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Carl(os) Roa hangs out with ILL DOOTS
Playwright, performing artist and former Artblog New Art Writing panelist, Carl(os) Roa, is our newest man on the street. Here he embeds himself with rising local hip-hop ensemble, ILL DOOTS, on the eve of their two-night engagement at the Painted Bride’s Bride Next residency culminating showcase. Check them out November 17th and 18th and BYO pretzels.


Here’s a list of activities I did with ILL DOOTS:

I drank white wine that might’ve actually been champagne, because my primary objective when consuming alcohol is to get drunk first and worry about the taste later; I ate some pretzels that they really really wanted to get rid of – I think they tried to get me to take the whole bag home but the joke’s on them ‘cause I hate pretzels; I helped create a verse with only three words (Grove, Goombay, Lehigh) since I have only the tiniest kernel of musical talent to share with the world; I chair-danced, though to be honest it was more of a chair-shimmy because it’s still not socially acceptable to be the only person dancing in a group of people; I talked about Miami because I will find any excuse to talk about Miami; I also may have compromised my journalistic integrity when I decided to play Mario Kart in Anthony Martinez-Brigg’s apartment. Whoops.

This doesn’t mean that I have nothing to report. Since 2009, ILL DOOTS has existed as a hip-hop collective that seeks engagement with their community. My first introduction to ILL DOOTS was through a show at the Wilma Theater — already an unusual space for a hip-hop collective to occupy.

Ill Doots. Image courtesy of the Painted Bride Art Center.
Ill Doots. Image courtesy of the Painted Bride Art Center.

“Thinking about narrative and working in front of theatre audiences and within theatrical events has really added a lot to how we view our musical performances anywhere now,” said Anthony-Martinez Briggs, one of the founding members of ILL DOOTS. “The characters [in theatre] are bigger than human beings – that’s why they’re on the stage. Sometimes in a musical performance it makes more sense to be Anthony, and a lot of times it doesn’t. When you let that surface be super permeable, Anthony can pop out at any moment and also take a backseat to Phantom.”

Under the moniker of “Phantom,” he has been cultivating the growth of ILL DOOTS for about eight years now, alongside founding members Scott “Sly” Ziegler and Jordan “Rodney” McCree. I’m a fan of using synesthetic language to talk about art, and their music could be best described as mango funk wrapped in a cream-based verse. To put in more concrete terms, ILL DOOTS draws from a variety of musical inspirations, including (but not limited to): J Dilla, James Brown, Prince, The Roots, Notorious BIG, Brian Eno, and Stravinsky. While these influences don’t define their work, they most certainly inform it.

“There wasn’t an exact moment…the music existed, but it needed a vehicle to help organize it for consumption,” said Phantom, referring to the earlier stages of ILL DOOTS’ development when vans were rented so the group could tour to places outside of Philadelphia. Since the group’s inception, they’ve not only demonstrated an interest in theatre, but also in community engagement, making their involvement with Bride Next all the more appropriate.

Bride Next

The Bride Next initiative, started in 2015 by the Painted Bride Arts Center, is a residency program dedicated to elevating emerging artists who are interested in incorporating social justice activism into their work. Seeking to address gentrification in the community surrounding Temple University, ILL DOOTS is currently collaborating with the Painted Bride and AfroTaino Productions.

“It’s a great opportunity to support emerging talent…our work is to explore that intersection of arts and culture and community,” said Marángeli Mejía Rabell, one of the founding members of AfroTaino Productions. “Having the chance to work with young leaders that are social justice activists or public servants and bringing that commitment to cross-sector collaboration is really critical.”

AfroTaino Productions is one of the partner organizations for Bride Next, along with Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, the New Sanctuary Movement, and the Aquinas Center. These organizations are facilitators for the community engagement that Bride Next wishes to foster.

My experience with ILL DOOTS’ “Sounds and Surroundings” workshop consisted of nuanced discussions of gentrification and how it impacts neighborhoods, followed by some musical improvisation based around the subject. lLL DOOTS will be performing some new tracks based on workshops like this one, held throughout North Philadelphia, which will premiere during the Bride Next culminating showcase.

(Left to right) Dexter Prof. Dex Issac, Andrew Chubbz Nittoli, and Anthony Phantom Martinez-Briggs.
(Left to right) Dexter Prof. Dex Issac, Andrew Chubbz Nittoli, and Anthony Phantom Martinez-Briggs.

“Everything is going to start from the music, at the end of the day. I like to make it clear: I do not personally feel like I’m a community organizer. I’m an artist. I’m an advocate,” said Phantom, revealing his humility. “We make music for ourselves, and for people beyond those experiences, beyond our own, with things we don’t understand.”

One challenge brought up by their community engagement efforts was an experience that Rodney (Jordan McCree) had while attempting to put up posters in neighborhoods throughout North Philadelphia. A resident in the neighborhood approached Rodney and began to question ILL DOOTS’ motivations and goals. The ensuing dialogue reminded the group about how much effort it takes to build trust with communities outside of their own. In spite of these challenges, ILL DOOTS has the passion and the sincerity needed to develop these relationships and to ask their audiences questions they’re not used to — questions of how complicit we are in the displacement of our neighbors, of how displacement impacts people of color, and why it’s essential to address the way it’s happening in North Philadelphia.

So, okay, here’s the part where I need to empty my pockets: I’m currently collaborating with Belle Alvarez on a dance piece based around the issue of immigration called “Nuestras Historias”, which will also be part of the culminating ceremony. She’s one of the indigo children and so is ILL DOOTS. If any of this holds your interest, then cancel all your plans on Nov. 17th-18th at 8 PM and reserve your tickets now! Pretzels and white wine cannot be guaranteed upon arrival.


bride next, Carlos Roa, hip hop, ill doots, philly, the painted bride art center