December 4, 2011

Dispatches from Funkytown #2: The Doomtree Blowout

Used with permission.

For the seven nights from December 4 to December 10, First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry in downtown Minneapolis will be taken over by the top hip hop crew in Minnesota: The Doomtree collective.  Doomtree Blowout VII is larger and more daring than any of the first six and celebrates the release of the collective’s new album No Kings, which received excellent reviews over the last couple of weeks from Pitchfork, the Onion A/V Club, and countless others.

Doomtree is a crew of hip hop musicians that initially came together around 2001 at Hopkins High School in a first ring suburb of Minneapolis, but has since seen some shift in membership to its current, seemingly static, form.  The collective as a whole creates highly literate lyrics to go with music and beats that are strongly influenced by punk rock.  This combination has certainly aided the group’s crossover into the type of indie rap that gets the attention of blogs like Pitchfork, and seems to have Doomtree on the verge of breaking through into the indie mainstream (if such a thing actually exists and if they haven’t done so already).  Now they are undertaking a massive homestand before heading out on a long tour in the new year.

The first five nights of the Blowout will be held at the Entry with each night being curated by one of the collective’s M.C.s who will be joined on stage by special guests.  Then the whole crew will convene in the First Avenue Mainroom on Friday and Saturday night for what I’m sure will be killer shows.  Before they do, though, the collective needs to be introduced to the fine readers of Music is Good:

P.O.S. – The best known member of the collective, P.O.S. (Stefon Alexander) is an M.C. and producer signed as a solo artist to the Rhymesayers label who rereleased his Ipecac Neat album as well as releasing his Audition and Never Better albums.  P.O.S. is known for melding his love for punk rock to hip hop, and he truly is a genre defying artist.  In addition to his Doomtree and solo hip hop work he is a member of Gayngs, where he shows off his soulful singing voice, and he is one of the core members of the dance oriented Marijuana Deathsquads.  P.O.S. is curating the December 7 show at the 7th Street Entry with special guests Marijuana Deathsquads and Poliça.

Sims – Sims (Andrew Sims) is an M.C. and is the collective’s resident angry young man.  His lyrics tend to focus on problems he sees in our culture at large, often focusing on cynicism and consumerism, and they hit with all the gentleness of a semi-truck.  The lyrics to “Burn it Down” off his 2011 solo album Bad Time Zoo quickly sum up Sims’ world view, “you run on fumes, you grind the wheels/the tunnel’s sealed but you’ll never kneel/no making deals/but the wolves have eyes/and they smell the veal/and what’s revealed is each one out for meals/and don’t care which one’s skin they peel back/so I keep the blade sharp for real/because you never know when it comes on back.”  In addition to Bad Time Zoo, Sims released Lights Out Paris in 2005.  Sims is curating the December 4 show at the 7th Street Entry with special guests including Brother Ali, and Astronautalis.

Dessa – Dessa, a/k/a Dessa Darling, a/k/a Margret Wander, started her career as a poet and it was the world of slam poetry that introduced her to hip hop and eventually the Doomtree crew.  In 2010 she released her debut solo album, A Badly Broken Code (my #4 album of 2010), and thereafter toured in support of the album with a full band.  The use of live instrumentation inspired her to rerecord many of the A Badly Broken Code songs for her new Castor, The Twin release and to use a live band for her new album due in 2012.  Additionally, Dessa has continued writing, releasing Spiral Bound in 2009.  Dessa is curating the December 6 show at the 7th Street Entry with special guests I, Colossus, Crescent Moon is in Big Trouble, and Hannibal Buress.

Cecil Otter – Cecil Otter (Kyle Smith) gained a fair amount of fame this year with the release of his Wu-Tang Clan/Fugazi mashup album Wugazi, which can be downloaded here.  When he isn’t mashing together two of the collective’s favorite artists he acts as both an M.C. and a producer.  Cecil Otter has released a number of solo albums including a False Hopes album and Rebel Yellow.  Cecil Otter is curating the December 8 show at the 7th Street Entry.

Mike Mictlan – Mike Mictlan, a/k/a Mike Marquez, is originally from Southern California, but was sent to Minnesota in high school to live with his uncle.  After returning to California for several years the Doomtree draw was too strong and he returned to act as an M.C. for the collective.  He has released a couple of False Hopes albums for Doomtree and a collaboration with Lazerbeak titled Hand Over Fist.  Mike Mictlan is curating the December 5 show at the 7th Street Entry with a slew of special guests including Toki Wright and I Self Devine.

Lazerbeak – Lazerbeak, a/k/a Aaron Mader, is one of Doomtree’s primary producer and beat makers.  Formerly a guitar player with The Plastic Constellations, he released his first solo album, Legend Recognize Legend, in 2010.

Paper Tiger – Paper Tiger (John Samels) is a producer, the collective’s live DJ, and the graphic artist for all of the crew’s materials.  He has released a False Hopes album and in 2010 released his solo album Made Like Us.

If you’re in the in the Twin Cities area, do yourself a favor and make your way to First Avenue some time this week.  If you aren’t in the area, click the above link for the No Kings tour, and check out the Doomtree crew when they come through your local.  You seriously will not be disappointed.

Filed under Dispatches from Funkytown, Hip Hop, Rap