1. Close Your Ears (intro)
3. Gander Back
4. The Wren
5. Gameshow Host
6. Dots & Dashes
7. Game Over
8. Real Class (interlude)
9. Last Call
11. Sadie Hawkins
12. The Walrus (interlude)
14. Let Me Tell You, Baby
15. Down the Line
16. Kid Gloves
17. Pop Gun War
19. Liver Let Die
20. I'm Talking
P.O.S. - EMCEE/PRODUCER
DESSA – EMCEE
MIKE MICTLAN – EMCEE
CECIL OTTER - EMCEE/PRODUCER
SIMS – EMCEE
PAPER TIGER - PRODUCER/DJ
TURBO NEMESIS – DJ
MK LARADA - PRODUCER/DJ
LAZERBEAK – PRODUCER
Doomtree's steady ascent in the indie world has been credited to the group's DIY ethos and the charisma of its performers. They've worked and lived together since they were kids - sharing money, homes, colds, gear, and stages across the country. Members have showcased at SXSW, toured annually with the Warped Tour, and earned enthusiastic reviews from Urb, Pitchfork, Okayplayer, and CMJ. P.O.S. carried the Doomtree name abroad, touring internationally on the success of his most recent album, Audition (Rhymesayers Entertainment).
Doomtree's upcoming self-titled release is a landmark for the group. It's a beast: 21 tracks of beautiful bedlam. It's the first official release to feature the talents of all nine Doomtree members and it stands to capitalize on the momentum they've built as solo artists. Their existing catalog has already endeared them to fans of punk and indie rock, as well as rap purists. The production on the new disc represents Doomtree's best work: the anthems are victorious, the storysongs are full of dream and intrigue, and the bangers reset pacemakers. The lyricists aren't just clever, they're smart. You'll hear a call for independent thought - about the way we choose our leaders, spend our money, live our lives. But the record is too full of swagger, and too funny to preach to fans. Doomtree is as earnest and authentic as it is brazen and brilliant: part manifesto, part a message in a bottle.
"Doomtree are the hottest hip-hop crew in Minneapolis." -Urb Magazine
"Doomtree is quickly becoming the Twin Cities' next big-time hip-hop crew." -MN Daily.
February 25, 2009
By Kaleb Bronson
Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak
Hand Over Fist
Born into a world of pure consciousness, Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak have gathered platform of street-stroked ideas, futuristic beats and present day rhymes to tip the clock tower within “Hand Over Fist,” the untouchable collaboration of two of Doomtree’s finest.
Like a snow plow is summer, “Hand Over Fist” is pushing all of the weight it can. An album of fiercely revved lyrics spit by Mike Mictlan, and unbeatable beats, samples and snippets by Lazerbeak to capture the soul with.
Each track is a fast-paced, highly intense look at death, life and the fight in-between. Like soldiers of the street, destined to speak the truth about life through intricate flows and magnetized back-beats, scratches and decades of sampled ashes.
From the hype-house intro track ” Hand Over Fist,” to the lyrical knock-out of the outro “Prizefight,” each piece of the album pulls in a plethora of lost information to be unleashed once again in a musical form.
Lost mental stability, climbing the ladder of life, head games, and a political stab to the throat of society; “Hand Over Fist” offers layers of skill, benevolence and bravery all told within 13-tracks of some of Minnesota’s rarest.
Minneapolis’ wizard of music, POS makes a raw, real and riotous appearance on “Shux,” which gathers a funk special, to be washed with the minds of people looking for answers to the present day.
Each track has messages buried deep within tombs of the un-dead, all which are ready to be released into the listeners pleasure palate. Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak are on a trail of un-tarnished intellect on “Hand Over Fist,” that is lined with mental spikes and a psychical amplifying device to the shake the ground with.
March 23, 2009
Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak
Hand Over Fist
Here’s the deal: We get A TON of CDs sent to the Bivouac; so much so that we could probably build an entire other office out of the damn things. But unlike some other sites that tend to let these gems go unnoticed and only talk about whatever Pitchfork decides is cool, we’ve decided to spotlight songs from albums that otherwise get swept under the rug. We call this the “Totes Undrgrnd” mix — jams picked solely based on band name, album art, or if it just seemed weird. Consider this the first installment of many more to come, featuring the less hip, but still worthy tracks to add to your collection.
Mike Mictlan & Lazerbeak :: LA Raiders Hat
We had a LA Raiders hat once. But it was all fancy, covered in rhinestones and made of a really soft felt material. Needless to say, we were not very gangster
The Common Cold says: A very contemporary take on a relationship, delivered in tight, clever verses by Cecil Otter. Excellent music and production, and some real cathartic lyrical moments here. This is the sort of track that moves things along, instead of spinning wheels in any pre-existing notions of a genre. Pop? Poetry? Hip-hop? You tell me. This is brill.
August 29, 2009
5 Amazing Rappers You’ve (probably) Never Heard
In a world where everyone is a rapper, lots of talent gets diluted. We’re in a place where ringtone rappers rule. While you’re busy riding Lil’ Wayne’s spaceship, there’s plenty of fresh and creative rappers out there that are worth your attention. Here’s five you should get to know immediately.
3. Cecil Otter
Cecil Otter is a personal favorite of mine, and is who I consider to be one of the best lyricists in all of hip-hop. “While you played the role of Jesus, I was spilling your wine.” He’s a part of the Doomtree collective, and like B. Dolan, also a part of the Strange Famous crew. Kid Cudi likes to do the man on the moon ordeal, and Otter brings us the lone wolf mentality.
All Things That Rock
May 12, 2009
I’m just going to come right out and say it: Cecil Otter is an emcee with such a powerful command of words and an album so masterfully realized it had to be released once independently, twice on a limited basis for Doomtree Records, and a third time under Strange Famous. You see, in the vast smorgasbord of hip hop offerings available on the east and west coasts there is a largely untapped Midwest scene doing its best to earn its place in the sun. Cincinnati’s Scribble Jam has done wonders to this end, as have acts like Atmosphere, Illogic, Brother Ali, and Binary Star. But somewhere along the line Otter’s voice was lost like a terrific spell of strep throat, and it’s taken the forward thinking of Sage Francis et al to restore him to his stentorian strength.
It’s a good thing too, because Rebel Yellow is the type of record that plays all the way through without so much as even the tiniest impulse from brain to finger that says “change the track.” Pure fire, in the parlance of hip hop. It begins philosophically with a spoken word poetry piece about poetry itself set over a subtle beat. I’m not much into intros, but this one sets the mood for the rest of experience like a Sunday dinner spread. “1999” is an excellent retooling of the classic number-based rhyme scheme, and the title track truly launches the elemental nature of the genre with a nicely flipped organ and guitar sample.
On that note, the beats are crafted out of the iron from railroad lines and the transient spirit of the wayfarer, resulting in a stark aural landscape caught between the hopeless entrapment of everyday living and the freedom that comes with wanderlust. Each snare is a thump to the psyche, each cymbal crash a rude awakening to a pervasive darkness, and each guitar lick a dusty reminder that blood, sweat, and tears is still the fuel that America runs on. But as strong as the beats are, the lyricism is where Cecil Otter really shines. Each syllable, borne of poetic tradition and pattern, is uttered with all the precision of an incantation. The effect is just as hypnotic, focusing the listener’s attention on the brilliant ebb and flow of wordplay and lingual picture painting.
From the sparse and frenzied range of instrumental number “Down Beast!” to the marauding bassline of “Matchbook Diaries” to the all-too-brief bluesy “Demon Girl” Rebel Yellow is a cohesive hip-hop masterpiece that supersedes nine out of ten contemporary artists. Each song transitions seamlessly into the next, as simply and as sensibly as the ABCs, and presents a progressive story of agonized existence ameliorated only by the catharsis of pen to page and mouth to mic. Cecil Otter, with an urgent and powerful cadence and a penchant for wordplay, makes the ugly seem beautiful with startling ease. You might not have heard his name before, but by the time you’re done listening it’s something you’ll never forget.
by Andrew Dietzel
March 30, 2009
Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak
Hand over fist
Mike Mictlan is a member of Doomtree, their most recent self titled album spent 3 weeks at #1 on CMJ's hip hop charts and made an appearance on Billboard's Heatseekers regional charts.
Mike teamed up with producer Lazerbeak to create the 13 track album "Hand over fist", this is infact a real groovy album filled with heavy hip hop of mega steady beats and 70's funk.
I really like the production here, I'm not the easiest flirt when it comes to hip hop but this album belongs to the more musical kind.
Without using the term rock because this is not a rap metal album, but it's as close as it gets a rock album and probably also the best hip hop album I own.
Listen to "Butcher's Lament", "Clam Casino", "Suicide Jimmy Snoffa" and "Head full" and you will get my drift.
So how can I describe the sound to you, well throw in Mike Shinoda's Fort Minor, Hollywood Undead and Outkast in a big blender and out comes - Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak!
Aiding and Abetting
Mike Mictlan & Lazerbeak
Hand Over Fist
Harking back to the days when hip-hip was about rapping, Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak tear through 13 tracks full of slamming beats and plenty of honest-to-God rhymes.
Don't get me wrong. The whole hip-hop as an alternative version of pop music is interesting. Or it can be, in the right hands. A lot of the time, though, MCs seem to simply be speaking prose over tired samples and grating vocals. This is not the case here.
Lazerbeak goes back to the rock, throwing plenty of guitars and noise into his beatwork. He's certainly a fan of the Bomb Squad, but there's a deftness and subtlety to his work that sets it apart. This is one fun album to simply experience. Mictlan, likewise, is a born rapper. Don't know if he's got stage presence or the sort of personality that sells a video. But he knows how to spin rhymes and keep listeners glued to the speakers.
Yeah, this is a lot more 1989 than 2009. And hey, I'm a geezer. That's just fine with me. There's some serious power here. -Jon Worley
Top local albums of 2008
By CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
1. Atmosphere, "When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That [Expletive] Gold" 158
2. Jeremy Messersmith, "The Silver City" 136
3. Haley Bonar, "Big Star" 128
4. Solid Gold, "Bodies of Water" 116
5. Vampire Hands, "Me and You Cherry Red" 100
6. Doomtree, "Doomtree" 98
7. Muja Messiah, "Thee Adventures of a B-Boy D-Boy" 70
8. Ben Weaver, "The Ax in the Oak" 64
9. Heiruspecs, "Heiruspecs" 60
10. Gary Louris, "Vagabonds" 58
11. Dillinger Four, "CIVIL WAR" 54
12. (tie) Mike Mictlan & Lazerbeak, "Hand Over Fist" 50
Tapes 'N Tapes, "Walk It Off" 50
14. City on the Make, "$1,000,000" 46
15. (tie) Chris Koza, "The Dark, Delirious Morning" 42
Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles, "Orange Peels & Rattlesnakes" 42
Paul Westerberg, "49:00" 42
18. The Absent Arch, "Keep Calm and Carry On" 38
19. Kid Dakota, "A Winner's Shadow" 34
20. (tie) Cecil Otter, "Rebel Yellow" 32
Private Dancer, "Trouble Eyes" 32
Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak
Hand Over Fist
Doomtree’s latest effort manages to stay true to its roots…
Doomtree Records it would seem, are beginning to generate quite a name for themselves. Not only has this, the latest release on the label received substantial success on the iTunes hip-hop chart (number 23, seeing as though you asked) and has generated enough buzz to make number 7 in Billboard’s regional ‘Heatseekers’ chart. The record pulses with grimy beats and the staccato delivery of Mictlan.
