iLL-LITERACY’s New Album ib4the1.1: Hip-Hop For Us Nerdy Kids of Color

By Guest Columnist Dec 10, 2009

By Jamilah King Here’s a question I spent a good portion of my college days grappling with: How do you break down that pesky white supremacist capitalist patriarchy? Answer: "Kool-Aid." Wait, that sounds wrong. But according to ill-literacy, a Brooklyn-based, California bred performance arts collective, it’s a start. The group just dropped the first chapter of their first album, ib4the1.1, an eclectic, well-produced nod to all those nerdy kids of color who grew up outside the margins. And the best part: it’s free. The group’s members have got some impressive racial justice stats in their own rights. Adriel Luis’s (aka Drizzletron) "Slip of the Tongue" is still well known in spoken word scenes across the country. Nico Cary (aka N.I.C) is in the process of editing The Audacity of ‘Post-Racism.’ Dahlak Braithwaite already has two albums under his belt and is a Def Poetry veteran. As a performance arts collective, ill-lit has traveled around to college campuses around the nation to unite students of color. But they’re careful not to be preachy about it. By their own admission, their music is out of the ordinary. And with musical influences that range from Fela Kuti and the De La Soul, the album’s mood changes from silly to introspective. But the album isn’t just different to be different. The group’s marketing style is probably its most innovative component. They’ve branded a new term to categorize their music: digi.ill.funk. It’s an open-source inspired approach to music, one that incorporates listener interaction in every phase of the album-making process, from conception, to production, and distribution. The goal? To create a community-oriented approach to music — so you can rock their shit, for free. Watch ’em:

iLL-Literacy Experience: The Live Show from ill-literacy on Vimeo.

Listen: Download: Jamilah King is the associate editor of Wiretap magazine.