Doomtree Dan's Silverleaf Tuesday, February 7
In a year spent throne-watching, Doomtree's 2011 release, No Kings, was an interesting comment on hip-hop's climate. Excessive in its own right, the Minneapolis collective has no less than seven official collaborators contributing to the final sound of their latest record. Not the baroque hip-hop of Kanye and Jay-Z, Doomtree's approach to excess is literal. There are just a lot of them.
Each member brings their own flavor to the mix, from spoken word to articulate, dizzying narratives, all backed by traditional 808 beats, drum machines and the occasional atmospheric instrumental track. Doomtree seem to define themselves by squirming out of every box you try to put them in, and their individual voices remain distinctive, further proven by their solo work. Yet the sum is at least as compelling as their parts.
Lazerbeak started the sold-out night with an instrumental set, ending his solo section with some beautiful horn layering reminiscent of an earlier incarnation of Sufjan Stevens. The result was exquisite, and just bombastic enough to keep you in the dance party despite its surprising sound. Before long, the other six emcees and DJ Paper Tiger bounded onto Dan's stage, tearing right into "No Way," the track that gives the album its title: "No kings/No love for your made up things."
The crowd sang along to a few tracks from 2008's self-titled album and plenty of solo joints in the 25-song, two-hour set. Cecil Otter took the mic with dexterity and impressive storytelling skills, but the onstage chemistry between Mike Mictlan and P.O.S. proved the real scene stealer. Mictlan packed a lot of energy onto a tiny stage and P.O.S.'s hyper-verbose style was on point, complete with Edgar Allan Poe and Christopher Hitchens references.
Dessa, the lone female emcee, nearly silenced the crowd with her smoky alto before punching us in the gut with her subtle spoken word-influenced delivery. She brings a wise, old-soul vibe to the material, making each verse feel like something you should already know better.
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Something about Doomtree always sounds a bit dated to me on recordings, but this quality fades in their live show. And while the crowd was enthusiastic, the sound system couldn't quite keep up with the low-end necessary to really appreciate the sound. Something to consider if Spune continues booking hip-hop acts there.
Personal bias: After a run of fantastic sounding hip-hop shows at Trees, I hope Doomtree's next North Texas run lands them in a similar room. That said, after 35 Denton's exciting announcement yesterday, it was a perfect night to go play in Little D.
By the way: Dallas darling Astronautalis, the now Minneapolis-based rapper, has Doomtree all over his 2011 release, This Is Our Science. Maybe next tour bring Cecil and P.O.S. down to guest?
Notebook dump: I want to go on a date with Paper Tiger. Just being honest.