Instagram: @blacxthoughts

Is Ali is a third year Ph.D. Student at Brown’s department of Theater Arts and Performance Studies. He is from California, and his research interests broadly include multimedia art, design, and software engineering as sites of futurist kinship work throughout the African diaspora. Anchored in a three-pronged concept he is currently calling kin-aesthetics, Is seeks to respond to the ways Black social and community life has been disaggregated since the spawn of neoliberalism through critical explorations of the digital and blackness’s relationship to gender, sexuality, and movement as displacement. Most succinctly, Is is concerned with the possibilities at stake when Black people are brought together, left alone, and given free time.

TINY-VIEWS Autumn 2023
Learn a little more about n ï m’s artists

Is Ali
Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.

Since when are you part of n ï m company and how did you get in touch with Naïma Mazic?
I met Naïma in 2019 at NYU, where we were in the same master’s program cohort in Tisch. From our first conversation we got along super well, and over time she told me about the work she does with polyrhythms and her love for jazz and dance. Naïma would often ask me for help or consultation on the projects she was working on, and I’ve always been glad to assist. This is not just for her sake but because I myself learn a lot about musical and dance traditions in the process, which has been helpful for my own work. This history of friendship and mutual support inevitably led to me being a part of n ï m company earlier this year.

What do you find relevant today in the performing arts? 
Relevant means generating or participating in a trend or something that stands out. There’s a bias toward it being in the present. Currently releasing new content here & now.
There is a difference between someone who is the best within a given tradition vs. someone who innovates or expands it or recasts it; an optimizer is different than a transformer. My bias is toward transformers because I see myself as a transformer. I pay more attention to transformers because I think of them as examples of the kind of work I want to do.
I feel like a lot of art has stagnated in terms of transformers, or more precisely that transformers aren’t really getting the attention they deserve in the public eye. So I am currently less interested in what is relevant than I am with contesting the terms and rules which dictate who is relevant and who is not. I feel that ALBUM can be part of that contestation.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently trying to find the time to dedicate to various projects in the queue of my mind, including a mixtape, a website, another website, etc. I don’t give it to myself because I don’t think I am quite ready to make the things I want to make at the standard I’d hope to see from myself. I am building my confidence.
I am currently working on my Ph.D. Learning is an integral aspect of becoming a transformer. Changing the game is a lot harder now because the art world today is already so expansive. It requires a dedication to studying what already is in order to materialize what could be. You need to be diligent in the development of your imagination. So the work I’m doing now involves giving my due diligence to various creative traditions so that I can transform them in a really impactful way.

How / What inspires you at the moment? 
I am inspired by my Mentor. She is a blend of transformer and optimizer; her rapping voice is very unique. It demonstrates different things you can do with the genre. I struggle a lot with my own rap voice so I think about those kind of things a lot. She is also a very seasoned and clever writer, and is always making subtle references to videogames and anime. Most of all, she is the best performer I’ve ever seen. I am so lucky to be able to discuss things with her and even work with her from time to time.
Another inspiration for me is Black Thought, who was my dad’s favorite rapper; he liked him because of his lyrics and rhyme schemes and references. He is an excellent freestyler – an uncommon facet of the trade. He is from the 90s/00s. He is a pillar to me rather than an innovator, but he still inspires me in a lot of ways, including my Instagram page @blacxthoughts.
Finally I am inspired by my parents. Both of them have passed away now, but I think about them every day. I want to be as brave as they were, I want to love my community as much as they did, and I want to bring all of the dreams that they had into fruition. In that way, they not only gave me life but my life’s meaning as well.