Dessa Goes Pop at Subterranean

Minneapolis hip-hop backpack rapper Dessa has started a new chapter. She’s experimenting with different producers to create a unique new sound, no longer sharing the stage with  longtime collaborator Aby Wolf, went blonde and is making—brace yourself—pop music.
Incredibly, though, Dessa’s new, poppier album Chime sounds so true to Dessa’s past catalogue: complete with her hallmark lyrical embroidery and yearning harmonies. The only thing that has shifted? It’s just more pop—warped vocal backgrounds, 808s and catchy, pulsating beats. On the single “Good Grief,” Dessa punctuates her tongue-in-cheek rhymes with soaring hymns: “They say there’s good grief / But how can you tell it from the bad? / Maybe it’s only in the fact / Good grief’s the one that’s in your past.”

During the show on Saturday, Dessa explained how the experience of “coming out” to her fellow Doomtree producers as a pop fan was a scary experience. She learned that finding herself and being able to stick up for this genre after maintaining her ‘tough backpack rapper’ exterior was a refreshing new chapter for her.

After performing one of her old favorites, the uptempo “Skeleton Key,” she talked about how she was just shaving her armpits in the sushi joint across the street but appreciates us still clapping for her release of her new album, or as she put it: “just doing her job.” She then asked someone in the front of the crowd if she could borrow her silver hoops for the rest of the set in exchange for her holding her iPhone as collateral.

While she may have traded her hardcore attitude to make more vulnerable pop music, Dessa is still a firebrand onstange, delivering her wit and humble sense of humor and extensively intricate lyrics and melodies.

Emily Ornberg
Emily Ornberg