Taking samples from all over the shop the vinyl’s crackle beneath the beats adds a warmth that commercial rap has lost over the years. Early highlight ‘Shux ft. POS’ is a sneaky punch to the face – purely sonically speaking at least, and manages to capture the essence of ‘Hand Over Fist’ perfectly.
Elsewhere ‘Northstarrr’ is old skool, or at least I think it is. Being a honky with a bone on for guitars this kinda shit can fuck with you at times, but don’t worry its gentle – hell it’ll even kiss you goodnight and stick around for breakfast. I’m struggling…
‘LA Raiders Hat’ and closing number ‘Prizefight’ take a much mellower, mainstream vibe and essentially compromise the impact of the entire record. Whilst the R n B vibe has became an almost integral element of contemporary hip hop it’s not always a welcome sound.
‘Hand Over Fist’ manages to fuse old skool values to some of the more tolerable aspects of the current scene. Tracks like ‘Shux’ are met almost head on by the soppy arsed ‘LA Raiders Hat’ before ‘Fire in the Watermark’ returns with a confrontational sound that you can believe in, a sound that you certainly ain’t gonna fuck with. I’m not a rap aficionado and I’d rather stay away from embaressing generalisations where possible but this is a record with a genuine authenticity and an obvious raw talent. Ok, so they manage to brush with the wrong sides of the rap crowd at times but by and large this is a cracking record. -Will Metcalfe
January 6, 2009
Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak: Hand Over Fist
Dynamic Doomtree duo Lazerbeak and Mike Mictlan come together to form Hand Over Fist, with Beak on the beats and Mike on the rhymes. Not knowing much about Doomtree artists, this album acts as a perfect intro to the label and the sound of their artists.
Mike Mictlan's raps has some essence of Def Jukie's Cage and El-P, but he still holds something true to himself. I don't know if I would go as far as calling it originality, but it isn't horrible, either. "Clam Casino" opens with "Zero cool still Zulu in grape Zubas Zab Juda who jab ya fat buddah grade schooler cooler than later bloomers in faded suede Pumas." Now...sure, the rhyme scheme to that could be seen by some as "impressive" or "original," but it comes off a little cluttered and thoughtless; as if Mictlan was focusing too hard on the rhymes and less on what they actually meant. But this isn't the case throughout all his lyrics...some are on point and more sensical.
The production from Lazerbeak is different, very 70s and rock influenced, but it is just a little too much. "Northstarr" has some great scratching and an interesting drum beat, but this is about as far as the production goes: interesting, but nothing eye opening. The whole record really just sounded like a Definitive Jux rip-off, and we all know there is enough Def Jux to go around, Hand Over Fist seems a little excessive. -Ben Meredith
December 4, 2008
A blow-up year should lend some extra steam to the fourth annual Doomtree Blowout. Not only did the musically loose but personally tight, nine-member enclave of rappers and DJs finally put out their long-awaited all-crew CD — and tour behind it — they also issued excellent full-lengths by Mike Mictlan (with Lazerbeak) and Cecil Otter. This home-for-the-holidays show is one of the few times of the year the whole gang is all together. With P.O.S.’s calendar quickly filling in behind his upcoming “Never Better” album, it could be the only such gig for quite some time. -Chris Riemenschneider
The Onion AV Club
December 4, 2008
Doomtree Blowout IV
Taken separately, each of the nine members of local hip-hop collective Doomtree is talented enough—just check out their solo discs, from P.O.S.’ Audition to the Mictlan/Lazerbeak teamup Hand Over Fist to Cecil Otter’s Rebel Yellow. But taken together, they’re a roiling, electrifying mass, drawing energy from each other and building up new energy together. A good taste of that can be found on the recent, long-awaited all-crew disc, simply titled Doomtree, which functions something like a greatest-hits record. The Doomtree members often play around town in ones, two, and threes, but getting them all together is rare enough—the annual all-crew Blowout show is one of the few guaranteed convergences and shouldn’t be missed.
The Onion A.V. Club
December 11, 2008
Best of 2008 in Local Music
There’s been no shortage of solo material from the Doomtree hip-hop collective, but when everyone finally got together for the official all-crew debut, it more than lived up to expectations. With five MCs that are so prolific, the bar must have been pretty high to make the cut for Doomtree, and it’s clear that everyone brought their A game—thought all the material is new, it feels like a greatest-hits record, with one insanely catchy song steamrolling along into the next.
METROMIX TWIN CITIES ROLL CALL
Your weekly guide to music on the Twin Cities' small stages
Saturday, December 6th
Another ticket that will be hard to come by this weekend comes in the form of local rap collective Doomtree’s fourth annual “Blowout” concert at First Avenue. The massive crew of rappers and DJs—whose highest profile member remains charismatic MC P.O.S. although the whole crew’s got serious skills—has plenty to celebrate this year. They finally released their official debut album, pulled off a successful national tour and issued a number of side project discs worth checking out (my personal favorite being Mictlan and Lazerbeak’s Hand Over Fist). Long story short: they’ll have no shortage of recently released tracks on offer to get the joint jumping quickly. (6 p.m., $10adv/$12door, 18+) -Rob van Alstyne
Cecil Otter is a member of the Doomtree crew that is quite successful in the states, "Rebel yellow" is Cecil's first official solo project and if you're not a fan of hip hop it's rather easy to label this as average hip hop music but I think it's not.
Cecil is showing lots of love for genres like southern rock, folkrock and R&B on "Rebel yellow" - and yes he's a rap artist but let's focus on the music here.
If Bob Dylan was a hip hop artist, then he might've sounded like Cecil Otter.
It's nice to hear a rapper that doesn't use the "ho" word all the time or thinks he's a cool gangsta, Cecil is intelligent and when I hear the really good "Boxcar diaries" I want to go as far as saying he deserves the same fame as Eminem.
But there are not enough songs that moves me, the instrumental "Duel" is cool sure and there might be a few more that would make a great EP but not as a full album. -Kaj Roth
Cecil Otter: Doomtree’s high plains drifter
Elsewhere in Minneapolis, Doomtree’s Cecil Otter is quickly proving himself as the scene’s most cerebral performer.
It’s been said that if Max from “Where the Wild Things Are” rapped, he’d make an album like “Rebel Yellow.”
Realistically, I can’t possibly think of a cooler way to describe this record, so I’ll just nod (enthusiastically) in agreement.
That said, this doesn’t sound like a Doomtree record. In fact, it doesn’t sound much like any of his earlier “False Hopes” EPs either.
“Rebel Yellow” is a fresh start for a strong performer whose full potential hasn’t really been showcased properly.
The first track to really grab me from this release was “Sufficiently Breathless,” which builds from a sample of a homely acoustic record — complete with authentic vinyl “crackles” — to an epic crescendo of Cecil Otter’s trademark autumnal production stylings and bubbling bass grooves courtesy of James Lynch IV.
Cecil Otter keeps this winter’s-right-around-the-corner groove going with the equally enthralling “Boxcar Diaries.”
Other must-hear standouts include the hypnotic remix of “Matchbook Diaries” (a track that originally appeared on his 2005 “False Hopes” EP), the Nate “The Guitar Man” Collis-aided “Demon Girl” and “Traveling Dunktank,” which features Cecil Otter’s Doomtree mate P.O.S.
It may take a few spins for this record to really “click,” but, when it does, you’ll be rewarded with one of the year’s most imaginative aural adventures. -Matthew R. Perrine
Whatever your image of rapper is, I'm guessing it isn't someone who looks like Cecil Otter, a skinny white guy in a fedora. From his appearance, you'd expect Otter to be in a bluegrass band, or to be playing some other type of Americana. Maybe alt-country or rockabilly, but hip hop? Don't they usually wear baggy clothes and look more, you know, urban?
Or maybe he's like Everlast, doing alt-country rap. Tracks like "Rebel Yellow" and "Box Car Diaries," might fall into this category, with their acoustic guitar layered over a skittering drum beat as Cecil gets his drawl on. Or Kid Rock maybe? Rock's a skinny white rapper who has a fondness for hats. No, Otter's not trying to do the white-trash cock-rock thing, and his production is too subdued and his lyrics to intelligent to be compared to the Kid (no offense). Would Kid Rock ever dare to release a gorgeous instrumental track like Otter's "Duel?"
There's another white dude with an affinity for African American culture (and hats) that comes to mind when listening to "Rebel Yellow": Jack Kerouac. Like Kerouac and his beat compatriots, Otter has a knack for the seamy, more sinister side of life, and a talent for turning his depressed reveries into coherent and beautiful poetry. And speaking of peotry, the album starts off with a peom in which poetry is compared to rape. In fact, Otter's dystopic lyrics are similar to yet ANOTHER white rapper/producer, El-P. Maybe if El-P was more into Woody Guthrie than Philip K. Dick, he'd sound something like Otter. They both make beats that are dark and menacing, although Otter's are a little less dissonant and post-apocolyptic than El Producto's. It's not hard to imaging El-P himself penning "Sufficiently Breathless":
"And yes I'm leaving the rest
In the heart of your machine while it's bleeding to death
Until its carcass is clean I'm feeding the rest of its still beating chest
To the lesser of your subjects
And the bench press in the grudges repeating the reps
And blending them in with the crunches and preaching the steps
I step lightly, tonight there just might be a jail break
And more than likely its fail-safe
Full speed ahead till the sail breaks, take a deep breath
And the ocean air has a stale taste, of a century's old war
Where it was all for one or one in all four
They were trained to kill all the silence
Using nothing but steel gold and diamonds
They use their skills to build roads to islands
And I ain't gonna leave till the hills close their eyes"
You know what? It doesn't matter. Otter is what Otter is, and if it doesn't fit your definition of hip hop, you should check your dictionary. Those who are familiar with Doomtree's technicolor sound might be surprised by the subdued sepia tones of "Rebel Yellow," but both albums share a experimental bent and a desire to make something other than your typical rap album. As a producer, Otter does a masterful job of mixing acoustic elements with electronic beats, creating a sound that refers back to Americana while still being hip hop. Like so many Minnesota rappers, he's a brilliant storyteller, and isn't afraid to tackle subject matter that is leagues deeper and more introspective than the typical let's-get-drunk-in-the-club track. Rapping is a form of poetry, and Otter makes that explicit in his rhymes. Forget what you think a rapper should look like and give "Rebel Yellow" a chance. Otter doesn't disappoint.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Whether it's been The Replacements or Atmosphere, music from Minneapolis has a history for being vastly-influenced as well as edgy. Longtime allies of the latter group, Doomtree [click to view] is one of the best things coming out of the Twin Cities these days.
