Album Review: Dessa – A Badly Broken Code

Minneapolis label and rap collective Doomtree is continuously proving itself to be the best place for rappers with a unique voice and sound, and Dessa is one of the latest additions to this excellent group which includes P.O.S., SIMS, and Paper Tiger.

Both an MC and a singer, Dessa is one of the few rappers who can provide their own hooks (without embarrassing themselves). Opener “Children’s Work” introduces listeners to Dessa‘s style – thoughtful, melancholy lyrics set to plucked strings, drums, and tambourine (amongst other instruments I can’t discern). It’s a haunting number about her childhood that sets up A Badly Broken Code‘s fantastic journey.

“Poor Atlas” highlights Dessa’s singing, and acts more as a capo to the next excellent track, “The Crow”. The dark tone of the song is remeniscient of work on P.O.S.‘s album, but is far more melodic, with layered vocals on the chorus that create a captivating call and response. Jazz and blues influences take over on “Dixon’s Girl”, which slows things down with a slinky beat that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1930s.

“Mineshaft II” uses an electric folk guitar melody to accompany the narrator’s lamenting of a friend falling back into a dangerous relationship. There is a heavy sense of melancholy throughout the album, but not every track is a sorrowful story.

“The Bullpen” blasts out the door with horns, as Dessa describes her struggles as a woman in the rap game; “forget the bull in the china shop, there’s a china doll in the bullpen”. It’s not a whining complaint, but a song of empowerment as Dessa looks at the petty chauvinism with a smirk. In a similar vein, “Crew” is a thankful call out to her fellow Doomtree artists for the strength and unity it provides. Kudos for the line “half Dorothy Parker, half April O’Neal”. Everyone can appreciate a good Ninja Turtles reference, and everyone who gives this album a chance will appreciate the great lyrics, original beats, haunting music, and the ascent of an excellent female voice in hip hop.

Take a listen to this masterpiece here.

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