Jul 15, 2022 - Economy & Business

Black Thought of The Roots becomes a venture capitalist

Photo illustration of Black Thought, with abstract shapes.
Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Tariq Trotter is best known as Black Thought, lead MC of hip hop group and "The Tonight Show" house band The Roots. Now he hopes to also become known as a successful venture capitalist.

Driving the news: Trotter tells Axios that he's become a general partner with Impellent Ventures, a firm that seeks to back Rust Belt startups that could benefit from capital connections and mentorship from East Coast tech hubs like New York and Boston.

  • His job title is notable, because it suggests that he'll be much more than a celebrity prop for LP meetings or conferences. That said, Trotter also acknowledges that one thing he brings to Impellent is "the cool factor."

Backstory: Trotter says he was asked a few years ago by Boston tech entrepreneur Philip Beauregard to speak at a Harvard Innovation Labs event, where he also became friendly with Android and Google Ventures co-founder Rich Miner. He began making angel investments, both as an individual and with other members of The Roots, but the idea of a more formal role intrigued him.

  • Beauregard also was making the move from angel to full-timer — first considering his own fund and then becoming the second GP on Impellent. Several months later, Trotter, too, is on board.
  • "I didn't want to do anything that felt contrived," says Trotter, who's already made several trips to upstate New York for Impellent business. "It had to come to be in an organic way."

The big picture: Trotter obviously wants to help Impellent make profitable investments, but he also hopes to make the VC space less intimidating for other musical artists and people from marginalized or underrepresented communities.

  • "My brand is kind of like a bridge, and then people also look to my lyrical content for historical and political commentary, which helps inform them," Trotter says. "When people see me out on the street, they don't feel I'm the sort of celebrity that [is] far removed from them, on another planet with nothing in common ... There's a blue collar rock star thing about The Roots that's approachable and understandable, and I think any company or brand aligned with that will appear more so as well."
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