A Badly Broken Code
Calling Dessa Darling “multi-talented” might be an understatement. The Minneapolis-bred author/singer/songwriter/rapper/poet does, um, all of those things, and she does them damn well. On her debut album, A Badly Broken Code, the Doomtree-affiliated emcee grabs hold of all her talents and squeezes them into a 15-song, 48-minute rollercoaster of an album that is bound to have something you’ll enjoy, assuming you listen to some kind of music every once in a while.
As a rapper, Dessa has unquestionably honed her craft over the years. Coming from a literary background, she tells layered stories ranging from heart-warming to depressing, and hops on Doomtree producers MK Larada, Paper Tiger, Lazerbeak, and Cecil Otter’s beats and molds them into her own like very few can. Her status as the only female in a crowded collective has given her somewhat of an edge (See: “The Bullpen”), and it only adds a fire to her rapping that we don’t see nearly enough of from other female performers these days.
And yeah, she can sing too. Dessa croons about an almost-made poor decision on “Go Home,” and doesn’t even bother with background music on the emotional, beat-less “Poor Atlas.” The songs are written with a specific style of verse that can only be the result of years of writing stories, songs, poems, and who knows what else, because the metaphors and literary techniques (and Chicago Manual of Style reference) remind me more of what I’d hear in a college English class than on, say, any other hip-hop record.
Unfortunately, the entire album may cause some stomach pains for those trying to digest it in its entirety. From beginning to end, Code varies so widely in style, tone, and subject matter that it’s a bit of a headache to listen to as a whole. You can’t blame her; like most artists do, Dessa went for it all on her first attempt. Over time, she’ll only get better at understanding how to channel her talent and create a slightly more cohesive album. I mean, she’s good enough at everything else.