Doomtree at Roosevelt High School, 4/26/13
Photo by Erik Hess
Doomtree Roosevelt High School Auditorium, Minneapolis Friday, April 26, 2013
"Good morning, Roosevelt." With these words, Dessa quieted the chattering group of students and fans inside the south Minneapolis school's auditorium. During one of the first nice days of 2013, a select group of aspiring artists and poets marked the occasion by gathering indoors for a show that was a surprise to the public, but had obviously required a lot of planning.
Wrapping up a 10-week residency at the school teaching the poetics of hip-hop, microphone skills, and live presentation, Doomtree emceed a string of student performances -- featuring Lazerbeak providing backing beats -- and then put on their own full-length set afterward. It was a showcase that had the nerves and drama of a school play -- except it was a rap concert.
The students' contributions were all impactful -- ranging from poetry to spoken word to full-on rap rhymes. Personal reflection and individuality ran heavy throughout the offerings, and it was easy to imagine some of these young performers taking a permanent liking to being on stage. In a red-brimmed cap tilted just so, Bri LeGarde a.k.a. Skildum was mesmerizing delivering the complex couplets of "Thank You," which played out as a list of the many hardships that are essential for artistic growth. Jayson "JT" Hosley a.k.a. Suave boldly offered "The Perfect Song," which was impressively poised and well-spoken from a high schooler's perspective without sacrificing any of his flow.
Photos by Erik Hess
While Lazerbeak laced a variety of beats behind the young performers -- including a K-os instrumental and a surprising bit of Ram-era Paul McCartney -- the crowd inhabiting the floor seats of the auditorium erupted in support of their friends.
After giving props to all of the poets and rappers who prepped a performance, Doomtree assembled onstage. (Sans Paper Tiger and Cecil Otter, who was "at home making beats.") "You ever been to a rap show in a high school auditorium before?" Sims asked the seated crowd. "Come up and make it less weird!"
Then, the four rappers launched into an entire set on one of the largest stages they've ever performed in the Twin Cities to a crowd that would've fit inside the 7th St. Entry. A rather affordable concert -- at $3 per ticket in advance and $5 day of show -- there was nothing cheap about the execution. The cuss words were carefully extracted from P.O.S tracks like "Get Down" and "Lockpicks, Knives, Bricks, and Bats," there were no PBR tall boys passed around, and there was no need for a barricade, but large portions of the show had the intensity of a club performance.
Photos by Erik Hess
Be it Dessa and Mike Mictlan shared stage presence of "Kid Gloves," Sims getting the crowd to bounce to "Burn it Down," the whole-crew incitement of "Bangarang," and getting into the crowd to close it out with "Fresh New Trash," each was a final teaching moment about the importance of stage presence, and teamwork. Even when P.O.S was called out for forgetting his words, he sagely offered, "It doesn't matter, because I'm having fun. That's the most important part."
Personal bias: Every high school needs an occasional rap concert.
Random detail: Bernard Riley AKA Gee-Whiz borrowed my green sunglasses for his performance, and the results were unsurprisingly excellent.
The Crowd: Students, babies, parents, and a few Doomtree fans who knew every lyric.
Youth Program (special thanks to Roosevelt's Julia Schumacher)
Zoey Friesen Title: "A New Me"
Bernard Dixon AKA Fat Man Title: "I'm Going Down The Hill"
Bri LeGarde Title: "Thank You"
Bernard Riley AKA Gee-Whiz Title: "Let It Go"
Farhia Jama Title: "Shining Back"
Jayson "JT" Hosley AKA Suave Title: "The Perfect Song"
Tyler Scaramuzzo and Damarez White AKA Just Tyler and Apollo Title: "70's Genre"
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