The nine-piece group has some familiar faces to the underground Hip Hop community. P.O.S., who released the acclaimed Audition album [click to read] on Rhymesayers in 2006, joins Dessa, an accomplished poet and emcee, along with seven other members. Jokingly, Dessa tells HipHopDX, “Doomtree is not good at counting. We don’t know how long we’ve been doing it and how many people are in the group.” Regardless of their counting abilities, this group boldly incorporates a mosaic of love, loss and the struggle for twenty-somethings to survive into genre-defying music.
Survival has been proven. After five years as a full outfit, Doomtree performs before Hip Hop, poetry and Rock crowds with something to say, something to offer and a grounded attitude in their love. Having just released their first official full length, DXnext recognizes a group who came from a place where A&Rs rarely venture, but some of music's greatest have broken out of. Perhaps Doomtree is the next.
The Logistical Challenges of Being a Nine-Person Group: “This was one of the first projects that we worked on, as a collaborative manner. I feel like, occasionally, there were some challenges in trying to work together as a nine-piece [group], were also our biggest strengths in the fact that we’re a nine-piece. We have a lot resources that we’re able to pull and a lot of bright ideas to be able to act on. We met a couple times a week with pens and notepads out and playing something on repeat until we were able to pull together some verses and a theme,” says Dessa. Partner P.O.S. adds, “Even if we’re all solo emcees, coming together on these songs starts out pretty difficult, and for some reason, it just ends up working itself out. We’ve known each other for a long enough time to know, personally, how not to bump heads with each other.”
If Dessa, Being Lone Woman of The Group, Has To Write For All Women At Times: “I think for as much attention is paid to being the only girl, the most I think about being the only woman in Doomtree is when I’m on the phone. In that, I feels like I’m lucky enough to be rolling with a crew of guys who is interested enough in the human experience, and I can speak to that as directly as they can. I don’t know how much of our material is really gender-specific. It’s [more about] here’s my experience as a kid, trying to make friends and find love and get happy and stay safe and have fun. I think that’s as true for me as it is for any man emcee. But yeah, if they need a female voice, the task usually falls to me.”
How Minneapolis Became Epicenter of Punk, Poetry and DIY Hip Hop: P.O.S. analyzes, “We’re in the top-middle. There’s so much hype about the coasts – New York and L.A., and then when you get to the middle, you’re not thinking about Minneapolis, you’re thinking about Chicago. Being in a city where everybody loves to make music and everybody’s aware that there’s no label there, you do it to do it and ‘cause you love it. So you share it with each other. We’re not a very exclusive music community, meaning different bands or different rappers will definitely end up hanging out together because they’re on the same bill or ‘cause they’ve got mutual friends. So there’s lots of people to bounce ideas off of. So I feel like growth happens way quicker here than it happens in a lot of cities because we’re all not hiding off, doing our own thing, but because we’re about sharing.” Dessa deduces, “There’s a cult of the underdog here. There’s no major label here. There’s no talent scouts hanging out at your show here, you can be sure of that. So everybody develops a hustle – a legitimate business skill-set.”
The Inspiration And Metaphor Behind “Kid Gloves”: “I’ll speak for me," says Dessa, who carries the song's chorus. "The ‘I wrap brass knuckles over my kid gloves’ is talking about some of the ferocity that has to accompany love, which is usually a delicate endeavor. It takes a lot of nerve, a lot of resilience to be good at love and to keep love going.”
On P.O.S.'s Lyric “Every Girl Is Looking For The Next Best Thing, Every Guy’s In Love With His Girl’s Best Friend”: [Laughing] “To not sort the laundry out, actually, the way that I write rhymes is, I come up with a line that I think is a cool rap line, and I’ll write it down and leave it till it’s a good time use it. I actually wrote that particular line like two solid years before I wrote that song. Just kinda…I was in a relationship, it was with a girl who was consistently saying that I need to stop rapping and get a real job. Her best friend was an artist, and also really cool and nice, and I really didn’t think much of it. It was one of those things where I’d seen that situation go down before. There’s not really too much to explain, except I felt like when I wrote it down, it was a quality line, and that it was real, and that it meant something, and that I wanted to save it for the perfect application which just ended up being ‘P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life.’”
Why Doomtree Has Released Five Albums As Solo Emcees Called False Hopes [click to read]: Dessa says, “In part, that was an opportunity for us to release material on a regular basis, and faster than we can hustle an official record. For us, that series has been an ability to introduce new artists on Doomtree to listeners, and to put out material on a quick clip faster than the music industry’s trying to operate. We wanted a body of work out there to establish ourselves as solo artists and spend a couple years making a full-length.”
If The Group Has Many Fans From Outside Hip Hop: “I think a lot of it comes from Minneapolis. When we were coming up, a lot of us didn’t necessarily listen to Hip Hop as the only thing to listen to. A lot of us are big fans of other styles of music. When it came time to book shows where nobody’s heard of us in the city, we’ll get together with a band, a Hold Steady or a Lifter Puller or something like that, and we’ll put together a bill that we like, whether or not people know of us. That helped all of us, with all of our influences, and made the audience way, way different than just the rap fans,” says P.O.S.
9pm / 7th Street Entry / 18-plus / $7
Probably the most traditional-sounding rapper in the Doomtree crew-which may or may not have to do with his L.A. roots - Mike Mictlan has a show with his beatmaking cohort Lazerbeak (Aaron Mader) to promote their CD, "Hand Over Fist." It's Mictlan's first full-length, and it's a mighty impressive debut. Like P.O.S., who guests on the Public Enemy-styled hyper rocker "Shux." Mictlan manages to make his unique personal struggles sound universal. One of the most personal (and best) tracks is "L.A. Raiders Hat," with the hat symbolizing Mitlan's personal coat-of-arms. "They say us Chicanos are too political/They'd rather see us on low-riders acting stereotypical," he raps in the song. Nothing stereotypical here. Big Quarters and Toki Wright also perform at the CD release party.
Cecil Otter CD Release
Triple Rock Social Club, August 29
Given the slow-rolling rhythms and southern-Gothic jacket art of Cecil Otter's Rebel Yellow, it seemed appropriate to celebrate its release on one of these hot late-summer nights that feels a little more Atlanta front stoop than Minneapolis rap show. The party started off with the two-man Attracted To Gods warming up the sparse early-comers, their rock shifting from bluesy to punk and back again. Excitement built up as The Millionth Word took the stage, their energetic, crowd-pleasing hooks bringing folks to the front; by the time it was time for the main attraction, Ant of Atmosphere stood in the now-packed floor and the Doomtree crew had filtered into the Triple Rock to support their compatriot.
Otter himself hung out with his fans to watch the openers, wearing his signature fedora and a hand-drawn t-shirt that said "Get Out Phascists!" on the front and "Otter 1331" on the back. When he took over the mic, it was with a good deal of self-deprecation and a bit of shyness. Otter's laid-back rap style (at one point he broke rhythm to say hi to his mom) played well on the small stage of the Triple Rock. The pit didn't let him forget who was the star of the night; most of the first row was singing along to lyrics from an album released three days previous. After several tracks off Rebel Yellow (including the excellent, whiskey-tinged title track), Otter called Dessa to the stage for "Everything Floats" and an ironically showy "trick" of trading mics with her. Later, Sims and Mike Mictlan joined Otter for "Game Over," off the recently released Doomtree self-titled album.
After the last song, a projector and laptop was brought out for a viewing of a newly shot video for "1999." It looks great, with scenes projected onto the faces of Otter and other Doomtree members as they rap, and an aesthetic soaked with the same alcohol and heat as the album. Look for it to inevitably pop up on YouTube in the coming days.
HOW WAS THE SHOW
Cecil Otter CD release at Triple Rock Social Club on 8/29/08
It’s been a hell of a year for Doomtree. Not only has the Minneapolis Hip Hop collective achieved a well deserved level of national recognition from the long awaited crew album, it’s Voltron-like individual members have also shown that any one of them is more than a match for King Zarkon. The latest news from the team is MC/Producer Cecil Otter’s solo debut, “Rebel Yellow,” which had its official release Friday night at the Triple Rock Social Club.
Taking the stage in a Stetson and “Get Out Phascists” t-shirt (a nod to the douchebaggery of the RNC that is descending on our fair cities this weekend) Otter showed that not only is he one of Doomtree’s most intelligent lyricists, he can also hold down a live show on his lonesome. The street poet filled the evening with gritty rhymes and clever turns of phrase, showcasing his talents as the group’s streetwise introspective loner, a beatnik for the hip hop set. On tracks like “Box Car Diaries,” “Rebel Yellow,” and “Let Me Tell You,” the self styled “king of the road…to recovery,” presented himself as a pessimistic social observer, a storyteller who seems to have collected a life’s worth of bluesy beats on the lonely highway. Much like the Canadian MC Buck 65, Otter draws influence from the darker side of Americana: Blues and Folk from the other tortured wanderers of those genres. And if that sounds a little too intense for you, he also steals a chorus from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” which though not in keeping with his persona, really works for him.
Not ones to leave their man unsupported, a few of the other Doomtree crew occasionally took the stage, with Dessa and P.O.S. stepping in to rhyme from time to time, as well as a terrific performance of “Gameshow Host” by Otter, Sims and Mike Mictlan. Everyone made appearances in the new video for “1999” as well, which was screened after the show. Overall though, the night belonged to Cecil Otter alone. While he may play for a champion team, Otter will always seem more of a solitary character. To take a cue from his lyrics, he is a “lone wolf unchained/with crooked fangs,” and like it or not, he’s coming after you. -Jon Behm
Cecil Otter's full-length debut went on sale on Tuesday, August 26, but somehow it seems oddly appropriate that I wouldn't get to listening to it until several days later, on the first truly cool morning since the summer began. On Rebel Yellow, Cecil's not here to get the party started, nor rain on your parade, but simply to kick your carefully piled leaves and stoke your wood-burning stove. As surely as the turning of the leaves, Cecil Otter is here to usher in the fall.
If P.O.S. is the precocious and gifted visionary and Sims the workaholic overachiever of the Doomtree family, Cecil Otter is the guy who stays on the couch until the afternoon, but not out of laziness. He simply moves through the world differently; a self-described drifter, a loner, a rebel, a post-beatnik, abackroads wanderer. On his False Hopes, one was struck by his similarity to Atmosphere's Slug in his timbre and wry humor, but Rebel Yellow finds him more comfortable in his own skin, both as an emcee and a producer.
