Doomtree has been one of my favorite groups for a couple of years. I’ve been to several of their shows, and they never fail to bring it. I also met a two of them outside Chicago gem Hot Doug’s the day after a show. They were really nice, and, of course, stood in the hour-long line in the March cold just like the rest of us.
For the uninitiated, Doomtree is a collection of seven very different emcees and producers and emcee-producers. Arguably the most well-known member, P.O.S., has strong punk influences apparent in his tracks, which is understandable, as he is also a member of two punk bands, while producer Lazerbeak has an indie rock past as a member of the on-hiatus band The Plastic Constellations. Emcee Dessa came up in the Spoken Word scene in Minneapolis and also has a published book of prose. SIMS is a rapidfire lyricist with cerebral, conscious lyrics that always deserve a second listen. Mike Mictlan came to Minnesota by way of L.A. and tends toward the more laidback, stream-of-consciousness vibe, and producer Paper Tiger takes his cues from electronica and “mid-school” rap, as well as handling the graphic designing for Doomtree’s posters and album art. Because the Doomtree crew is about as do-it-yourself as a group of artists can be. They don’t have “people.” They are the people.
So how do these seven diverse people come out with an album in which each of their seven personalities can shine through? Well, for one thing, they certainly don’t try to force it. For example, on their most recent release, No Kings, not every member is featured on every song. Because that would be repetitive and exhausting. Rather, on each track, a couple of them are showcased, which is a situation that lends itself to a very unpredictable first listen. In a good way. It is a complete mystery how each song will develop because each one of them could take it in a completely different direction.
Interestingly, the creation of No Kings sounds somewhat similar to the creation of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. Much like Justin Vernon writing alone in the woods, the group went to a secluded cabin together, armed only with the albums’ beats. No internet, no cell phones, no lyrics. Just a group of people listening to beats and writing for a day and into the night. And the result was the 46-minute album, comprised of some of the most original hip hop to come out of 2011.
The video for single, “Bolt Cutter,” came out a couple months ago and features several ofthe members, including a particularly standout verse by Dessa.
And yesterday, Doomtree released their new video for “Bangarang,” an anthem that perfectly encapsulates what Doomtree is about and how far they’ve come. In addition, the video shows that, even though they’ve made it, Doomtree still doesn’t take themselves too seriously.