Dessa of the Doomtree crew took some time out from her busy touring schedule to discuss the past, present and future of her career. From humble origins in the Minneapolis slam poetry scene to selling out shows alongside P.O.S. on the Every Never Is Now Tour, Dessa has emerged as one of the most diverse and talented artists in indie rap. When she’s not on the mic she finds time to write thought-provoking works of creative non-fiction and poetry and teaches a hip hop diploma program at McNally Smith. Also check out the video for “Dixon’s Girl” from her stellar full-length debut A Badly Broken Code at the end of our interview.
URB: Who were your influences when you first got into writing and performing? DESSA: It was a writer of creative non-fiction named Dave Eggers, who was …
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.
Three of indie rap’s finest rolled into town on Saturday night and left a trail of nodding heads and rhythmically-challenged, drunk collegians in their wake. P.O.S., Grieves and Dessa all delivered stellar performances as they neared the halfway point of the Every Never Is Now Tour, aptly named for the title track refrain and central theme of P.O.S.’s last album, Never Better.
Doomtree’s Dessa started things off with an outstanding set featuring several tracks from A Badly Broken Code and fan favorites such as “Mineshaft” and “Veteran.” She is an artist who captures the sound of her records flawlessly through live performance while leaving room for subtle improvisation. The versatile singer-rapper-poet-teacher transitions from battle raps to beautifully-sung ballads and makes it seem natural. A unique cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” punctuated her all-too-brief set to raucous applause. …MORE