Physical geography isn't supposed to matter anymore, but there's something about mid-sized midwestern cities. A few years ago the hype was all about Omaha, but I've always been charmed by Minneapolis. The first full-length album by Doomtree Collective MC and former poetry-slam junkie Dessa only strengthens my affection for the Twin Cities.
Dessa rhymes with poetic intelligence and hip-hop wit, and is unafraid to fly her nerd flag when she can get away with it. On the addictive "Dutch," she brags: "Chicago Manual of Style keeps the prose right crisp, Minneapolis edition, well it goes like this," and, "I keep Pope in the glove box, Plath on the dash."
Dessa is clearly influenced by laid-back and smart alternative hip-hop acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets and The Fugees. In keeping with this tradition, Dessa and her Doomtree collaborators incorporate elements from other musical genres. Where Digable Planets used jazz to make hits back in the day, Dessa raps and sings (beautifully) over synths and orchestral instruments including harp, cello, clarinet and vibraphone, bringing indie rock and synth-pop elements into the mix. It works. A Badly Broken Code is currently my album of the year. Thanks, Minneapolis.
Dessa plays the Palace Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 9 PM with P.O.S. and Grieves with Budo. $10.