Doomtree: The Hip-Hop Co-Op
Behold the power of the hyper-collaborative rap septet. For the past 10 years, Doomtree has grown from a ragtag group of novice MCs and beatmakers to Minneapolis' premier hip-hop crew, without losing its aggressively earnest ethos in the process.
The group's latest release, No Kings, caps off a dizzying run of Doomtree members' solo releases and side projects, which include a pair of punk- and noise-influenced Rhymesayers releases from P.O.S.; highly regarded albums from spoken-word artist, essayist and singer Dessa; collaborations between multi-talented producer Lazerbeak and bombastic spitter Mike Mictlan; a solo release from heartfelt sociopolitical rapper Sims; and a solo album from introspective mood-shifter Cecil Otter. Add in Otter's mash-up project Wugazi and Lazerbeak's solo albums, which range from rock to dance, and a few dizzying patterns start to emerge: Doomtree's preferred sounds and strengths reside all over the map, but the eternally prolific crew never stops pushing forward.
Each member's turn in the spotlight helps him or her refine a sound and further develop a personality, but there's always a return back to the collective; solo tours and release cycles are broken up by hometown pride-fests like the annual Doomtree Blowout at First Avenue, which recently sold out the club for seven days straight. As each individual star shines brighter, they regroup to form a tighter and more illuminating constellation. In that regard, No Kingsis a triumph — it maintains an incredible balance of power, neither drowning out nor over-accentuating any of the members, and artistically reflects the group's egalitarian philosophy.
"Seek not to oppress, and don't tolerate any oppression," Dessa said during Doomtree's recent session with , while Sims described the group as "basically a co-op." That kind of DIY-circa-2012 energy has helped propel the band to national success, and has earned Doomtree widespread support in a hometown that can be leery of bands who enjoy too much commercial success.
In the words of Sims on Doomtree's blistering single, "Bangarang," "I've built more than a rap career — I've got my family here." The group welcomes new fans into that family every day.
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