“I think I was twenty when I entered my first poetry slam,” recalls Dessa, the Minnesota hiphop and spoken word artist headlining World Cafe Live tonight. She remembers her best friend was trying to get her out of the house after a lousy breakup.
“Did you win over the audience that night?”
“I did…I won that night, although I didn’t realize that at the time, I think I won because most of the good poets were out of town performing elsewhere.”
A modest explanation for by an astounding lyricist. You might have heard of Dessa – who we last spoke to about her Castor The Twin 2011 live release – from her work with the hip-hop collective Doomtree, or her solo releases. If so, you already know that she would have blown all those “good poets” out of the water with her addictive meter and flooding choice of words. If you don’t know her yet, it’s about time you start listening.
Currently on tour, Dessa is celebrating the June release of her third full-length album Parts Of Speech, which we chatted about over the phone this week.
“I’ve always been attracted to the linguistic part of music making,” she spoke about the title of the album, “so I wanted the title to express that; [with] my writerly interest in it as well as a musical interest.” Mentioning that she is more of a lyricist who developed the musical skills almost after she entered the rap world, Dessa quickly moved on to explain how all the tracks fit into the overall title as well. “This is also a record that, in some ways, tells a story from a variety of camera angles where the past is worked pretty thoroughly in the first person.”
Talking about how she reinvented her sound, Dessa admits that she is not particularly a fast writer. The 12-track album took about two and a half to three years of work. “I usually end up kinda capturing little bits of phrases or snippets of overheard conversation, and then later sitting down, after I’ve got the music in hand, [I] can match those little pieces like a mosaic into a finished lyric.” And a beautiful composition of intimate lyrics, hauntingly looped vocals, and fresh beats came out in the end. In a way, Dessa took her establishes style and doused it with a new flare of integrity that can be heard in tracks such as “Fighting Fish” and “Skeleton Key”.
Wondering how a person can trust numerous audiences with such intimate details of her life, Dessa simply responded that she doesn’t think of it that way. “I figure that I will tell true stories that are resonant with me and the audience is kinda self selecting. You know, if they like it, they’ll hang around and they’ll come tomorrow again. And if they aren’t into it, they’ll just move on and find something that they do like.”
Dessa performs tonight at World Cafe Live with Sombear. Tickets and information can be found here. You can also catch her at this Friday’s WXPN Free At Noon concert with Laura Viers. For tickets and information, go here.