In the spirit of giving back to his hometown, Philadelphia native Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of the Grammy Award-winning hop-hop crew, The Roots, is hosting “Let’s Move It Philly,” a charity concert party taking place on Saturday, February 18. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The musical event, benefiting the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, will be held at Sigma Sound Stage, formerly the site of the historic Sigma Sound Studios, located at 212 N. 12th Street.
“Let’s Move It Philly!” uses hip-hop as “a catalyst to spread awareness about the growing obesity problem in underserved communities. The evening will feature special performances by Trotter and his Roots band mate, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, as well as DJ Rich Medina, DJ Diamond Kuts, Nikki Jean and Money Making Jam Boys.
Despite The Roots’ busy schedule as the “house band” on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” along with a multitude of recording and performing commitments, Trotter became involved in the GrassROOTS Community Foundation after a reunion with an old friend.
“I guess two years ago now, there was an event at Warmdaddy’s — like a ‘get to know Black Thought’ kind of thing,” Trotter said during a recent interview. “I went down there, and I spoke to a bunch of people, and there was a bunch of artists with submissions of their interpretations of a portrait of me. I went down there and just kind of sat on the stage and told my story in short.
“At that event, I made contact with a friend who, when she was going for her master’s at Temple, was my upstairs neighbor. Her name is Janice Johnson Dias. I hadn’t seen her in quite a few years — since we both lived in Philadelphia, but now we both own homes about 10 minutes away from each other in North Jersey. She told me she was a professor at John Jay (CUNY), was traveling the country on this health initiative, stressing fitness and addressing sexual and mental and physical health issues to young girls around the country, and she was getting grants to do her projects.
“We both have daughters who are about the same age — maybe a year apart — and she asked me to participate in a fundraiser that she was doing a year ago in Philly. It was at the Blockley. I did the show, and from that point on we’ve been working in concert in this organization. She asked me to come on board and help get this organization started, and she kind of took a sabbatical from her regular teaching gig and is focusing her energies on this GrassROOTS thing. It was an opportunity and one of those things where, ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I felt like she had come back into my life to use my influence for the forces of good.”
It is significant that “Let’s Move It Philly,” the first step in a 13-city initiative that will address obesity in the African-American community, will take place at Sigma Sound, where the lion’s share of the unforgettable R&B and soul classics known as “The Sound of Philadelphia” were created. Trotter described his return to the building as a “homecoming,” saying, “Sigma is the first major studio that The Roots worked in, and we recorded our first couple of albums there. It’s definitely a Philadelphia historic landmark, if not a national one.” With the legendary sound studio now converted into a performance venue, Trotter is excited about what will take place within its walls on February 18.
“You can expect to see some great Philadelphia DJs such as DJ Diamond Kuts and Questlove of The Roots and legendary DJ and poet Rich Medina,” he said. “You can expect to see artists that work in conjunction with the GrassROOTS organization like Nikki Jean and myself, and some of the MCs that you hear on Roots albums. So it will be very loose. It’s not as structured as going to a Roots concert. It’s not very traditional in that sense, but it’s like a meeting of the minds to celebrate having a successful first year as the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, and to get like-minded individuals on board with us, moving forward.”
Proceeds from the 2012 concert will benefit C.H.I.C.K.S. (Creating Healthy Informed Confident Knowledgeable Selves), a GrassROOTS after school program for girls at Harding Middle School, located in the Frankford section of the city. C.H.I.C.K.S. focuses on health, literacy, wellness and professional skills. To purchase tickets, visit www.grassrootscharityconcert.eventbrite.com.