Cecil produced every beat on the record, and laid end-to-end they show off his restless and nigh-apocalyptic sonic sensibility. For anyone who misses DJ Shadow's earlier, more organic sound, the music on Rebel Yellow is a treat, all booming, stuttering drums, delicately plucked acoustic guitars, keening choral voices, malevolent music boxes, and lush strings. The consistency is truly remarkable, especially in an era when most rap albums switch producers so often it's hard to get a sense of a unified vision. There are noelectro or disco touches here—just a sepia-tinted, crimson-streaked collage that's often a more evocative setting for Cecil's wordplay than the kind of pseudo-jazz backing that might be the default setting for his stories of lost nights and blind days.
The majority of songs here are ones he's been performing for a while now, but again, taken as a whole they reinforce each other, and his fine and delicate way with words comes to the fore in the privacy of your car or headphones. As a rapper, Cecil seems to have little interest in the kind of lyrical dexterity prized by battle rappers; instead, he develops themes more slowly, but no less stunningly. "I'm just a lone wolf unchained with crooked fangs," he chants in the chorus to the title track. "I hear 'em calling your name (for crying out loud), I hear 'em calling your name (for crying out wolf), I hear 'em calling you out, I'm here I'm calling you out." It's an evocative and slowly shifting string of sense, and a good example of Cecil's methodical and precise way with language.
Language is the subject of the album's intro track, a manifesto called "The Poet is Rapist." In it, a poem "celebrating the realization that poems aren't going to change anything" is set to a slowly building track of Romantic intensity. The poem explains how the language of a poem fucks you, and the twist is that if it's hard at first, it's much easier the second time. It's certainly though-provoking, but Cecil Otter makes his bitter little pills easy enough of the first time, wrapped as they are in compelling beats and tied together by the simple weight of his production across an entire record.
And yes, the frost is coming, but if summer's to hot and winter's too long, at least we get a little more fall than spring here in Minnesota, and Rebel Yellow is a fitting soundtrack for a season that's as much about harvest and reward as it is about death and change. -Steve McPherson
Doomtree - Self Titled
The Doomtree collective stands out as a nearly perfect creation—in a city already ripe with hip hop—but one that couldn’t hail from anywhere besides Minneapolis. They’re as Minneapolitan as the cherry and spoon—or First Avenue—where their annual blowout is held. But they’re not your typical arrogant rock stars—instead of staying confined to their dressing rooms; the collective can be found handing out hot cocoa to chilled-out fans eagerly awaiting the doors’ open, or hanging outside the Loon like the average city slicker. Comprised of a rotating set of players—including P.O.S., Mike Mictlan, Dessa, Cecil Otter, Lazerbeak, Turbo Nemesis, Paper Tiger, Sims, and MK Larada—the collective boasts this self-titled release as their debut, despite the numerous False Hopes EPs released during the past several years.
This pack proves the strength of power in numbers, switching up the lyricists and DJs with each track—fueled with the DIY ethics of both hip hop and punk—yet hone a sound all their own. Doomtree’s not exactly hip hop—most of the material is closer to the poetry of spoken word than rap lyrics—but the beats confirm their proximity to the genre. The release will serve as a fine treat to devoted fans—offering up 21 new tracks—some of them brief DJ cuts, but nothing disposable.
More hit-worthy tracks exist here than on the average album, proving the release has been a long time coming. Standout tracks include “Game Over,” where Mike Mictlan proclaims, “Rap won’t save you!” This may set off people angered over Nas’s claim of hip hop being dead, but hearing the same sentiment from Doomtree makes sense. They’re neither optimist nor pessimist; but instead, like the rest of us, caught somewhere in between. They see the hopeless state of the world, but instead of giving up, they keep fighting, and encourage their fans stay above the struggle, too. In “Accident,” the collective warns the listener, “I don’t laugh in the face of anybody who wastes their one time, their place right here, right now.” Indeed, these are tumultuous times, but if the thinkers can keep moving and shaking, the rest of us should take heed. -Crystal Erickson
Cecil Otter CD Release Party
Doomtree has got a full head of steam going right now as their very own Cecil Otter is finally ready to drop his first official album, titled Rebel Yellow. Offering not one but two CD release parties in one night, you will have ample opportunity to get down and see the charismatic Cecil spit fire with an unmatched blend of poetry, humor, and irony against his signature dusty, moody beats. The all-ages affair begins at 6, and if you’re of age come on down after 9. Get there early to catch Doomtree cohort MK Larada’s rock band, the Millionth Word.
Cecil Otter CD Release Show
With the long wait for Doomtree to drop its all-crew album last month, the Twin Cities indie-rap collective has a stockpile of CDs by its individual members ready to roll. First up is the full-length debut by the crew’s fedora-wearing poetic playboy Cecil Otter, titled “Rebel Yellow.” He’s offering two release parties on one night. The late show features his pal MK Larada’s rock band, the Millionth Word, and Attracted to Gods, featuring members of Atmosphere’s live band. -Chris Riemenschneider
"It's been a long time coming," so you'll understand if Doomtree have a few things to get off their chests—21 tracks worth, to be exact, and not a minute wasted. The Minneapolis hip-hop collective's debut is eight years in the making, culled from notepads and vinyl crates placed out of sight—but rarely out of mind—while various members of the eleven-strong crew pursued solo projects. You've probably heard of P.O.S., and Lazerbeak, maybe Sims and Turbo Nemesis. But Mike Mictlan? Cecil Otter?
Outside their hometown and above ground, Doomtree is a rather nebulous lineup occasionally name-dropped as part of Rhymesayers' extended family. Their first group effort might be a golden ticket out of obscurity, though arguably their strength owes much to the cutthroat life: "We/ be/ all in the struggle, man/grind hard/ twenty-four seven, man." The hunger is palpable—and evenly divided. Each artist's defiance and determination bleeds through unique voices, from Dessa's assured grace under fire to Otter's smooth-talkin' cynicism and Mictlan's confrontational roar. And the beats? This is the wine-pairing of production. Eclectic instrumentals massaging rhymes into position… Good things come to those who wait. But, uh, let's hope the next album drops before 2016. -JAMIE GADETTE
Standout Tracks: “Game Over," "Liver Let Die"
Doomtree by Doomtree
It seems sometimes like every debut rap album is long-awaited, highly anticipated. We heard the usual phrases a couple weeks ago on Muja Messiah's premier release ("They said this would never get done...I made it happen. I was part-time hustlin', now I'm full-time rappin' "). Likewise, in the liner notes to their new CD, the Doomtree crew informs us this project has ‘been a long time coming.' That phrase is repeated verbatim on the hook of "Let Me Tell You, Baby," and echoes throughout various songs on the album. "So coming soon to a college town near you/here we are DTR/holla atcha rap group," Mictlan, one of the collective's five emcees, intones on the lead-off track.
And indeed, there has been hype. After P.O.S.'s second solo album made waves in 2006 as The Next Big Thing in Minneapolis hip-hop, a palpable bit of excitement presaged this crew's collective release. As a group they've been gaining steam around town, playing to packed crowds, and even scoring a slot this last spring to open for the Wu-Tang Clan.
So here it is! The first collaborative album featuring all the members of Doomtree.
Maybe we should have waited a little longer.
It's a bad sign that the five solo tracks (each MC is given one showcase piece) are five of the best six songs on the album. ("Kid Gloves," with Mictlan and Dessa, is the only tandem track to crack the shortlist.) When it comes to collaboration, the group fails to find any real cohesion. Three or four or five rappers might all appear over a single beat, but they are unable to transcend their personal styles to become a unit. There isn't much interplay between the rappers; rather it typically goes verse-hook-verse-hook-verse-hook. Listening to them is kind of like watching the 2004 USA men's basketball team at the Olympics - a bunch of obviously talented individuals that are unable to work together. (Hey, guess what's on TV...)
Certainly there are moments of virtuosity on Doomtree.
Cecil Otter is able to devise rhyme schemes more twisted and intricate than anything he's previously created, and he sounds natural spitting them out - one doesn't get a sense that he's impressed with how clever he is. And the production is consistent; never exactly innovative, but never sinking a track down, either. Which is exactly what you want, because the beats should never outshine the rhymes on a rap album. MK Larada, Turbo Nemesis, Paper Tiger, and Maker display a variety of styles, ranging from jazzy-cool to hard-rock-hard.
The most consistently outstanding member is Dessa, the collective's lone female member. Her solo piece, "Sadie Hawkins," is by far the most successful part of the album. She's the only one who's able to morph her style to a given beat, to curve her talent to a track. In most cases, too, her lyrics are the most on point, the cleverest, and spoken with the most original delivery. Her solo album is highly anticipated.
But these strengths are overwhelmed by the fact that, by and large, no one is really saying anything. The words rhyme, but only sometimes match; many songs are more akin to polished freestyle sessions than to finished written songs. The first verse to open up the album features an impressively complex rhyme scheme:
"We work the mics and rehearse the lines that life furthers/
and curse the vines that you might have heard your rumors from/
like it's me verse a vice or vice versa/
then I returned to the life that Christ nurtured"
Say it aloud and it sounds cool, but if you try to actually understand what it means, you may run into some issues. It may be a debut album, but it's not a rookie album - these guys have all been around for years, playing shows and releasing EPs. So it's a little disconcerting to hear Doomtree repeatedly rhyme their way into oblivion. Ultimately, the album is defined by lyrics so disconnected that they become abstract, so abstract that they deteriorate and become indecipherable. -Max Ross
HOW WAS THE SHOW
Doomtree CD Release Show with I Self Devine and Kill The Vultures at First Avenue on 8/1/08
About halfway through the night Friday I noticed something a bit unexpected: a guy wearing a Portishead t-shirt. Now, I’ve seen many people in Portishead t-shirts but never at a hip-hop show and I think that says something about Doomtree. They, like local boys done good Atmosphere and several other national acts, have, by design or just by accident, attracted a wide array of fans—always a good sign if you are trying to take it to the next level, and to be clear Doomtree is definitely doing a good job of climbing the ladder.
The night started with Kill The Vultures who mix up punk, jazz and odd, dissonant beats while Alexei Moon Casselle rhymes in a manner that reminds of a more lucid Tricky or more laconic Eminem. It’s a difficult listen but once you get into it, it’s addictive. KtV are furious about a multitude of things (politics, poverty, the lure and pitfalls of the streets, etc.) and it gets claustrophobic at times, but when you let it in, the fog lifts and it all makes perfect sense. Casselle stepped out on to the mini-runway that had been constructed in front of the stage and watching him—all alone shaking his fist and pointing to the crowd for emphasis every so often—you got the sense that he felt it was “me against the world”—an unseen, unfathomable weight resting on his shoulders. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’ve gotten the all-clear from your physician, prick up your ears.
