Doomtree alone is a perplexing word. It creates an image of some sort of ominous plant exuding an aura of foreboding darkness.
When applied to the rap group, the word Doomtree becomes even more complex. Its members have described it as, among other things, a record label, a crew, a band and a family. The word and its defining variations are perhaps reflective of the highly varied nature and style of the band.
Doomtree is a rap crew from Minneapolis as well as a label composed of five rappers — P.O.S, Dessa, Sims, Mictlan and Cecil Otter — in addition to two producers, Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak. Each member brings a distinct style to create a wide-ranging group of eclectic variances. P.O.S fronts edgy rock-esque style philosophical rhymes. Dessa fuses deep emotional narratives with poetic elements. Sims spits intelligent rhymes in his signature quick flow. Mictlan fuses mainstream elements with smart verses, and Cecil Otter maintains a self-proclaimed preference toward themes of “love, vengeance and redemption — and the spaces where the three convene.”
“I think all of Doomtree is a bunch of crazy geniuses, whose style can’t be labeled. I don’t think any one of us has any one thing that defines them,” Sims said.
Two of the group’s most prominent rappers, Dessa and P.O.S, exemplify the group’s wide range of talents. Dessa’s reputation is predicated on her artful spoken-word poetry that depicts vivid narratives, reminiscent of female singer-songwriters but with a certain grit and intelligence unique to indie rappers.
P.O.S, while bearing some semblance to this, combines traditional hip hop elements with a certain level of punk rock. In true punk rock fashion, P.O.S has been featured on the bill at Vans Warped Tour and is currently in the rock band Building Better Bombs. Between their five rappers, Doomtree truly runs the gamut of styles and influences.
This is true to the point that each member maintains their own solo career in conjunction with their work in Doomtree and even collaborate within the group. Dessa’s most recent album, A Badly Broken Code features songs produced by Doomtree compatriots Paper Tiger, Lazerbeak and Cecil Otter. As collaborative efforts are an integral part of the Doomtree process, A Badly Broken Code, turned out well to critical standards as well as Dessa’s own standards, despite minor adversity.
“I took a really long time to record and release [A Badly Broken Code] which is kind of risky and inadvisable in the music industry because there is a lot of pressure to release music regularly, but it was my first full-length album and I wanted to it to be a kind of calling card that I’d be proud to show people, and I’m really happy with it, and critics couldn’t have been more generous.”
This intimate collaboration is not unique to Dessa, Sims is working on a new album, Bad Time Zoo, to be released in February, with fellow Doomtree member Lazerbeak. Sims summed up the process between them as a three-step ordeal: Lazerbeak puts out the beats, Sims raps to them and they edit the final track together.
As a big group of highly creative individuals with unique styles, the process of writing music requires little formula other than the intent and desire to get work done and create good art, known as the term “gang theory” coined by Sims, which can get complex. Despite this, Doomtree still puts out joint efforts featuring the entire crew. Their most recent group effort, a self-titled LP, was welcomed by generally positive reviews from critics.
“We started incorporating gang theory into how we approach playing shows, getting shows, putting out a CD,” Sims said. “It worked out really well and we stayed with it.”
What’s even more interesting are Doomtree’s shows, featuring all five rappers and both DJs on stage at once. Few rap groups and musical acts in general feature seven artists onstage at once. Doomtree overcomes this through a mesh of joint efforts on stage, ranging from everyone rapping in succession to members stepping back and letting an individual artist briefly take the spotlight.
“The shows have been working out great. It’s been us kind of tripping over each other and having fun,” Sims said. “The energy of having seven people onstage, having Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger making the beats in the back and having rappers on at once adds a lot to the show. We’re really a dynamic force as far as live concerts go.”
Despite logistical complications, Doomtree is not only able to overcome but thrive while having so many performers onstage and in the writing process at once in a genre where two is the norm. Their ability to do what few others can perceive, let alone accomplish, is why Doomtree can truly can be called creative geniuses.
WHERE: Red 7
WHEN: Tonight, 9 p.m.