PHILADELPHIA – As a teen, Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter got busted for graffiti and was ordered by a judge to perform 150 hours of what he called "scrub time" — cleaning up such vandalism by painting murals.
More than 20 years later, it seems all is forgiven in his hometown. Philadelphia is showing some brotherly love to Trotter and the Grammy-winning band he co-founded, The Roots, by creating a city-sanctioned mural in their honor.
"It's just an amazing blessing and so ironic for there to be a legal mural of The Roots," Trotter said to laughter at a news conference Monday. "I never imagined in my wildest dreams that something like this would take place."
Trotter and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson formed The Roots in 1987 after meeting at Philadelphia's High School for Creative and Performing Arts. They are the house band for NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and their 13th album, "Undun," drops on Dec. 6.
"They remind us ... why we love art, why art is so important, why art is a lifeline, why art can be transformative and why we need it," said Jane Golden, director of the city's Mural Arts Program.
The energetic Golden literally jumped up and down with excitement in announcing the eight-month project, which will include soliciting mural design ideas, creating a storefront art studio for community workshops and developing a "Roots 101" arts education curriculum for students.
The mural site is still being finalized, but it is planned for a funky shopping area known as South Street. The neighborhood features some music joints where The Roots first began playing — and a now-defunct restaurant where Trotter noted he used to wash dishes.
Mayor Michael Nutter, who attended the announcement, said the band is among those on his digital music player and deserves this "long overdue" recognition.
"These guys are heroes because they took their childhood love of music and developed (into) ... respected and talented and innovative professionals," Nutter said.
Thompson was scheduled to attend the event but fell ill. Keyboardist Kamal Gray took his place.
The Roots mural, which is expected to be unveiled next summer, will be one of more than 3,500 across the city.
Mural Arts Program call for proposals: http://bit.ly/uk3kHb
Kathy Matheson can be reached at www.twitter.com/kmatheson
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