Dessa refuses to play it safe in January's Twin Cities rap roundup


Dessa Bill Phelps

You know the drill: Another month, another 10 songs that prove the vitality of Twin Cities hip-hop is not to be questioned.

Dessa—“Fire Drills”
Album: Chime
Label: Doomtree

Dessa’s experimentally—and effectively—structured latest single defies rap convention, which is, of course, something she’s always excelled at. And as usual, the Minneapolis alt-rapper is evocative with her pen game right from the start: “I’ve been Wendy, living with the lost boys / Youth spent as a deckhand on the convoy.” Look for Dessa’s long-awaited new album, Chime, to arrive on February 23.

Drelli—“Down Day”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Leave it to Drelli, the closely Allan Kingdom-associated, beret-wearing Minneapolis rapper who absolutely radiates joy, to drop a song that sounds like the middle of summer ... in the middle of winter. Produced by MPLS’ Kwey and featuring sunny guitar work by Zakariya Khan, “Down Day” is a color-bursting jam that, as much as anything I’ve heard from Drelli so far, leaves the impression that he’s one of the most promising Twin Cities rappers to come along in the past couple years.

FreeWifi—“Took Off”
Album: Connected
Label: Rostrum

The instant appeal of “Took Off” is in its effortlessly infectious main hook: “Damn, I just took off.” But in addition to that, it’s a prime example of why J. Plaza, Daddy Dinero, and Tha Rift—who all established themselves as solo artists before this Minneapolis trio’s formation—make so much sense in a group together. BeldonDidThat’s beat, which is somewhere between Metro Boomin and Zaytoven, is the icing on the cake. Find “Took Off” on FreeWifi’s upcoming Rostrum Records debut, Connected, out February 2nd.

Nazeem & Spencer Joles—“Swerve”
Album: Single
Label: 752911 Records DK

“Swerve” isn’t the quintessential Nazeem & Spencer Joles song or anything; the Minneapolis duo don’t make many bouncy, supremely danceable earworms like this Joles-produced single, nor do they try. The song, then, serves as a reminder that the pair can successfully take their music in an abundance of directions.

Nimic Revenue—“AWLORN Gang”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Swag-dripping St. Paul sing-rapper Nimic Revenue has a hyper-melodic sound in the vein of Dej Loaf or Kodie Shane. The “AWLORN” of the title here stands for “A whole lot of revenue now,” and Nimic spends the song with money on her mind (partly as a distraction from heartache). A worthy follow-up to “Sk8board Flex” (both the original and the Allan Kingdom-featuring remix) from one of STP’s most intriguing young artists.

Destiny Roberts—“God’s Hands”
Album: 27 Days EP
Label: 3ME

The self-produced leadoff track from introspective St. Paul MC Destiny Roberts’ latest EP has a minimal, largely drum-less beat that affords her the space to reflect on her faith and the importance of positive thinking, among other topics. It’s my favorite song on the three-track EP, but the others, “How You Roll?” and “No Hook,” are worth your time too.

Sake Red Ft. Tae Supreme—“Annie Xanny”
Album: Single
Label: Self-released

Fortunately, rap’s glamorization of Xanax is on the way out, as guys like Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Pump have recently sworn off the stuff. As for Sake Red and Tae Supreme, they too are anti-Xanny—or, as they spell it on this charged-up tag-team banger, “Annie Xanny.” The uncontainably energetic Tae shout-raps to wake you up: “What the fuck did I tell you ‘bout doing them Xans?”

Album: Single
Label: Self-released

With separate federal indictments keeping St. Paul street rappers like King Savage, Vo, and Go behind bars for a while, Tarxan is the last active MC who was embroiled in the all-out rap war between West and East side gangs three years ago. Well, at least Tarxan was always the most promising of those guys anyway. Here, he glides on the icy, Zaytoven-style beat, an exhibition of slick and easy confidence.

Ultra Suede ft. Dwynell Roland—“Who the Hell Am I?”
Album: Single
Label: Totally Gross National Product

“Give Roland any beat, and you can expect him to handle it well,” I wrote two weeks ago about Minneapolis rapper Dwynell Roland, and it didn’t take him long to resoundingly prove me right. He comfortably rides the dark, clangy, experimental instrumental on this off-kilter debut single by Minneapolis production collective Ultra Suede.

Why Khaliq—“Root of Evil”
Album: Single
Label: Six5 Records

Why Khaliq may be the sharpest writer in Twin Cities rap right now, and if he wants to breathe new life into a cliché, he’s gonna pull it off. And that’s what he does on this Been Reza-produced #WhyWednesday drop, from the first lines of the chorus (“Money is the root of all evil/ But the people just as ugly as the beast”) to his ominous warning “They puttin’ money on your head, boy.”