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 Kings is 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 89.3 The Current, 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.
- Mike Mictlan
- Cecil Otter
- Paper Tiger (producer)
- Host: Mark Wheat
- Video: Nate Ryan and Eric Schleicher
- Production: Nate Ryan
- Audio: Michael DeMark