Rating: 4 out of 5 Potholes
Maybe it’s something in the water. Maybe it’s something in the air. Whatever it is, there’s something in Minneapolis that churns out great hip-hop artists at an astonishing rate. Of course by now everyone knows about Rhymesayers, and with the success of P.O.S., many people have finally given the Doomtree crew the attention it deserves. Out of the nine-member Doomtree crew comes Dessa, the lone female of the lot, with her debut solo LP, A Badly Broken Code.
In reality, A Badly Broken Code is only a debut in its technicalities. Dessa is well schooled in her craft, and far more polished and refined than the debut title indicates. With years of poetry and writing in her background, Dessa brings thought and detail to every corner of her album. Her songwriting makes evident her roots in spoken word, as she uses vivid language that may at times be esoteric to many listeners. As impressive as the lyrics are, what is most remarkable is Dessa’s delivery. She transitions from rapping to singing (yes, she is a more-than-worthy singer) with ease, fitting her voice to the exact mood of the given track.
Dessa received assistance on the album’s production from Big Jess as well as fellow Doomtree members Paper Tiger, Lazerbeak, Cecil Otter and MK Larada. Together they crafted a backdrop that is sonically cohesive, giving the album a fantastic flow and sense of progression. Melancholy guitars, shifting drums that pick up just as soon as they drop out, and atmospheric keys all melt together, leaving the listener with a slight feeling of uneasiness. “Mineshaft II” is a fantastic example of how the production matches Dessa with such precision, as she details a haunting love story.
A Badly Broken Code is a bold statement – one that exudes a certain grit and toughness, yet remains fragile at its core. And that’s the key here. Dessa is working with personal and emotional material, and her honesty and vulnerability make this album a pure delight.