The Dessa doesn’t fall far from the Doomtree

The last of team Doomtree to go solo, Dessa’s installment is complex and challenging.

PHOTO COURTESY DOOMTREE

PHOTO COURTESY DOOMTREE

Mark Brenden

Minneapolis emo-rap powerhouse Doomtree has completed their âÄúgoing soloâÄù collection with the collective’s resident female and poet laureate DessaâÄôs literary, almost-spoken word first solo endeavor âÄúA Badly Broken Code.âÄù Dessa’s interpretation of the newfound autonomy of working without a group is certainly, as its title suggests, a code. Her record is full of riddles and mind puzzles, and its sound is complex and not immediately accessible, forcing its listener to put in some work to match its shapes together. Oftentimes, like in the whimsically tuba-driven âÄúDixon’s GirlâÄù and fiddle-heavy âÄúMatches to Paper Dolls,âÄù Dessa’s flow is disappointingly out-of-place and lackluster; the vocal clumsiness fails the otherwise stellar beats. ItâÄôs the fiery moments like the stirring a capella âÄúPoor Atlas,âÄù the soulfully empowering âÄúThe Chaconne,âÄù the lyrically gushing âÄúSeamstressâÄù and the rousingly-hypnotic closer âÄúInto the SpinâÄù where Dessa’s literary rowboat is steered in the Lauryn Hill-ward direction. In these tracks it feels most at home and her style is effective and alluring. One thing that remains stalwart throughout the rocky album, the anchor in the tumultuous waters, is its lyrical quality. Dessa highbrow poetry is resolute, active and versatile âÄî pushing through a mosaic of clever similes, novel metaphors and adroit wordplay. âÄúLove is like liquor / It burns as it moves you.âÄù Or more cheekily, âÄúWhat’s got nine lives and lands on its feet?/ The Doomtree franchise.âÄù Overall, Dessa’s installment is impressive but not earth-shattering. It has its awkward moments, but its wit and its sophistication (this ain’t no party hip-hop) serve to keep Twin Cities hip-hop on its intellectual pedestal.