Thursday, November 11, 2010

Doomtree's First Tour Hits Vancouver

Doomtree is a diverse collective of hip-hop artists from the Midwest, home of hip-hop's most underrated scene. Rhymesayers' own P.O.S heads up the crew, which includes an array of emcees and producers extraordinaire, Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak. When I talk to people from the Midwest, they have nothing but the highest praises for Doomtree, who many would consider the cornerstone of hip-hop in Minnesota. I have deep roots in one of Canada's finest hip-hop scenes, so this was a show I simply couldn't miss.

When I arrived at the Biltmore, Lazerbeak was already on stage. He usually takes the background position of producer, but right now he's Doomtree's rockstar of the moment. He just released his debut solo album, which I've been getting into lately. The album has an organic electronic feel to it, with catchy melodies and some great singing by Lazerbeak himself. For his set, he played electric guitar while Dessa backed him up on vocals and the others took over the tracks and drum machine.

I guess Doomtree likes to serve dessert first, starting things up with Lazerbeak before moving on the main course of breakbeats and underground raps. P.O.S brought the crowd into a frenzy with his double-time raps and triple-time breakbeat of “Drumroll (We're All Thirsty)”. I've seen him once before, and we was on fire as usual—onstage he's loud, excited and loves interacting with the crowd. Cecil Otter came up next with some raps from the deep, dark underground that brought me back to 5 years ago, watching my friends perform show after show in the local hip-hop scene.

Sims was next. His voice dominates and his rapid-fire flow feels like he's imprinting a headnodding subroutine into your subconscious. I can see why he received such high critical acclaim from URB Magazine and Okayplayer. His last album was in 2005, so I was glad to hear when he mentioned he has a new album with Lazerbeak coming out soon.

The emcees took a few more rounds, when finally singer/emcee/poet Dessa came up front to perform material from her new album A Badly Broken Code. It felt like a lot of the audience had been waiting for her, and despite an apparent headcold, she graced the mic beautifully.

Doomtree continued their rounds, including some great collaborations from their various albums, until finally Sims, Dessa and P.O.S brought the almost 3-hour set to a close with the “uh huh, uh huh, it's real gold!” chorus of P.O.S's “Low Light Low Life”. No encore necessary—Doomtree had just served us all dessert and a six-course meal of P.O.S, Dessa, Sims, Cecil Otter, Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, with seconds all around. Damn, I'm glad I chose that over karaoke last night.

Tonight they play Portland and then 21 more dates across the states and Canada. And of course, here are my top picks from Doomtree's latest offerings:
Doomtree - Dots and Dashes (YSI)
Doomtree - Kid Gloves (YSI)
Lazerbeak - Dream Team (YSI)
P.O.S - Goodbye (YSI)
P.O.S - Drumroll (We're All Thirsty) (YSI)
Dessa - Seamstress (YSI)


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