I Self Divine came at the crowd full-force making use of the runway, trading rhyming duties back and forth like a modern day Run-DMC. Nothing caught my ear however. The crowd clearly loved it, but they played a hurried, cacophonous set and it ended up just seeming a bit sloppy to me. I had never seen them before and maybe they always come at the crowd like a pack of meth-addled pit bulls, but overall it seemed a little forced and didn’t always ring true.
The wait was longer than expected for Doomtree (it was close to 45 minutes) but it was worth every second of the extra time. Full disclosure here: I’m not a “hip-hop guy,” but I have seen Doomtree live several times, I do know what a good live show is (I hope) and this was definitely one of them. They kept the crowd waiting just long enough where the tension and anticipation were at their highest, right at the point before people start getting bored, cranky and annoyed and you start hearing the “who do these guys think they are?” complaints. It was perfect. They were all loose and comfortable on stage. The beats were, as always, fresh and crisp, referencing their roots (think everything great you ever saw on Yo! MTV Raps) without seeming like rip-off artists, even for a few seconds. They trade lead vocals and each of them has their own style, own flow, own distinct stage presence. P.O.S. bore a bit of resemblance (physically and otherwise) to hip-hop legend KRS-One. Mictlan seemed more confrontational than the rest. Dessa stood out simply because she’s the only female, but she definitely held her own within the group, and she was the most animated during the set, dancing around and I’m pretty sure I saw a high kick from her at one point, as well. They had the crowd (which was sellout-plus and had created an oppressive, rainforest-like atmosphere inside the Mainroom) eating out of their hands, clapping and waving their fists on command, singing along to every single word. I attend a lot of indie-rock shows and the crowd isn’t usually like that at those shows, everyone is too cool to dance. And singing along is nearly equal to relieving yourself on the floor—in other words they aren’t always fun. In contrast, this was the most fun show I have seen in months and it was a welcome change. It’s fun to dance, it’s fun to be in a crowd that isn’t so self-aware and self-conscious and above all else, it’s fun to see a band that is on its way to bigger things in a room that’s fairly intimate. There won’t be too many more Doomtree shows like this, I don’t think, and I felt lucky to have been there. -Pat O'Brien
Doomtree CD Release
First Ave Mainroom
A prime component of the Minneapolis hip-hop scene, the Doomtree crew’s first official album was pretty big news, meaning their release party at First Avenue was all the rage Friday night. At an 18-plus show, underagers got their kicks between sets chomping down ice cream sandwiches, while the legal kids dug deep into the barrel.
At exactly 11 p.m., a small man wearing the nerdiest glasses and high-water pants possible jokingly introduced the group to the stage. One by one the five MCs stormed the catwalk jetting off from the stage, gloating amidst the sea of waving hands. People were going nuts over their favorite members and even a lone crutch could be seen raised above heads from a fan sitting on the ledge. Reflecting the more cooperative style of their new album, the crew performed more collaboratively throughout the show, adding in alternating favorite solo songs from the False Hopes series.
The show was quite similar to the ‘Doomtree Blowouts’ hosted the last two years at the same venue. Dessa can never sing or rap too much and always gets the most hoots and hollers. P.O.S.’s talent is outstanding and he’s able to captivate the entire room with his ill voice. Sims is smooth and great at getting people to chant along to bits like, “get free, get fresh.” Cecil is somewhat awkward but his lyrics make everyone wish they had a pen in hand. Mike Mictlan raps faster than some cheetahs race and makes everyone feel super badass.
Fair to say, most people in the crowd probably hadn’t had a chance to pick up a copy of the album released only four days prior, meaning the songs weren’t quite familiar enough. The crowd sang along best they could, but really enjoyed hearing old favorites with new twists. Dessa performed “Sadie Hawkins,” allowing the boys in the group to sing backup. People surrounding the stage seemed to eat up Dessa’s piercing stares and I even caught a couple of guys mouthing the sweet hooks to her songs.
The MCs of Doomtree put on a great performance, hustling the audience like a pack of wolves on the hunt, chasing the adoring eyes with snarling beats and roaring raps. The 25 song set had great energy throughout. Treats like Mictlan rapping from within the crowd, guest acts like I Self Devine and MC Crescent Moon and an acoustic duet between Mictlan and Dessa, kept everyone’s attention at point until half past midnight. -Amber Schadewald
The Twin Cities' second best-known rap crew just made its first tour together. Now it's back home to celebrate its first all-star CD with a concert tonight.
Members of Doom Tree from left are, Cecil Otter, Sims, Turbo Nemesis. Dessa, Paper Tiger, Mike Mictlan. In back, Lazerbeak, MK Larada,
They famously used to live together in a house/hovel in Uptown. Over the past month, six of them moved back in together in a van on the road. We wanted to hear how it went.
The nine members of the Doomtree collective -- five rappers, four DJs/beatmakers -- issued their first all-in-one album Tuesday. To hype the 21-song eponymous collection, six of them went out for a three-week trek opening for Denver rap/rock band the Flobots ("Handlebars"). It was the first official Doomtree tour in the crew's seven-year history.
"Doomtree," the album, has been talked about for more than two years. During that time, one of the crew's rappers, P.O.S., earned national recognition, and other MCs worked on their own CDs. (Each rapper has a solo track on the new disc.) The fact that the album took so long had some Doomtree watchers wondering if the group was starting to splinter.
Mostly all friends from Hopkins High School, they could be forgiven for growing up and growing apart. The things you dream about when you're 18 often fall by the wayside by the time you're 25.
It turns out they're still sharing the same dream -- and sometimes socks and whiskey bottles, too -- as we found out by talking to members as they checked in from various stops along the road.
Calling from: Tempe, Ariz. (first stop of the tour, July 9)
About the tour: "We did the drive in about 36 hours. I did this same drive from Minneapolis in November with Digitata, and the gas for the van was like $870. This time, it's well over $1,200. It's gonna be tough."
"Since we all moved out of the house a year and a half ago, Doomtree has become less of a kids' fun project kind of thing and grown more serious. This tour adds another level."
About the new record: "It's been finished for a while. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out who'd be the best to release the album before we finally decided we'd be the best. Every label was like, 'Well, we'll give you a cash advance, but we want you to give up the digital rights.' It's like they're giving us a dying industry and taking away a booming one from us."
About his "Doomtree" song ("Popgun War"): "I don't know what the songs are about anymore [laughs]. I think what comes through is that we had fun and were happy to be working together."
About him: Andrew Sims knew most of the other crew members at Hopkins High but didn't start rapping with them until 2003, around when he quit the University of Minnesota just 17 credits shy of a degree. He graduated to the local-MC big league with his 2005 debut, "Lights Out Paris."
"I didn't know what I was going to do with that degree anyway," he said. "After school, I hooked up with Stef [P.O.S.]. He'd call me up like two times a week, 'You gotta come over and record. I got a beat for you.' The rest is history."
Calling from: San Francisco (July 14)
About the tour: "We're doing well on merch, and we're getting good at plundering the clubs. We have a van full of bottled water, Smart Water, Red Bull, whatever people leave behind. When we're spending this much on gas, we'll take anything else we can get.
"The only incident in the van so far is someone didn't screw the cap on tight to a Jack Daniels bottle, so we woke up to a puddle. And it somehow soaked up the stench of socks. So that's the smell right now: whiskey and socks."
About the record: "It was a little bit of a case of too-many-cooks. We all wanted creative input, which was a good thing, but that made it slower. I like doing my own thing, and it's hard for me to write with other people, but this really was fun. When the engine got moving, things fell into place pretty fast."
About his "Doomtree" song ("Let Me Tell You, Baby"): "It was produced by MK Larada. It's kind of about building my character. It talks a lot about me and my views. Nothing political. And I talk about having great friends in the city and people taking care of me, love lost, love found, all that."
DOOMTREE CD PARTY
With: I Self Devine, Kill the Vultures. • When: 9 p.m. today. • Where: First Avenue, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls.
Tickets: $8-$10. 18 & older. 612-338-8388.
BOUNCING OUTSIDE THE BOX Doomtree
Jul 30, 2008
Minneapolis punk-hop collective is limited only in liability.
BY JAMIE GADETTE
The idea of making a record with the entire Doomtree crew was always on the table. For seven, eight years, the conceptual project simmered on the backburner as various artists in the eleven-member crew pursued solo careers and day jobs in their hometown of Minneapolis. The expansive hip-hop collective finally put the wheels in motion three years ago, recording in fits and starts the self-released, eponymous 21-track LP that could raise them out of the struggle and into the spotlight.
Obscure above ground and beyond Minnesota, Doomtree are largely recognized for one member’s fairly swift ascent. Emcee/producer P.O.S. broke out before the rest of the crew took flight, signing to local indie label Rhymesayers and grabbing headlines for his aggressive, genre-bending style. Of course, most of the headlines got him all wrong. At the time, lazy writers and PR hacks just couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept of a fluid punk/rap/rock combo that didn’t sound like Linkin Park. And so many simply, foolishly wrote him off altogether.
Those that stuck around couldn’t quite pin down P.O.S.’s connections. Though he namedrops Doomtree throughout both of his critically acclaimed albums (2004’s Ipecac Neat and 2006’s Audition), most people identify him as part of the extended Atmosphere/Brother Ali family—which he is, and isn’t. P.O.S. is still signed to Rhymesayers, but Doomtree’s relationship with the label is purely informal and amicable.
“Being in the same city and being friendly with those guys, we get a lot of support from them. And it goes both ways—they’re a staple in Minnesota and we’re building our way to being a staple in Minnesota too,” P.O.S. says. “They show us love and we show them love back.”
That spirit of loyal camaraderie parallels Doomtree’s internal workings. P.O.S.’s band mates don’t begrudge his success. In fact, all ten of them—Sims, Cecil Otter, Dessa, Lazerbeak, MK Larada, Mike Mictlan, Turbo Nemesis, Emily Bloodmobile, Paper Tiger, Tom Servo—encourage it.
“We’re really good friends, really loyal to each other. We don’t get jealous. We realize the bigger picture—this is Doomtree, this is our company and the reason why we’re so picky about business is because this is us,” emcee/producer Sims says. “It’s in everyone’s best interest.”
“Picky” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you watch the group joke around like siblings on their first road trip without mom and dad. Whether shooting the shit or getting merch in order, Doomtree seem perfectly content to operate on cruise control. Behind the scenes is another story. When it comes to serious business proposals, Doomtree sort through fine print with a razor blade. Now an official LLC—“our liability is limited,” emcee Dessa says proudly—the group started their business plan from scratch and in the dark, knowing only that they wanted to remain independent at all costs.
