It isn't often Sims has time for beers and chatting. He spends eight hours "doing construction work all damn day. I'm usually late because I'm always up all night working on music," he says, running his rough, smallish hands over tired eyes. "I never change out of my work clothes anymore. I'm too busy."
You can feel his exasperation for the nine-to-five schedule and for the general state of the nation in almost every lyric on Lights Out Paris. On his favorite track, "15 Blocks": "Death meets my breath in a wide-mouthed yawn while the prez meets the press on the White House lawn/I spend my days depressed, my nights tryin' to shake it off/They say we're lost/And I'd say 'You're right.'"
But in addition to the fans, the album has its share of haters, who've come out of the woodwork to air their complaints on DUNation.com. Some of Sims's own friends have said the album is too angry. Others have accused him of being soft (to which I respond that we live in Minneapolis). And some have called him an amateur.
"Maybe that's why a label hasn't put it out," Sims laughs. "Right or wrong, these are my experiences, and I'm reaching out to my peers for a life preserver. It's conveyed through a more universal format; we can [say] 'us' and 'we' all the time and it makes sense."
Getting people to relate means accepting some moments of vulnerability. On "Osmosis," Sims raps about struggling with an alcoholic father, and how that has led him to realize his own shortcomings. A hidden track deals with being comfortably stuck in a cyclical relationship, and "Key Grip" touches on having big dreams while getting caught in a routine: "It took a year and a half to make these fuckin' minutes/For every second of breath in it, there's a piece of me left in it/Changin' lanes, awake at 8:30/Some way today my legs are less sturdy/I prayed for rain and came and left early/I shoulda stayed but change is just a wave in a drain."
In all probability, most Sims fans have a similar distaste for the president, his policies, and the state of affairs in America. But rather than go for a more obvious album title, Sims uses the symbolism of Paris. "When the lights are out in Paris, what's left? Where are you really standing now?" he asks. "There's a Parisian sample on the album about society falling. It keeps telling itself floor by floor as it falls, So far so good. So far so good, and then it gets to the bottom and--boom!--crashes. We are in a political freefall and many of us don't even know it."
In some advice that came too late, several of Sims's crewmates warned me not to talk about politics with him, because he invariably gets too heated.
"I wanted to move on November 3, 2004. I was freaking out [over Bush's reelection] and was like, 'Sorry, Doomtree, I'm moving to Canada," he says. "But people need to hear this shit. I like it here, and I just don't see anyone stopping us right now. There's too many of us and we're too good."