Doomtree Adds Some Flavor to MAHA Music Festival
By Kyle Eustice
12:10 p.m. – Domestica
12:45 p.m. – Matt Whipkey
1:20 p.m. – Twinsmith
1:55 p.m. – M34N STR33T
2:30 p.m. – Doomtree
3:35 p.m. – Radkey
4:30 p.m. – The Both
(feat. Aimee Mann & Ted
5:40 p.m. – The Envy Corps
6:35 p.m. – Local Natives
7:45 p.m. – Icky Blossoms
8:50 p.m. – The Head & The Heart
10:15 p.m. – Death Cab for Cutie
It’s time for the annual MAHA Music Festival at Stinson Park and this year, the organizers have a few tricks up their sleeves. In addition to the usual indie rock act, which includes Death Cab for Cutie, Icky Blossoms and Envy Corps, MAHA finally added some hip-hop to the mix. Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree and Omaha’s own M34N STR33T bring the bass this year. Doomtree is one of a kind. The Minneapolis-based hip-hop collective is a supergroup made up of longtime friends and it’s also the name of their record label. Each member is successful in their own right, with solo albums, headlining tours and numerous collaborations under their belts. When they get together, magic happens. Comprised of P.O.S., Sims, Dessa, Paper Tiger, Lazerbeak, Mike Mictlan and Cecil Otter, the seven multi-talented artists bring their individual spark to the stage as they merge their styles into once cohesive force. Doomtree’s most recent studio album, No Kings, hit the shelves in November 2011 and showcased the group’s love for the written word. Dessa, a spoken word poet and scholar in her own right, always comes with the intellectualized and emotional lyrics. Paired with P.O.S. and the rest of the crew, they are an unstoppable force. Being asked to play MAHA this year was an exciting opportunity, not only to showcase some new music, but see each other, as well.
“Doomtree just finished an album,” Dessa says. “It’s in mixing now. I think we’ll all be excited to play new songs; most of them have yet to be performed live. The show in Omaha will be one of the few events that bring all seven of us together this summer so it’ll probably be a reunion as much as it is a concert.”
Doomtree fans are ready for new material. It’s already been four years since the last one. Each album they write is a different process. For No Kings, solitude proved to be the best formula. For the new album, however, it was probably a completely different process.
“All of us sequestered ourselves in a cabin in the woods,” Dessa explains. “We played beats on repeat–all the emcees pacing and mumbling as they wrote their verses. Several days, a lot of booze, and dozens of sandwiches later, we left with the majority of the record demoed.”
“It works differently than it does when any if us are in process for solo material,” Sims adds. “With No Kings, the producers got together a couple times a week for a month or two and made beats together, collaborating on sounds, layout, sequence and all that stuff. Writing the lyrics for the songs basically worked like this: we’d put a beat on loop and people would start to sketch out ideas. When someone came up with either a concept, chorus or start to a verse we’d decide as a group whether or not that was the direction that particular track should take.”
For producers Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, the sound comes first. It typically starts with a beat.
“The producers will pass around beats and the MCs will write to them,” Paper Tiger says. “It is a simple process, but also very personal. However, the making of the No Kings record was a bit more collaborative, there was much more creation happening as a group.”
Of course with any large collective of people, you’re going to have different opinions and sometimes those opinions will clash. The members of Doomtree make it work because at the core is a tight friendship and they are always willing to compromise.
“Working by committee definitely has its challenges–big decisions are hard to make quickly because everyone’s opinion has to be solicited and discussed,” Dessa says. “That being said; we’ve had remarkably few fall-outs. We genuinely like and trust one another, which is probably more than most businesses can say of their workforce.”
“Every family has its moments,” Sims says, “but we know each other well enough and have strong enough relationships that nothing ever gets out of hand.”
“We go back like rocking chairs,” Mictlan adds. “We’re like 2 rear flats on a Cadillac. We’ve been rapping with each other for like 10+ years. When it comes to our music we’re all adults. Creating is supposed to fun. At least that’s what we always thought.”
Sometimes the lifestyle gets overwhelming. Having a productive music career comes with a lot of responsibility— interviews, long nights, months on the road, and countless people pulling you in 30 different directions at any given time.
“It does get overwhelming, but I want very badly to do this, as well,” Dessa says. “And I want to share my work. If those objectives entail some compromises, I’m willing to make them so long as I can retain artistic control and personal integrity. Sounds like a Girl Scout, I know. But it’s the truth.”
Several hip-hop groups like A Tribe Called Quest and Mobb Deep have broken up completely because they simply couldn’t get along. Doomtree does a decent job of keeping egos in check.
“We’ll have to mean it more,” Mictlan says. “We’ll have to walk the talk. We’re just going to have to show our elders and our peers exactly what it means to be rappers and honest professionals who inspire people to do it like us, fairly and equally with our friends and our fans.”
“Doomtree is a group of artsy friends who chose to make themselves into a family,” Dessa concludes. “Although I hope we all achieve glorious worldly success, in some ways, Doomtree is already doing exactly what it is supposed to. Our lives are all better by virtue of the fact that we’re connected to each other.”