“Nobody is willing to make compromises on their aesthetic decisions, so that’s just out irrespective of financial goals,” Dessa says. Besides, “None of us harbor huge aspirations toward shiny cars and big houses, I think all of us would like a living wage… ”
“Speak for yourself. Living wage is just not going to cut it. I’m tired of being broke,” Sims interrupts, though after some cajoling from the crew he admits no amount of bling could ever persuade him to sell out. “We passed up on money from a couple of companies because we wanted to play our music—and we wanted to own it, all the Internet sales, everything,” he adds.
In the couple of years leading up to the record, Doomtree focused on booking shows and getting their internal business plan in order as a complete democracy. “There is no hierarchal order to Doomtree,” says Dessa. “We’re a diehard committee. I think that’s our strength, but it taps all of our resources. It’s a challenge to be as agile as you’ve got to be.”
That means figuring out how to highlight individual voices while showcasing the group’s chemistry. It also means weighing the pros and cons of a proposed contract with each and every member, and if one person says, “Nah,” the deal is off. Period.
“That’s one of the things that keeps our boat floating a little bit slower than everybody else’s,” says P.O.S. “It’s very important to us that we’re all feeling it before we jump into something.”
It helps that Doomtree long ago agreed to bet the farm on DIY ethos. While shopping around for potential labels and distributors, the group discovered that while they might not get the best immediate numbers on their own, they’d feel good about the work and would learn enough to chart the course indefinitely—or until the right deal comes along.
“You don’t automatically say no to anything. You take a look and you think smart, you think longevity more than what can we pop off right this second,” says P.O.S.
To that end, Doomtree took their time with the album. Well, they weren’t entirely responsible for the slow and steady pace. With engineer Joe Mabbett at the helm, progress hinged on whatever additional jobs he agreed to in advance. The crew laid down tracks at Mabbett’s Hideaway Studio for a week here, a month there. Toward the end they dropped in whenever a slot opened up. They also recorded portions of the album in the Doomtree house—a modest mansion “built of paper,” whose tight quarters put the all-for-one theory to the ultimate test. In a house where a sneeze in the attic can trigger “bless you” from the basement, it’s not a bad idea to forgo certain basic needs. “Nobody did ‘it,’ ever,” jokes P.O.S.
They recorded several songs in the butler’s pantry; “Jaded” in a closet; “Last Call” in Dessa’s kitchen. The cut-and-paste approach mirrored much of the group’s writing and production techniques. The beats come first—original compositions reflecting each producer’s vision and methodology. Lazerbeak (who also plays in The Plastic Constellations) is arguably the most prolific of the five. “He came with 25 beats to start,” says Sims. “And by the end of it he had turned in over 50 beats for the crew album. He’s definitely one of the most prolific and gifted producers I’ve ever had a chance to work with, or see.”
Cecil Otter digs voraciously through crates, coffee mug in hand. Judging by his hard-knockin’, smooth-talkin’ delivery, he doesn’t take cream or sugar. (Then again, Otter sometimes describes his material as “emo shit,” so who knows?) He puts the needle on the record and, if he likes what he hears, he’ll build on it. A little guitar, some drums. P.O.S doesn’t attack the crates so much as caress them, carefully adding to his existing pool of songs and mashing them through the ringer.
“It’s a lot less sampling from the records and a lot more me playing stuff and then making it try to sound like a sample,” he says. Basically, after years of buying beats and then watching beat and gear prices balloon, Doomtree developed a sound that’s “very unique to us and unique to individuals in our crew as well. Cecil makes beats that sound like Cecil beats. I make beats that sound like P.O.S. beats.” Most importantly, they make beats that sound like no one else’s. “The idea of rapping over others’ beats, for the most part—unless it’s like a straight banger—it’s not as appealing as showcasing your own stuff,” P.O.S. says.
And there’s quite a bit to show off. Doomtree reads like a “Dear Diary” wake-up call: Lust, love, lies, and redemption dissected in reverse. Mistakes were made. Here’s a rag—clean it up.
Each emcee hits the ground running, down but not out; each song implying things might look up if you can only get your shit together.
“Welcome to the future!/ Rap won’t save you/Did you hear that?/Rap won’t save you.”
Doomtree assume the role of drill sergeant one minute, wise barstool sage the next. Most of their tough love scenarios involve bottles and battles with fallen angels, “baptized in bourbon/capsized for certain.”
It’s not all dead-ends and sob stories. Most of tracks soar with a sense of urgency and fierce determination to right past wrongs. “It’s like we don’t even talk no more/ never seem to really anyway/ just repeated single serving and erections/best wishes on your way/can you see how we speak right through each other?” P.O.S. sings on his shit-happens lament, “Liver Let Die.”
Though common themes thread through Doomtree’s lyrical content, each emcee and producer brings a unique and distinct sound to the album. They make it seem easy, even if it wasn’t.
“I think that was one of the challenges for us as solo emcees,” says Dessa. “The styles are so disparate that it took a lot of dedicated effort to make something that was cohesive but still really showcased a huge range.”
It helps that Doomtree grew up in a community that encourages cross-genre pollination, so to speak. Unlike the majority of music scenes across the country, Minneapolis seems more or less immune to divisive cliques. Death metal bands play with folk artists, for example.
And it’s not just the musicians, but the listeners as well. “It’s not just ‘I’m a hip-hop head’ or ‘I’m an indie rocker’,” Dessa says. “They’re really willing to listen to all types of stuff and go to shows that have really mixed bills.”
“I think that’s one of the bigger reasons we’ve had so many shows,” Cecil Otter says. When he and P.O.S. were first starting out, they would play anywhere, with anyone. That flexibility continues to give Doomtree a consistent leg-up on today’s word-of-mouth music world. P.O.S. recently toured with Underoath, and while much of the audience was understandably confused, by the end of each gig he converted at least a few hard rock fans to his signature sound.
“I went to see Atmosphere and Dillinger Four once in Chicago and people were brawling. It was a total mess,” P.O.S. says. “If that same show happened in Minneapolis it would be a straight party. I feel like nowadays more and more it gets easier to do that and have it be okay, but it’s nothing like Minneapolis.”
With the new crew album—plus releases by Cecil Otter (Aug. 27) and Dessa, Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak out later this year—Doomtree just might convince the rest of us to bounce outside the box.
Rapper POS, of Minneapolis' Doomtree collective, has one of the most interesting bios in hip-hop. He started in the punk scene as a guitarist and singer, initially hating but eventually accepting hip-hop as an art form. He still straddles the line between the two worlds, using electric guitars and hard-hitting drum beats to back his angry rhymes—a better mesh of rock and rap than this show's headliner. Doomtree opens for Flobots 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Pontiac Garage (formerly The Cambridge Room) in the House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. Tickets are $15. Call 214-978-BLUE or visit hob.com -Jesse Hughey
Branching Out With Doomtree
We hyped the Flobots show at House of Blues tonight in our calendar section this week, but I would like to urge you to get to the club early (doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8) for Doomtree. They're a nine-strong Minneapolis hip-hop crew who sound like an ideal hybrid between the Rhymesayers and anticon. labels' dominant aesthetics.
Doomtree's five MCs (including P.O.S.) relate poignant, metaphor-rich tales that keep it real without being overly obvious about it. The group's four DJs and producers lace their tracks with solid, fresh funkiness and unusual orchestrations/instrumentation (probably sampled, but there's a serious artfulness to it) that stand up to several listens. Doomtree's self-titled album (out July 29) is one of the most assured hip-hop efforts of 2008. -Dave Segal
Salt Lake City Weekly
If there’s any justice in this world, 2008 will be the year P.O.S. finally hits it big and joins the ranks of fellow Minneapolis artists Atmosphere, Brother Ali and The Hold Steady—high-profile movers and shakers who share a label/collaborated with the genre-bending emcee. Why the world hasn’t latched on to P.O.S.’s trailblazing sound is a mystery and damned shame. We predicted huge success for him in 2004 when Ipecac Neat first delivered its relentless wake-up call to action. The ferocious political rants, blazing social commentary and heart-on-sleeve confessions improved and intensified on Audition (2006), an album that matched P.O.S.’s lightning speed wit, piss and vinegar with tight, inventive beats/samples. Oh, and the live performances? Man. P.O.S. connects with his audiences on a visceral level, often stepping offstage and inviting the crowd to circle around him as they chant along to familiar songs—even new ones off his forthcoming release later this year. It’s only a matter of time before word-of-mouth praise pushes P.O.S. and the entire Doomtree collective to the next level. Get in on the ground floor while you still can. In the Venue, 579 W. 200 South, 7 p.m. All-ages. Tickets: 24Tix.com (with Underoath) -Jamie Gadette
Flobots, P.O.S., Doomtree
2007 was a good year for the Flobots, and 2008 is shaping up to be even better, at least if you're measuring things by their popularity on 107.7 The End. Seattle loves well-thought-out hip-hop, and between Johnny 5's tight rhymes, Brer Rabbit's gravity-defying dance moves, Mackenzie Roberts' viola prowess and the rest of the crew's mad skills, all of the pieces fall into perfect place. Seeing them at The End Summer Camp II was surreal: I felt lifted, even mesmerized. Who would've known that the Denver music scene would produce something so hot? Doomtree has some talented MCs signed to their label, but sometimes the "thrash" part of their sound gets overwhelming for me. That said, they're well-loved in Minneapolis (Doomtree's home base) and beyond for their explosive live shows. But seriously, whatever your feelings about P.O.S. or Doomtree, Flobots are the main reason you should show up. The left-leaning political tones are just a bonus. -Nick Feldman
Flobots, Doomtree, P.O.S.
(El Corazón) Who in the love of the LFO are these Flobots clowns? That “Handlebars” song is hot, steamy, wet trash—and I never even heard their stupid-ass name till their video was in heavy rotation and KNDD was banging them like Yellowcard. Yet I’m going to go to their show because P.O.S., the most interesting act on Rhymesayers Entertainment, is a fucking lightning bolt onstage. A punk-rock singer turned shitstarting MC, Pissed Off Stef’s half-Eminem/half–Against Me! swag can turn timid rap shows to hardcore pits in a blink. His Doomtree family follows suit—their dark, rock-damaged aesthetic akin to the Northwest’s Oldominion clique. -Larry Mizell Jr.
DoomTree which is comprised of,Cecil Otter, Dessa, LazerBeak, Marshall Larada, Mick Mictlan, Paper Tiger, P.O.S., Sims, Tom Servo, and Turbo Nemesis came out on stage with a masterful presence. P.O.S. Made the announcement that Doomtree was here and immediately went to work on the crowd. The Doomtree crew all had a story to tell and each rapped with the expressions of pure heart through the words they spoke. It was an injection of rap that was fresh and it had no expression of derogatory content; it taught lessons about loving not hating. As each rapper spit their story you could feel the energy and emotion behind each word. Their ability to reach people with their music was to the level that some musicians can only dream. This really help set the stage for Flobots because everybody in El Corazon was definitely feeling this Minneapolis crew Doomtree. -Corey Bayless
The Seattle PI
The two opening acts were sick.
