Dessa: 100 Creatives


Number 67: Dessa

City: Minneapolis

Years spent living in MN: All of them.

Dessa is a local creative with an interesting resume. Her current job titles include rap artist,  slam poet, and professor. As a hip-hop performer she began her career in Medida, a group which also featured Omaur Bliss. In 2005 she released False Hopes, an EP that grabbed the attention of many ears despite being only 15 minutes long. Over the years she has also performed as a member of the hip-hop collective/juggernaut, Doomtree. Last year she released her first full-length solo LP, A Badly Broken Code. As a spoken word artist, Dessa has performed on the slam poetry scene, and in 2010 she released Spiral Bound, a collection of poetry and fiction. She is also a faculty member at McNally Smith College of Music, where her colleagues include Jeremy Messersmith and Freddy Fresh. Her voice somehow manages to simultaneously be delicate and powerful, sweet and ferocious, and is one that we hope to be hearing on the scene for many years to come. 

[jump] Name three things that are inspiring your work right now:

  1. Human anatomy


  2. John Updike

  3. Bells

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

  1. Words like "enchanted"

  2. Angst

  3. Double meanings

What was your last big project?

A Badly Broken Code, my debut album on Doomtree Records.

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

In late April, I'll set off on my Into the Spin Tour--my first headlining run. I'll take my live band of Minneapolis players with me to the West Coast. Sims and Lazerbeak are peforming too.

Creative/career high point (so far)?

The publication of Spiral Bound, my first little book of essays and poetry, was enormously gratifying. I was surprised by my own reaction--holding the first few copies in my hands put me at peace. (And that's a phrase I'd never used self-referentially before. I'm pretty high-strung.)

What has been your biggest challenge as a performer?


I'm really damn confident in my facility with language, but I'm often frustrated by the task of performing my work live. There are monitor mixes and room echoes and plumes of feedback. The whole thing sounds totally different than when I sing or rap in my livingroom.

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

I'm not sure exactly how the scene has changed since I joined it. A large part of my development as an artist has been familiarizing myself with the art and business practices of other musicians. Until very recently I was more a student of our scene than a real commentator.

Name another local creative type that you're currently excited about:

I'm always legitimately excited about new work from my friends in Doomtree. P.O.S and Mike Mictlan have a couple of new songs that surprised the hell out of me--they're, dancey and hard and irresistible. I know that sounds like hype. But I've been a fan of Doomtree waaay longer than I've been a member.

For reasons left unexplained, you are given the ability to cancel one television show. What show would you choose? Why?

All of it. Let's just start over.

Do you have a favorite word or phrase? How about least favorite?

I like (and probably overuse) the word 'obsolescence.'

I really don't like the word 'faggot.'

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

70. Tim Sievert