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Underrated Artist: Dessa Darling

dessa

AKA Why you should go listen to Dessa’s entire discography

I was, at first, tempted to make an entire list post about underrated female rappers/vocalists just so I could rave about Dessa.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that when it comes to my undying love for what Dessa is doing with her music, limiting myself to a single short blurb probably wasn’t going to work out. So I wrote an entire article just about Dessa being an amazing yet underrated female hip hop artist, instead.

I was first introduced to Dessa’s music via my interest in P.O.S, a fellow member of an underground indie hip hop label/collective called Doomtree. She was featured in a song titled “Low Light Low Life”, on P.O.S’s third album. I remember thinking that her verse was badass, and that I needed to scope out more of her music immediately.

She hadn’t had much music out at that time yet – mostly just her EP, False Hopes, and her involvement in various Doomtree albums – but nearly every song I heard her in elevated my opinion of her music. Dessa has since released two full albums, titled A Badly Broken Code and Castor, The Twin, and I’m hearing whispers of her releasing new stuff this year. I loved both of her albums, so I’m really looking forward to anything else she puts out.

She’s pretty versatile, hardcore rapping one second and then crooning a chorus the next. The topics that she sings about are both deep and entertaining – in fact, that’s the best part about her as a performer, is that she has fun.

It’s obvious when listening to her albums or watching concert clips of her performing (and yes, I have to resort to youtube because unfortunately I haven’t been able to go to a concert where she’s headlining yet – though I was lucky enough to see her and the rest of the Doomtree crew at Paid Dues a few years ago, wooo) that she enjoys what she does.

As always, it’s hard for me to pinpoint a single favorite song from any given artist, so here are a few of my favorites by Dessa:

551

There’s only four ways to acquire
Anyone who says different is a salesman or a liar
You can find it, earn it, make it, or steal it
I haven’t found a single way to keep it.

This song is downright amazing, and the above live performance is by far my favorite version. The beauty and emotion behind the lyrics are plain to see, and Dessa spins a story about love and pain that many listeners can probably identify with all too well.

Dixon’s Girl

Everybody wanna see you with your hair down
Wanna hear you hit the high note
Wanna know if they can get you for a little less, girl I don’t
I know how the stones can fly, had some hard goodbyes
Call me up, day or night, free drinks and bad advice
It’s not much, but my money’s on you.

I admit it took me a few listens to warm up to “Dixon’s Girl” – probably because the unconventional background track threw me off a bit – but now it’s one of my favorite songs by Dessa.

Oh, and there’s a Clockwork Orange reference, among others, in the music video that had me grinning ear to ear.

Alibi

Well I don’t need to know, but there’s a set of my keys left under your door
And if you need a place to sleep tonight, well that’s what family’s for
I don’t need to know, but I’d put on my best fresh little black dress
And go get seen tonight, work on that alibi of yours.

“Alibi” is a song is reaching out to a friend who’s got a choice to make: lie and cover for her boyfriend who’s committed an unnamed but serious crime, or look out for herself first and foremost.

Dessa tells a pretty engaging story here, from the perspective of a friend giving (excellent) advice, an approach that I haven’t really seen before. Most songs I’ve heard dealing with this topic are from the point of view of the criminal’s significant other – not from that of someone outside of that relationship.

Plus, the beat is sick.

The Man I Knew

By the time that you told me it was already plain that you’ve changed
But your conscience was clean and as white as a line of cocaine.

“The Man I Knew” is speaking to a significant other struggling with addiction. The song is as moving as it is thought-provoking. The first time I heard it, I literally stopped whatever it was I was doing and just sat there, absorbing the music – it’s that good.

Don’t sleep on this artist. In fact, don’t sleep at all – go straight to your preferred method of acquiring music and listen to what this woman has got to say. And look out for her new album, which should drop sometime this year (I know I will).

  • Dessa is definitely pretty amazing, even just in the separate parts of her life. With Doomtree, she fits right in with a unique style that expands the band. In interviews, she sounds smart in such an easy natural way. On her own, she’s great and creates an ensemble feel out of what others would call a solo artist and nameless studio musicians. And then she teaches and writes poetry (which are probably equally impressive).

    As a bonus, she has the guts to put out the same songs, two albums in a row and make it work.

    Great choice!

  • Pingback: Dessa’s “Parts of Speech” album released June 25 | Pop Insomniacs()