sale and 100 standing room tickets for $22 at the box office), there will also be live performances by Black Thought, Rakim and J. Period.

In an exclusive interview, VIBE caught up with Black Thought to discuss such topics as his involvement in the screening, why Juice and its platinum soundtrack (featuring Eric B. & Rakim, Naughty By Nature, Cypress Hill, Big Daddy Kane, Too $hort, and Salt-n-Pepa) remains a landmark work, and what fans can expect from the next Roots album. This is history, y’all. – Keith Murphy (@murph71).

VIBE: So, how did you become involved with the screening of Juice?
After we screened The Last Dragon in April, Ernest Dickerson reached out to us about Juice — the 25th anniversary of the film is next year. From there, my team went to work getting all the pieces in place. Saturday will be something truly special with Rakim, Ernest, Khalil, Jermaine, and a couple surprises. Our series is offering the opportunity to introduce film and soundtrack classics like this one to a new audience, or make a reintroduction to the generation who appreciated them first.

What do you remember about the first time you saw Juice at the movie theaters and were you surprised how intense a very young Tupac was as an actor?
I can’t begin to explain how excited I was about all of the familiar faces I saw. EPMD, Queen Latifah, and Treach just to name a few. I’ve always been a huge hip hop fan, so it was major for me to see some of my favorite artists on the big screen. I was also super into the film Lean on Me, so I was excited to see Jerrmaine Hopkins in another film. I was pleasantly surprised by Tupac’s screen presence. As an arts school student myself, I always thought it was dope that he had attended a high school for the arts. I remember thinking that his training in the field of drama had actually paid off with this one. I also felt like that role was going to change Tupac’s life.

You are set to have a conversation with both Juice director Ernest Dickerson and the game-changing Rakim, who contributed the classic title track to the film. How did Rakim influence you as an emcee and why does he still hold a certain mystique 25 plus years later?
Rakim influenced me a great deal as a young aspiring MC. It was his gravitas and tone. I had always suspected that he was a jazz saxophonist or had grown up around jazz musicians. Later in life, I found out my suspicions were true because my good friend, jazz trombonist Craig Harris, confirmed that he and Rakim’s older brother were roommates in college and that a young Rakim was always around them, absorbing that same influence that would later set him apart stylistically from any other MC. I’ve incorporated much of the same approach to my craft. I’ve always considered myself to be the next generation Rakim, sort of a Rakim 2.0!

Are there any other landmark films you are interested in giving the screening treatment to?
There are dozens of other films that I’m interested in screening. It’s kinda hard to decide which one I’d like to do next. I am however, pretty sure I’ll keep with the theme of films with particularly powerful soundtracks.

As a member of the Roots, how hard is it to juggle the extensive yearly touring that you do with drummer Queslove and the crew with your emcee duties on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon?
The Roots are on the Tonight Show 44 weeks per year and five nights per week. This makes all other endeavors very hard to balance. But somehow, by the grace of God, we are able to make it happen without having to compromise the integrity of our concerts, recordings, book releases, fashion collaborations or other screen appearances. We are blessed!

What can fans expect from the next Roots album?
The next Roots album will probably be a return to…Well…the Roots! I think it’ll be a study of what the journey has been. Where it all began. A return to the sonic foundation upon which this brand was built. Every effort of The Roots is essentially a story. This next record will no doubt be a story as well. The story of us.