Desdamona Ross: 100 Creatives

Desdamona Ross: 100 Creatives
Desdamona performs with Carnage

Number 71: Desdamona Ross

City: St. Paul

Years spent living in MN: 14 years

Making it in any scene is a difficult task, but breaking into hip hop as a female performer is especially hard. Local word maven Desdamona has managed this task. Over the years, the award-wining spoken word/hip-hop artist has traveled the world, opening for folks including Wyclef Jean, Zap Mama, and KRS ONE. She is also one of the founders of B Girl Be, a yearly festival that nurtures and celebrates women in hip hop through art, dance, theater, concerts, and other very cool happenings--the first of its kind. She also teaches classes and workshops around the Midwest at various high schools, colleges, prisons, and juvenile detention centers. In addition to hosting a regular open mic night at the Blue Nile, Desdamona also tours and collaborates with beat boxer/speed-rapper Carnage as Ill Chemistry. 

Name three things that are inspiring your work right now:

1. Age
2. The unknown
3. Local art

Name three things that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:

1. The desire to be heard
2. Creativity made me feel powerful and that motivated me to keep creating
3. My family

What was your last big project?

Being featured on Ursus Minor's French release and tour I Will Not Take But For An Answer this past October.

What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?

Right now I am working on an Ill Chemistry (myself and Carnage the Executioner) project that will be released in France this summer. We are hoping to do U.S. dates connected to the release as well.

Creative/career high point (so far)?

There are a few that I can think of: Touring with reggae legends Sly & Robbie in 2007, my release of The Source, also in 2007, and most recently the tour in France.

Desdamona Ross: 100 Creatives

What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?

There is always a financial challenge because it's such an "alternative" lifestyle and sometimes it seems like people don't understand that it's your job. Of course it's fun, but it is a job. The financial aspect bleeds into all the other aspects and can make things easy or difficult depending on the situation. Balancing the business and the creative is always a challenge as well. I think sometimes my creative side suffers because of the attention that the business side needs.

How has the local scene changed since you began your career?

When I started out in '96 there weren't many venues who would book hip hop, and it was also very hard to get on the scene as a female.

What is your favorite word or phrase? Least favorite? 

Favorite: Phenomenal. It's fun to say. My least favorite: Thesaurus, because I have a hard time saying it. I like to use it, but just don't ask me to say it.

Desdamona Ross: 100 Creatives
Desdamona performs with Carnage

Do you go to spoken word open mic nights around town? Do you have a favorite that you love to attend?

Well, I have hosted the Blue Nile open mic with Kevin Washington for over eight years now. I don't get out to too many open mics other than my own these days, but Tish Jones hosts a monthly open mic at the South City Cafe that's nice as well.

The Blue Nile open mic is unique in that we have a live band to back performers and it's open to all kinds of expression. You never know what to expect. There is also the Saint Paul Almanac reading series, which is always inspiring.

You can read more about Desdamona and her projects, past, present, and future at her official website.

Do you have a suggestion for someone whose work we should be checking out? Feel free to leave your top picks in the comments.

Past creatives, so far:

100. Jennifer Davis
99. Sean Smuda
98. Chuck U
96. Amy Rice
95. Kara Hendershot

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