You’d be forgiven for not thinking of Minneapolis as a hotspot for hip-hop; the city is better known for its long, cold winters than its urban atmosphere. But 25 years after Purple Rain, the Twin Cities are producing nationally recognized hip-hop acts such as Eyedea & Abilities, Brother Ali, Atmosphere, P.O.S., and Doomtree. Many of these artists collaborate in a friendly, neighborly, multiracial manner that is all too rare on the coasts. They’re also creating some of the most adventurous hip-hop today.
One of the rising stars of this scene is rapper and singer Dessa, also known as “Dessa Darling of Doomtree.” Born Margret Wander, Dessa is a published poet, has a degree in philosophy, and teaches at a music college. She got into hip-hop by way of the spoken-word scene and also because she happened to live next door to most of Doomtree. (Remember what I said about neighborliness?)
But no matter what brought her to hip-hop — what Dessa brings with her is a fierce intelligence and beautiful musicality. NPR described her as a combination of Dorothy Parker’s wit and Mos Def’s beats, but she’s actually more original than that. On her recently released debut solo album, A Badly Broken Code, she uses her songs to create characters and short stories that explore the many meanings of “family” in an urban setting. She also combines hip-hop with classical music through the song “Chaconne,” which was inspired by Bach. And the combination works both ways. Dessa is also a member of a mostly female a cappella act, the Boy Sopranos, in which the singers sometimes vocalize hip-hop beats behind more or less traditional choral arrangements.
DESSA: The Loft, Saturday, February 20, 9:30 p.m. 858-534-8497. $10.