Dessa mixes hip-hop balladry and sharp-tongued bangers on Chime | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Dessa mixes hip-hop balladry and sharp-tongued bangers on Chime

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Singer, rapper, poet, author, and songwriter Margret Wander—better known by her stage name, Dessa—has been one of the most prolific and multifaceted members of Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree since she joined it in the mid-2000s. Her 2018 LP, Chime (Doomtree), is one of her strongest, poppiest, and most electronic-influenced releases yet. The album is equal parts reflective ballads and emotionally charged bangers, and tracks such as “Half of You” wouldn’t sound out of place in a mix of 1980s Top 40 hits. On that song, Dessa comes across as particularly vulnerable, ruing lost love while acknowledging that she might be better off without it: “What if I could cure me of you? / Am I so sure which pill I’d choose? / Maybe I'm happier with half of you / Than I'd be with clean but empty rooms.” Then on “Fire Drills,” one of the album’s standout singles, she takes a more sharp-tongued tone: over an Eastern melody and a boom-bap beat by Doomtree cohort Lazerbeak, Dessa laments the plight of women living their lives with safety as their number one priority. “We don’t say, ‘Go out and be brave,’” she raps. “Nah, we say, ‘Be careful; stay safe’ / In any given instance, that don't hurt / But it sinks in like stilettos in soft dirt / Like the big win is not a day without an incident / I beg to differ with it / I think a woman’s worth / I think that she deserves a better line of work / Than motherfucking vigilance.” Dessa tours with a live band that’s as multidimensional as she is, and the way it brings her songs to life onstage provides a dynamic contrast to the keyboard- and programming-heavy style of her latest album.   v

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