In the end, it was probably liberating for the local hip-hop scene to be popularized by neurotic art fucks. If the Rhymesayers are "pop," after all, what isn't? These days even the most decadent Minnesota playas seem freer to transgress as they please--check out Nena Brown gender-flipping AMG on last year's "Nigga Better Have My Money." Rappers at the bottom of the ocean might as well empty their lungs, whatever the content. Or as Doomtree crew members Dessa and Cecil Otter sing, "Everything that sinks from up there floats down here."
In a month of strong local hip-hop music--go buy Desdamona and Kanser now--Doomtree's Sims is the best evidence yet that talent nurtured at the bottom can surface with sudden force. His voice sounds like Q-Tip crossed with a Beastie Boy, and you can see why the rest of the group jacks into his confidence like a sound system into a lamppost. As with most alt-rappers, I wish he'd swing more. And the Doomtree template of social radicalism-versus-purgative autobiography needs new twists (the posse cut "No Homeowners" is a start). But Sims is better than his good intentions, which are better than most: He begins the album lamenting overworked America ("We just don't have time for passion anymore") and ends by admitting that passion might be overrated (he propositions a girl to "come over here and stand on my spine"). The busy future-noise of producer Lazerbeak (a.k.a. Plastic Constellations guitarist Aaron Mader) keeps you riveted along the way.
A rational maximizer in love, Sims is a classic anarchist in hate--a rare thing even in leftist hip hop. "Frontline," in the punk-rock tradition, calls out an abstract "you" to blast a warmongering ruling class: "I see where you got power from day one, from the slaves that you captured," he raps. "Send them into hell and tell them wait for the rapture/To the daily slaves you manufacture/Master, pastor, same hegemony." When Sims finds a rhyme for "hegemony," we'll really be in trouble.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment