Dessa leads Sing Out for Kids benefit lineup, new album details [INTERVIEW]

Dessa at the 2011 West Bank Music Festival
Dessa at the 2011 West Bank Music Festival
Photo by Tony Nelson

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Dessa just can't help herself when it comes to charities. The maven of Minneapolis hip-hop has just announced a partnership with community-based social service agency the Southside Family Nurturing Center. Seriously, these Doomtree kids and their projects. Can't they just chill out and be normal musicians?

Dessa has gathered a few pals -- who may or may not be a collective representation of some of the finest Twin Cities talent (full lineup below) -- to play a benefit show called Sing Out For Kids on August 26 at Hell's Kitchen. All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards funding the critical early childhood and family support services provided by the Southside Family Nurturing Center. Gimme Noise caught up with Dessa to get the details on the benefit.

Other artists on the bill include Jeremy Messersmith, Toki Wright, Gabriel Douglas, Taj Raj, Robbie Robinson, Caroline Smith & Jesse Schuster. Ander Other will be DJing the night. The event is billed as a sort of sampler session, featuring 20-minute sets from all the musicians involved. It's meant to both raise money for the SSFNC and also to raise awareness of the services.

So, tell me about this benefit. It's called Sing Out For Kids, and it supports the Southside Family Nurturing Center. How long have you been working with them?

Okay, so I've been working with [the SSFNC] only very recently. I got an invitation to perform, and I get a lot of them, so I want to make sure that I don't sign up for all these things. I asked for a tour of their facility, and my mind was blown. The same thing happened to Jeremy Messersmith.

Dessa leads Sing Out for Kids benefit lineup, new album details [INTERVIEW]

What's the SSFNC all about, and what really made you decide to get involved?

One of the things that really impressed me was the commitment that these women [at the Center] are making. It's just incredible. Like, on weekday night, they started this program where all the Spanish-speaking mothers can come to the Center and network and have a community... and meanwhile, the women at the Center paint their toenails, to provide them with a spa day. Spanish speakers can connect with other Spanish speakers, and these women are giving them pedicures. They really humble themselves for their service.

Another thing is that these women at the Center really make a long-term commitment. They are going over to houses every week and saying, "What do you need? What would help you right now, this week? What do you need, and we will get that." And they understand that some of the challenges that the family is facing is not because they fucked up, but because it's generational. Some of the families are in the cycle of poverty. It's not an organization that comes in with a shaming, wagging finger.

They also have therapists there that really understand the kids' whole picture. While I was there, they were talking about a kid that hasn't really been fully engaged at home, so his motor skills hadn't really developed. They have therapists there that are working on making their bodies and their mouths move so that they have highly developed motor skills when they go to kindergarten. They're providing kids with the resources and the skill sets that they're going to need to be successful. It's pretty incredible.

Dessa performing with Doomtree at Rock the Garden 2012
Dessa performing with Doomtree at Rock the Garden 2012
Photo by Erik Hess

You've got a stellar lineup. What'd you do, just like pull names out of the "Best Of The Twin Cities" hat?

Ha. I wrote a really long email, basically, that was like, "Hey, dudes, you don't owe me any favors." I was just like, "This is what I found when I toured the Center, and I think I saw something that's really unusual."

Okay, Dessa. You just announced the Elixery partnership, and now you've got this going on. I mean, really. Any other rad benefits coming up? Anything else we should know about? Anything you want to promote right now besides Sing Out For Kids?

[Laughs] These are the only two! I was laughing with a friend yesterday over like eight whiskeys, like, "I don't know how I ended up with such a squeaky clean image! I'm a rapper!" But I just stumbled on a couple that really moved me.

Cool. So, while I have you on the phone... Musically, any other projects in the works? New stuff?

Yes! I am nine and a half songs into the next record, and I think I'm trying to harness the skill set that I learned from Doomtree and the skill set that I learned in making Castor, The Twin, so it's a record where I'm in a better position as a rapper and writer, and can flex some musical muscles.

And... do you have a tentative release date?

[Laughs] Yes. Tentatively, late March, early April.

Sing Out For Kids is taking place at Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis on August 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 general admission, $75 VIP (which includes a pre-show meet and greet with some of the artists). The show is 18+. Tickets are available for purchase here

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