P.O.S., consisting of two rappers and a Mac book, really got the party started. Absolutely twitching out and moving crazy the whole time it was hard not to just stare at them. Plus, rapper P.O.S. could give Ludacris (Chris Bridges), a run for his money when it comes to the title of fastest rapper out there. It was a trip.
The second act was Doomtree Collective, and a collective it certainly was. Hailing from Minnesota they groups seven or so members, including rapper P.O.S. who had just been on stage, each took their turns emceeing on their microphones. No one could ever tell what was about to happen next.
"The first two were freaking sick. I'm amped," Brian Inderbitzin, 20, said right before the Flobots got on stage. "I think [P.O.S.] will even be better than the Flobots."
Although the first two acts were not better than the headliner, each group built upon the last to create a continuous hip-hop masterpiece.
And last night America/Seattle was loving it.
Why Are You Reading This Blog?
doomtree fuckin rocked. they had amazing enery, the whole crowd got into it, and they have and incredably hot, super talnted voice, amazing lyrics chick in the collective who sang about half their songs and was amazing. they played the two doomtree songs i wanted to hear, and a few songs from POS' album. I also got a POS shirt that i almost traded for and Odessa shirt after the show. POS had t sirt with stick figure with huge smiling gold teeth that said "gold teeth for err body" and i was like man, i remeber when err was a popular word. anyways, i got to met odessa, sims, and mictlan after the show, they were very friendly an it was very awesome.can.
SUNDAY MUSIC PICK: DOOMTREE
Doomtree fans keep your ears peeled!
The Doomtree family is one that cannot be effed with. On the cusp of dropping their self-titled debut record, Doomtree is finally about to blow up. With one of the toughest work ethics in local music, the Doomtree crew dominates the market on backpack rap and DIY production. Each member of the crew is charismatic and talented, but taken as a whole, Doomtree is much more than the sum of its parts. Their genre-bending styles balance one another out flawlessly, with vivid rhymes filled with intelligent lyrics and fearless messages laid against a backdrop of primal beats and intense rhythms. These guys just keep getting stronger.
Their soon-to-drop 21-track album will be the first released to feature the entire collective, complete with guest appearances from the mighty I Self Devine and Kill The Vultures' Crescent Moon. Be prepared for the Doomtree craze to take over the city come the end of the month!
Sentenced to Def Blog
Minneapolis hip-hop was certainly built by the Rhymesayers camp, but with Slug and Co. on tour all the time (and, let's face it - growing older) there's another crew holding it down in the city since about 2005ish. They are called Doomtree, consisting of Rhymesayers recording artist POS as well as Sims, Dessa, Mictlan, Cecil Otter, MK Larada, Paper Tiger, and Turbo Nemesis with beats produced by the always versitile Lazerbeak.
These guys are 9 reasons why my last two years in Minneapolis were off the chain. They were featured in URB's Next 100 in their breakout year and each of them function superbly as individual artists. Their rhymes are incredibly intelligent and linger a bit on the darker side, and their clever wordplay always keeps me listening for the next punchline.
Check out their new single on crew record S/t, "Drumsticks:" - love the chopped n' screwed hook. -Jen Boyles
Doomtree | nine producers and rappers come together for collaborative album
The Doomtree Collective, who URB Magazine named "The hottest hip-hop crew in Minneapolis," will release their highly anticipated album, DOOMTREE on July 29th. This will be the first album to feature tracks produced and performed by the entire nine member collective.
The five rappers and four producers that make up the Doomtree crew have been powering through the underground community since their inception, with critically acclaimed releases from their home-grown label, including their own False Hopes series of EPs, and the release of P.O.S.’s Ipecac Neat (named "Best Album of the Year" by The Star Tribune). Since meeting in junior high, they've all lived and worked together, helping to create the dynamic and tireless work ethic they have developed as a group. They explain, "Doomtree is a record label. Doomtree is a rap crew. Doomtree is a family." They describe their crew love as "obvious and infectious" and this undoubtedly has an effect on audiences during live shows. This intense connection between the group's members has lent significantly to their achievements in both past and current ventures, as they are completely committed to each others' success. Over the past five years, Doomtree has gained momentum as one of the best hip-hop collectives in the Midwest. This can be attributed to the crew's innovative recordings and engaging live shows, which earned them the title of "Best Concert of the Past 12 Months" (City Pages). This summer, the crew will be touring with Flobot showing off their aforementioned performance prowess.
The self-titled album, DOOMTREE, is a landmark for the group and a self-proclaimed beast. With 21 tracks, not only does the record build the momentum of the crew, but it also highlights their talents as solo artists. With an already outstanding catalog including fans of punk and indie rock, and rap purists, this release is sure to rally an even bigger audience with the call for independent thought.
The Hip Hop Chronicle
Doomtree Collective Prep New Release
July 22nd, 2008
URB Magazine named them ”The hottest hip-hop crew in Minneapolis,” and on July 29th Doomstree self titled-album. This will be the first album to feature tracks produced and performed by the entire nine member collective.
The five rappers and four producers that make up the Doomtree crew have been powering through the underground community since their inception, with critically acclaimed releases from their home-grown label, including their own False Hopes series of EPs, and the release of P.O.S.’s Ipecac Neat (named “Best Album of the Year” by The Star Tribune).
Doomtree is a gang with a new record
Minneapolis indie powerhouse Doomtree,led by P.O.S.and Dessa releases the first all crew record. Expect to hear Company Flow-like inspired rhymes and production from fellow gang members Mike Mitclan , Sims,Paper Tiger, Cecil Otter, Turbo and MK Larada. Currently streaming 2 new tracks "Drumsticks and "The Wren" on their myspace page. New record July 29th. Minneapolis in the motherfuckin' building.
You know a good song when you hear it. What you probably don't know is what went into creating that song. Songs from Scratch chronicles the songwriting process to find out what transforms a vague idea into a full-fledged tune.
Minnesota Public Radio gave three local musicians—Best Friends Forever, P.O.S. (of Doomtree), and Jeremy Messersmith—two weeks to write a song. We assigned them a theme ("The Wizard of Oz") and a set of lyrics (penned by Honeydogs' front man Adam Levy) to up the difficulty level.
Songs from Scratch is documenting their techniques and inspirations, as well as their challenges, to get a first-hand look at how a song comes to life.
More info (and the final versions of the songs themselves) can be found here.
Doomtree: The Legend of Pepperbear Jenkins
|Written by Steve McPherson |
It's way too hot in Fifth Element for Doomtree to be playing an in-store for this many people. The Uptown record store's cathedral-esque front windows are adorned not with saints and martyrs, but giant posters and displays for Atmosphere, Muja Messiah, and other hip-hop acts, but today they're just turning the store into a greenhouse.
Doomtree at Fifth Element - Photo by Steve McPherson
The tiny stage in the back is chock full: emcees Dessa Darling, P.O.S., Cecil Otter, Mike Mictlan, and Sims weave around each other as best they can while DJ Turbo Nemesis lays in the cuts. Producers Lazerbeak and MK Larada are here as well, along with DJ Paper Tiger. The aisles are crammed with a crowd of mostly teenagers singing along to every word they can get a hold of from Doomtree's brand new, self-titled debut record—words they somehow know despite the fact that it just came out today, Tuesday, July 29.
You can blame it on the internet, but this record has also been a long time coming. Doomtree's been performing some of these songs for almost two years, so can you blame the masses for catching onto a couple lyrics here and there? Album opener "Drumsticks" pulses with menace, a track that features all five emcees and worthy manifesto for a crew album that displays the staggering breadth and vision of a group with as strong a sense of their collective power as of their individual talents.
Some of the most effective tracks are duets like "Dots & Dashes," which features Dessa and P.O.S. squaring off against a slippery mash of classical guitar, organ, and a propulsive drum break and around a chorus that asks without answer, "Is there anyone there?" Mictlan's "Game Over" slashes hard against a roiling groove and stainless steel hook that bobs drunkenly. The record as a whole certainly feels like more than just a tour through the crew's various solo cuts. The individual personalities rub against each other in interesting ways, from the Latin touches of Dessa's "Sadie Hawkins" to the hydraulic electro of "Gander Back." These contrasts and confluences strengthen the grain of the record, recalling other crew highwater marks like Quannum's SoleSides Greatest Bumps. And while plenty of rap albums tend to be overlong, Doomtree is never tiring.
Unlike, say, spending any amount of time inside Fifth Element's thick, humid atmosphere. But once the performance is over, the fans stay to get their CDs, posters, and paraphernalia signed by the whole crew, who stand in front of those sweltering windows for a good 45 minutes signing every last bit of merch.
Once they've recovered, the crew makes its gradual way around to the parking lot behind Fifth Element where we can get down to business.
So how long were you working on this record all told?
Dessa: On and off for three years.
Dessa: I'll say two and a half.
Paper Tiger: Well, what's the oldest song? [Silence] Sorry, I didn't mean to step on toes.
No, please: Jump on it.
Sims: "Gameshow Host"?
P.O.S.: Well, without your verse, "Twentyfourseven" was done a long-ass time ago.
So does that become a problem? When you've got something that's two years old and in a sense you start moving on?
Cecil Otter: For the past two years? No. But from here on out? Yes.
So you feel like this is closing a chapter to an extent?
Sims: It's been really a trying time from having this album nearing completion to being done and trying to figure out what to do with it best. Is it best to partner up with someone on a business level, or just do it on our own? So there was so much that comes with this album; it's not just the music. Just being through all that, and making the decisions that we've made, I feel like putting it out ourselves was the right decision, and we all feel happy with that.
P.O.S.: There was definitely a time when we first started trucking—like after Ipecac Neat came out—we had a few False Hopes under our belt and we started to get some momentum, and then it was time to just fucking do it. But then Cecil and Dessa's False Hopes came out at the same time, and Sims' record came out, and then we were so ready to get going, but there were clearly business steps that needed to get made, and positions to get in place before we could figure out how to do it. We just wanted to keep on doing what we had been doing: putting it out and selling it at the show. But we realized as time went into it that it deserves a little more work.
Sims: That's one of the hardest things about an artist-run label: There's x amount of time allotted for making music and x amount of time allotted for figuring out what to do with that to get you to the next level up. You never want to blow it up, but you want to make some strides, but it's tough to have to shift your time like that.
Well, you gotta be sure you're making steps all the time. If you feel like you're stagnant, then that's a problem.
