A challenge for listeners: Cue up Dessa's debut album, A Badly Broken Code, play it from start to finish once, three times, ten times, and try not to hear something new every single time. It's a testament to the Doomtree rapper-turned-solo-artist's ability to weave so many truisms into every line of her lyrics, her words so elegantly composed and arranged that it's impossible to ingest the meaning in one sitting, let alone across a handful of spins. One line is a joke, the next is a devastatingly accurate portrayal of pain, and each stanza is written so the ear fades between focusing on the lyrical flow of her delivery, the buoyancy of her melodies, and the weaving, woozy, sometimes quirky tapestry of clarinet, piano, and snare beats. The result is an incredibly rich album, one that has been earning her accolades across the country for its seamless and genre-defying puree of experimental pop, R&B, rap, and even folk—a sound that is simply and purely Dessa.

City Pages presents: Best Songwriter produced by MPLS.TV and Dan Huiting.


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