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Ill Doots: Eight Doots Who Love Living.

December 4, 2014
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Ill DootsText and images by Matthew Leister.

Walk into this South Philly space you get a sense of the talent in the room. The walls are plastered with tapestries and original paintings. An old wooden piano sits in the corner of the room, between a set of stacked keyboards. In the opposite corner sits a sparse drum kit. The center of the room is, of course, the Mac.

Five of the eight members of hip-hop band ILL Doots inhabit the environment, affectionately dubbed the Tasker House. They all have formal training as musicians or artists from University of the Arts. They are a well-rounded group who inject their soundscapes with rock, jazz, funk and even more random sources, like Willy Wonka.

Wonka Beats, created by Sly Tompson, the bassist, sometimes producer and one of the musical leaders of the group, is a collection of beats created with samples from the “Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory” soundtrack. Every week, friends and fans can submit their bars and the band distributes the final product on “Wonka Wednesdays.” Their music is interactive.

“We make the audience a part of the band,” says percussionist Chubbs.

ILL Doots boasts two MCs, Phantom and E. Texan (Extraterrestrial Texan), two guitarists, BPad and Guitarlo DeCarlo, keyboards by B Young and drums by Rodney. Production duties can be handled by any member of the group, and have been for the past five years of the band’s existence. They feel they’ve built something greater than themselves. They’ve the built the #illmovement.

“This is a movement that involves YOU,” E. Texan expresses to fans in a video on their website.

The movement is about more than the group. It is about the community. It is about living life to the fullest, the way it should be lived, whatever that may entail. Musicians, artists and other creative people are encouraged to join in the lifestyle. “ILL” stands for “I Love Living.”

“It’s about uplifting people through music,” Phantom explains. “We are here to empower. We rap for what we aspire to be. We rap the present and the future.”

“It’s about the whole movement coming together and creating something brilliant, creating art,” Rodney adds.

Watching ILL Doots rehearse is like watching them play a show. Every single moment is practiced to perfection – the stage banter, the chants for the audience, the MCs emerging from the back room (as opposed to backstage) as they play their live introduction, “Untitled.” The energy is astounding. Every member is vital to the experience. Nothing is wasted. Despite the amount of playfulness and slick jam moments, it is all planned.

“Improv is just rehearsal over and over until it is perfect,” Rodney says.

Phantom pulses with energy, bouncing to the music as he chants, “That’s enough with them false hopes,” over and over again. His spirit is infectious and lets you know he means business.

Tex’s mellower and his happy-go-lucky style seems to put everybody at ease. He and Phantom work well together as dueling MCs and collaborators. They have entirely different flows, technically and stylistically, but they seem to be a yin-and-yang match.

Unlike most bands, especially in hip-hop, ego doesn’t seem to drive either MC or any other member of the group. It is a collective built on collaboration, respect and, most of all, talent.

Their new album, Future Dia(NA)log, is out now and their work with other artists will produce tons of new music in the near future.

“There is no contradiction between our music and our lifestyle,” Phantom declares.

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