This summer, for ILL Doots, has been all about preparation—like a volcano building magma before it explodes. “On the surface, it may seem like we’ve been kind of quiet,” explains Anthony Martinez-Briggs (stage name: Phantom) over drinks at Boot & Saddle. “But there’s so much going on behind the scenes.”
By “kind of quiet” of course he means “kind of quiet for ILL Doots,” who have spent the past 6 years playing, dropping tracks, and hosting workshops in Philly and beyond—with nary a sign of slowing down. Their “quiet” period included a handful of live performances, curating shows at their South Philly home, affectionately known as “Tasker House,” and writing and performing the soundtrack to the Wilma Theater’s production of An Octoroon—in addition to recording and preparing for tour. Octoroon’s soundtrack drops later this week, and this Saturday they’ll kick off a 3-week, U.S. tour with a show at Boot & Saddle; while on the road, they’ll also host a series of free workshops teaching music to kids.
If it sounds ambitious, that’s because it is. But the dudes of ILL Doots—”ILL” being an acronym for “I Love Learning”—have never been ones to shy away from a challenge. Since coming together in the U Arts dormitories back in 2009, the Philadelphia eight-piece has consistently challenged expectations of what it means to be a hip-hop band today, marrying cool raps and fresh production with a focus on collaboration, community betterment, and positivity. Originally conceived as a jam sesh between roommates Jordan “Rodney” McCree (drums) and Scott “Sly Tompson” Ziegler (bass), the band added emcees Martinez-Briggs and Kirschen “Tex” Wolford soon after, then slowly grew to the monolith it is today.
These days, ILL Doots is a growing force on the local scene, whose stock continues to rise. Before heading out on tour, I caught up with 4/8th of the band—McCree, Ziegler, Martinez-Briggs, and guitarist Sam “BPAD” Borrello—to talk weekends in the Wissahickon, classic summer jamz, and what they’re most psyched about this fall. Continue reading →