The entity that P.O.S. (aka Stefon Alexander) is referring to is his hip-hop outfit and label of the same name. Alexander clarifies that the mention of Doomtree isn’t aimed at the listener. “I’m talking about me,” he says. The line doubles as a kind of personal creed. “As far as business and working partners [go], those guys are some of my closest friends.”
Doomtree’s existed for almost 10 years but remains a relatively (and unjustly) obscure name in hip-hop. The crew is housed in Minneapolis, the independent hip-hop hotbed that’s also home to Rhymesayers (P.O.S.’s primary label) and artists like Atmosphere and Brother Ali. In sum, the current Doomtree group includes five MCs (Alexander, Dessa, SIMS, Cecil Otter, and Mike Mictlan) and a pair of producers (Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger). Alexander speaks of the depth of their bonds. “Either we went to school together or we met shortly after school, and that’s pretty much the end of it. There haven’t been any additions since then,” he says. “Because we all grew up doing this together, our styles are all influenced by each other.”
Rap’s never suffered from a dearth of crews or groups, but what imbues Doomtree with a sense of character is their unorthodoxy. Doomtree’s sonic style stems from punk and other shades of rock alongside rap, and the mixture allows them an opportunity to reel in listeners who would ordinarily shy away from hip-hop.
“It’s influenced by a ton of different genres. That gives us a bit of an advantage because every record doesn’t sound the same as the last. It has a lot of big thinkers,” says Lazerbeak (aka Aaron Mader).
Some of its members have less-than-conventional backgrounds for hip-hop—Alexander was in Refused-like hardcore unit Building Better Bombs, while Mader served in jangly indie-rock act Plastic Constellations—and those unlikely roots give the crew jolts of personality and humility.
However, the most interesting back story in the world would be a waste if the music was toothless, but Doomtree harnesses some incisive talent.
“Drumsticks,” from 2008’s Doomtree, exemplifies this. The finesse begins with Lazerbeak’s rich hook—a seeming product of chopped-up drums and some variety of wind instruments—and fans out through five sets of verse. First up is Otter, whose relatively creamy voice makes tongue-twisting soul poetry. He’s followed by Mictlan, a West Coast transplant who raps with speed and burly force. Next is Dessa, Doomtree’s lone female and the scribe of the track’s most memorable lines: “Say it’s a nose job/ As in, She got it ’cause she knows somebody/ I’m paying dues in red blood and borrowed money.” P.O.S.’s words are hard to follow here, but he remains his typically quick-witted self, closing his portion with an obscure Simpsons quote from Cletus the Slack-jawed Yokel. Finally, there’s SIMS, who has a voice resembling Eminem’s and enough swift turns of phrase to end the track respectably. As if there weren’t enough personality at play here, the song’s video has the MCs reciting passages while rolling around on bicycles.
The group’s Wings & Teeth Tour marks the inaugural time that the entire septet has hit the road together, and both Lazerbeak and P.O.S. are unsure of how their shows will function. Alexander guesses that it will be one big break-free set, involving “everybody at once the whole time to make sure that there’s a pummeling, crushing monster of a hip-hop show for three hours.”
Back when he and others originally devised Doomtree’s name, it was a word-salad turn of phrase. To Alexander, the actual title still means “absolutely nothing,” but it bears his memory’s imprint. “When I think about Doomtree, I’m thinking about my people and my life’s work so far.”
DOOMTREE’S WINGS & TEETH TOUR
feat. P.O.S., Dessa, SIMS, Mike Mictlan, Lazerbeak, Cecil Otter and Paper Tiger
741 S. 330 West
Saturday, Nov. 6, 6 p.m.
$13 advance/$15 day of
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Saturday, Nov. 6, 9 p.m.
$12 advance/$14 day of