Sims: As soon as we set the release date for this, we were all like, "Cool." And it kind of closed the book a little bit, even though there was work to do. It just felt good, like we made the decision that it's coming out regardless. And then in that time, everyone was working on their records and we're almost done with five new solo records.
P.O.S.: That is one giant deal with us: We had this record done, ready to get mastered, and then one of us will have an idea of how we should put it out, and then somebody will have a different opinion about it, but it's the kind of thing where we've all been friends for a long time and we don't want to step on each other's toes and none of us know what we're doing business-wise to the point where if anybody's got any kind of qualms about what we're thinking, we all sit back and go, "Well ..." And then a week goes by ... it's really easy to get sidetracked and end up holding on so tight to what we have and not wanting to give up anything that we end up not giving anything away but also not moving forward because we're trying to wait for perfect opportunities instead of taking the best ones. In setting the release date for this record, we kind of got over that and decided to see what's going to work.
Having heard about the crew record for so long, I knew it was coming, and you guys put out the crew False Hopes, but I've been sort of surprised how momentous this is seeming to become. People are really looking forward to it. And then when I got the record, I really felt like it was another step above the False Hopes. And it's fun to listen to, because I feel like solo records are such statements about who you are as an artist, and there's a feeling of who you guys are as a crew on this, but also it switches around so much, it's really easy to listen to.
Sims: That was one of the hard things about it, because there were so many heads involved, so many ideas, and so many good artists that all have their own approaches, and who have all worked independently of each other even though we work together. So that was one of the biggest challenges to getting this thing rolling and make something that sounded somewhat cohesive and still everyone could do what they wanted to do.
P.O.S.: There was definitely a point in the starting of it where Beak had dropped off 40 beats and all of us were kind of working on a solo record or at least thinking about it and everybody was kind of approaching it like, "I don't know what I want to use—I don't know what I want to give up," you know what I'm saying? And then we started hearing what everybody else was doing and then it was like, "I better step it up."
Well, a little friendly competition can be good.
P.O.S.: I'm not going to speak for everybody, but I know the whole idea of not wanting to save your best shit for your solo record, but wanting to make sure that you had enough for your solo record, and make sure you had enough to make this good but not, I don't know, flex your style too hard. But then after a couple songs were made it was like—
Sims: I gotta flex my style harder!
Lazerbeak: And that was cool because these guys are learning how to write songs together for the first time. They're solo artists, and maybe there's been a feature here or there, but even if it is just two people on a track, even that is learning how to do that with someone. It's pretty cool to watch growth from that.
It seems like even the cuts that are just two people, you get a real sense of the dynamic between two emcees. When you've done solo records and there are guests on them, there's often a feeling of "Guest," but this feels a lot more collaborative. Also, I think that all of you guys, having heard your stuff from almost the beginning, have really developed your own voices and especially on this record it's really coming out—the different identities. I think this record really shows the rappers making each other stronger in the group.
Dessa: I think, too, when we first came together, I was really sweating the cohesion thing—is this really a project, or is it just a sampler? And I think as I've had the chance to listen to it more, that we don't recognize how much cohesion there is organically. In the same way that you don't see resemblance amongst related people, we are more alike than it strikes our ears on first listen, just because we've been together for so long.
But you're also all working solo records, right? They're almost all done?
Sims: Cecil Otter's comes out August 26, Rebel Yellow. Mike Mictlan and Lazerbeak's Hand Over Fist comes out September 23. Dessa is October 27. P.O.S.'s is January?
Lazerbeak: And Sims is somewhere in there.
All I've heard is how amazing your new shit is.
Sims: From who? Did my mom tell you?
We were talking about it at South by Southwest.
Sims: Oh, when I was like, "Dude: You've gotta here how amazing my shit is."
No, but you were really scared of your new shit, and I was like, "That's really good." I think if you get to the point as an artist where you know your shit is good, you should probably quit.
Sims: Either quit or start making money. One of those two. Sellout or quit.
Lazerbeak: This record is so old, that I think everyone's just excited to get their new shit out there.
So it is like a capper.
Sims: Yeah, I mean, we played "The Wren" at Blowout 2 [in 2006].
Yeah, I had to get over that when I listened to it, because I've been hearing these songs for a long time, but then once I started being able to hear the subtleties—
P.O.S.: And the lyrics! That's my favorite part.
Lazerbeak: And the lyrics are in there; you can actually read them. This was always the goal—for this to be the, uh, can I use the word jump off still? It's the jump off. The whole goal was always to let this be the framework for everyone to do their own shit.
So the decision to put lyrics in there: It's always seemed to me with rap, that that's a lot of words. Do you feel like that was an easy decision?
Dessa: We know we wanted to. The price is ink and pages, but I think that listeners had expressed enough interest in the lyrics for other projects, that that was something we really wanted to do. And it helps to differentiate us a little.
Sims: I'd say one of the big influences to push for it was that so many kids were e-mailing me and on MySpace asking, "Where are the lyrics? Can you send me the lyrics for this song?"
Dessa: And Sims can't type. [laughter]
Sims: I can't.
Well and you can't understand him on record. [laughter] But it seems like there were never that many rap CDs with lyrics and it seemed like putting them in there was like, well, who knows what they really are, but you know what they are. You're not improvising them. But I was still shocked when I got the last Jay-Z album and it had every lyric.
Lazerbeak: And Kanye's been doing that, too.
Sims: And we've been kind of going the same path as those two for a while, so ...
So do the people who make the beats feel the same way? Do you feel happy to get the stuff out there and over with?
P.O.S.: That's gotta be how Beak feels. Beak's got something like 900 beats coming out this year, starting with this one. How many is it really?
Lazerbeak: It's maybe, like, 60 in a twelve month period. So this shit is like three to four years old, some of it, beatwise. I'm just ready for people to hear it. I've been sitting on some of this for a long time.
So I was going to ask if you went on tour and just stood in the back nodding, but you didn't go.
Lazerbeak: No, someone's gotta pay the mortgage. These pizzas don't sell themselves.
Sims: That's another challenge about having an artist-run label: When five rappers and a DJ go out of town, we have to leave one DJ at home because we can't afford to not have three people at home doing shit. Kai, Beak, and John have been running around like crazy for the past month. I mean, we have a record coming out and they're doing all that shit while we're on tour.
So do you ever feel with an artist-run label that the pressure of the things that aren't the music take away from—
P.O.S. at SxSW - Photo by Steve McPherson
Sims: Definitely. It's strenuous. On the music, on the relationships you have with these people. It's added stress.
Mictlan: We were meeting two, three times a week and none of it was about music.
P.O.S.: Half of the supposed to be awesome times on tour, you got Dessa formulating press for the next show before we get there and trying to field phone calls to figure out what's going on when we get there because we're still doing our best with no internet in a van.
Dessa: It was awesome. [laughter] There's such an urgency with the business stuff that's like, "Yo, if you want to be part of this we gotta get this song by this week" and "Hey, if you want to do an interview, there's somebody coming through tonight," whereas no one's like, "Hey dude, if you don't have that 8-bar, you're not awesome." There's just no balls dropping in the same way ... [laughter] ... Oh come on.
Turbo Nemesis: When I get back to the Twin Cities, I let my nuts drop!
So did it smell terrible in the van by the end of the tour?
Cecil Otter: You'd get used to it, and then you'd leave to go to use the restroom and then you'd come back in and, especially in Phoenix when it was really hot, it was just, "Oh God." It takes a minute.
Sims: The last couple of days in Texas after 20 days of all of us in the van, those were some hard days of getting back into that van. It smelled like a wet dog in there. It's like an apartment for seven people. And you have a two foot square space and everyone's changing space because not every seat is cool. So people are changing places.
P.O.S.: The thing is, though, as uncomfortable as it can be, it's all worth it, and we were only gone for however many days. Not a two-month monster tour. It was definitely never to the point where it was so uncomfortable that we couldn't take it. And we have enough friends that, as soon as we get to their place, they've got open arms.
Sims: We had to do that because we can't afford it with gas being as high as it is. We could afford a couple, but for the most part we were just staying with friends.
P.O.S.: There's lots of, without it even being spoken about, politeness that comes up just because you're sharing space with somebody.
Sims: It doesn't seem difficult, ever. It's just a thing that you're doing. It's amazing how fast you can adapt to a situation. You can figure out how to sleep and eat and do all the things you have to do without having anywhere to go and all of you in a van, and it doesn't ever seem uncomfortable. You have fun with it because there's no choice. There's a lot of camaraderie.
Do you feel like having spent time living together in the Doomtree house helped with that?
Mictlan: It helped me and Sims snuggle a couple of times during the winter.
Cecil Otter: We all got to know each other's habits so well in the house.
Sims: You kind of know how to navigate each other. It's really good for people to do that, because any bullshit or beef that comes up, it has to be resolved in 12 hours tops. It's good; you can learn how to identify with people more. You can understand more about them.
Man, it's just like the Rainbow Coalition rolling down the road. Rap tours as a means to greater world peace. So what's the one story that really sticks out from the tour?
Cecil Otter: Well, we were in Red Rocks and we had a day off and [tour manager James] Lynch always brings us to Red Rocks when we're on tour with him. It's beautiful and there's this small little town that's like a block long, and on one side of it there's this little river running through it and it's gorgeous and Mike [Mictlan] kept talking about it because it was like 100 degrees out. And so at one point, Mike's like, "I found the river! I'm in here!" and you had to hop over this bridge and go down some rocks, and he found this spot in the river that when you sit in it, it's almost like a sofa.
So we're sitting in this water and we're all paddling around having a good time, when this cute, adorable, little black dog comes scampering out of the bushes and walks into the water and just starts cuddling with us. So we're petting this dog, sitting in the river, in this beautiful town and just to top it off, we check the dog tag and its name was Pepperbear Jenkins, and we're all just like, "Oh gosh ..."
And then, as soon as we decide to leave, we're walking out and there's this cop coming down and he's like, "This is the town's water supply; you can't swim in there." So Pepperbear's owners were probably just calling the cops.
COMING UP: Doomtree release show for Doomtree with I Self Devine and Kill the Vultures. Friday, August 1. First Avenue. 8 pm. 18+. $8/$10.
Twin Cities Roll Call
Your weekly guide to music on the Twin Cities smaller stages
By Rob van Alstyne
Special to METROMIX
Friday, August 1st
The hometown hip-hop heroics continue tonight at First Avenue with the years in the making full-length debut from the entire Doomtree crew finally celebrating its release. Although the nine member crew have been the biggest thing in town this side of Rhymesayers for the last couple of years they were too busy unleashing awesome solo albums by their various members, most prominently P.O.S., to get around to putting together a full on collaboration and releasing it—until now that is. With five MCs and four producers in the mix it’s a wide ranging album sure to electrify when the whole crew (a nintet?) set it off on stage in front of what will undoubtedly be a packed and adoring crowd (8 p.m., $10, 18+).