DESSA - False Hopes
False Hopes is not just one record, but many. Indeed, such were named several solo projects, released in the mid-naughties by various members of Doomtree, before they recorded a joint album with the same title. Prior to this, actually, P.O.S. and Cecil Otter had founded a duo under the same name, even before they created the Minneapolis collective. But others would reuse it as a manifesto, and more particularly their female rapper, Dessa Darling, or Dessa. With the five songs of her own version – songs so good that she would reuse them on her second album, Castor, The Twin – she delivered actually one of the best of the series.
Doomtree Records :: 2005 :: buy the album
Margret Wander, though, was one of the last to join Doomtree. Her profile fitted well with the rest of the collective: as most of its members, she was White – more or less, actually, her mother being of Puerto Rican descent; she was also a literate middle-class lady, with a passion for books, a degree in philosophy, and sophisticated lyrics; and she didn’t mind crossing over to other genres, opting sometimes for spoken word instead of rap, or using “real” instruments. And though, Dessa had joined Doomtree almost randomly. As someone passionate in words, she had joined once, in 2001, a slam poetry contest, which she won. This victory, as a matter of fact, was an accident, many of its best contestants having travelled this very day. But anyway: it encouraged her to persevere. And through this new hobby, she became friend with a few rappers from her neighborhood.
Dessa’s experience with slam is visible on False Hopes. Her raps, indeed, are all about the art of language, and her subject matters are not common in hip-hop. For example, on the introductory track "Mineshaft", she philosophized about the weight of the past. There, the rapper talked about her consecutive experiences and identities, and their influence on what she had become. On "Everything Floats", with Cecil Otter’s support, she talked about art, and how it soothes an empty or painful existence. "551" was a song about the fleeting nature of love, where she confessed that comfort was the driving force behind marital fidelity. And "Kites", another depressing track, was about the end of her dreams and illusions.
Mostly produced by Doomtree’s own beatmakers Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, the music was as expected with the collective: the instruments sounded quite organic, and they were uncommon in a hip-hop context. Rap, in reality, was not Dessa’s only discipline: she could sing, and on "Kites" she engaged into strange murmurs. But still, she could blow the mic, being quite good at moving from one flow to another, and her style had a kind of old school flavor, like on "Press On", where Dessa and Sims played at completing their respective rhymes, à la Run-D.M.C.
Hers was a specific school of rap – not the most visible, but a convincing one; a school not rooted in the ghetto realities, and not concerned with stylistic purity, but still attached to the old-fashioned notion of “art”. In an accomplished way, and before her talent would dilute into too long – but still good – albums, the young rapper from Minneapolis offered a feminine face to her sub-genre of hip-hop.
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