Doomtree gets dope in Vancouver

Emcee Dessa holds her own in the male-dominated game of hip hop. Tennyson Montgomery/The Runner

By Sasha Mann

A rap collective is a difficult beast. The Wu Tang Clan obviously pulled it off in their heyday, but now — almost two decades after their unforgettable debut — the hip hop scene looks pretty different.

Can a group like  Doomtree, with its five emcees and two producers, manage to create songs without losing unique individuality? More importantly, can they put on a dope show?

Judging by the group’s performance at Fortune Sound Club on Jan. 27, the answer is yes. Very much so.

From the first song the Minneapolis-based group performed , it was clear that they had more than enough hype and artistry to make heads nod frantically and also leave minds fixated on the lyrics long after the show had ended.

Sims – one of the five emcees – was noticeably absent, leaving the rest of the crew to take turns performing his parts. But that didn’t matter. The energy was still tremendous.

P.O.S. is likely the best known of the Doomtree crew, with his punk-rock influenced sound. Dessa however, quietly holds the most attention and fervent interest. She’s one a very small number of female emcees in the male dominated hip hop game, and her half-sung, poetic delivery has been put to good use in her solo projects. When Dessa performed “Dixon’s Girl”, the huge response from the crowd was somewhat at odds with the eerie singing.

Other songs were less subtle.

“Bangarang” was indeed a banger as the title suggests. It was only the second song of the set, but the audience members’ voices were already hoarse from the crowd participation.

“Game Over,” a solo song by Mike Mictlan was in a similar vein.

He’d never been to Canada before and hinted that a criminal record had made that impossible before, but now he was here spiting double time flows with intricacy – and having a lot of fun doing it.

There’s an undercurrent of criminality in Doomtree’s music.

It’s not your run-of-the-mill thug fantasies, but allusions to dusty, outlawed bandits.

“Bolt Cutter” sees P.O.S. breaking into abandoned buildings with his girlfriend, while “Fuck Your Stuff”celebrates rioting and name-checks the late Christopher Hitchens.

Emcee Cecil Otter noted how beautiful Vancouver was after the Doomtree show, which seemed ironic standing in the Downtown Eastside. But he meant the people, and on Saturday night, he was right. Vancouver’s hip hop heads represented to the fullest.

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