Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry, Mastering by Jeffrey Konrad
There's a monotonous mood that life sometimes assumes as its avatar, as its look. It feels like a clock stuck on the same numbers, the hands turned into statues, and it makes people nervous -- often it turns them to madness and either shuts them down or grinds them into glimmers and glints of their former selves, beaten into some kind of submission. It doesn't make them dead, but it makes the echoes inside boom like one's knocking a fist against an empty gasoline tank. The members of the Doomtree crew - who call Minneapolis home - seem to have familiarized themselves with the always resurfacing epidemic of social anemia, where the muscles of our bodies are rebelling, creating the mental and physical despondency that gives someone a take on living that goes like this, "What do I have to get out of bed for?" or something just like it. They've come to understand hard luck, by viewing or experiencing. They've stared at hard luck and come to see through it and appreciate it for something that can be countered. They come from a city, like many of us Midwest dwellers, that's gratifying and beautiful, but often overlooked because of the many ways it's not like New York or Los Angeles. They've known people and they've been people who have been overlooked just as badly and they've taken their responses to all of it and churned them into highly literate, cunningly specific, sincere and sharp as hell pieces of prose that they then apply to beats that somehow bear the same characteristics. It's hip-hop that feels as old school, socially responsible and important as any of the material from KRS-One, the Geto Boys and all of the other various MCs making music in the 1980s and 90s, when a message and a purpose in a rap song were actually celebrated and revered, not just seen as commercially unviable. The women that Dessa - an exquisite writer and a sensuous live performer, with bite to her material that accentuates the seriousness and the romanticism of everything - sings about harbor so many feelings that tackle the thought and the chasm between hope and fear. They are strong women who have been abused mentally. They know what they'd like to get out of life, but they're struggling to find the means to bring them to that point. They find their relationships and lives getting spoiled, but they tend to refuse throwing up any white flags. They're the women who will sit down and write a poem or a novella about what they're going through, just to process it all. They're the kind of women who, to feed and put clothes on their children, will work three jobs, if that's what it takes - eschewing the canyon of pity that they could plunge into. Dessa sings, "I'm not a writer, I just drink a lot about it," and she applies very involved sensations and attitudes into the simplest household situations, choosing to describe tension between two people this way, "This room gets smaller with every coat of paint." SIMS, Cecil Otter and Mike Mictlan bring the same mentality to the songs that they write, embellishing these simple tales of everyday struggle with poignant displays of incite and a desire to not get burnt down to the ground and trampled by anything. There are many instances that are declared fever dreams by Dessa and then there are the troublesome fallouts that just need to be clamored through and those are the aspects that we fight and those are the aspects that the Doomtree family rage against in their own constructive ways, with these body shots and these written frustrations. As SIMS raps on "Rap Practice," "That one's for me/Sometimes you make songs for certain people or places and sometimes you just do your own damned thing." Your own damned thing stuns monotony to sleep.