Monday, December 18, 2006

DoomTree Blowout '06.

by Peter Madsen

     The Guns N’ Roses tour busses sat idling outside Minneapolis’ Target Center December 2nd, but if you’d been at the intersection of First Avenue and Seventh Street, your attention would have been drawn instead to the sprawling, steaming line of kids stretching from the entrance of the iconic First Avenue club and along its jet-black, celebrity star-emblazoned exterior.

     Despite the zero degree temperature readings that glowed on the sluggish, digital marquees of nearby banks, the heterogeneous line of hip-hop fans chatted and jogged in place; long plumes of breath rose whipped from the mouths of even those who weren’t chain-smoking. And while Axl and his peripheral crews stayed warm in their charter busses outside the pack-‘em-all-in utilitarianism of the Target Center, two of their thirtysomething fans, wearing uncommitted haircuts, faded sweatshirts, and oversized Rawling sneakers solemnly hawked their extra tickets to the hip-hop kids. “$150 tickets, but I’ll take best offer,” one of the men recited as they combed the slowly moving line. When a kid in Ipath’s half-jokingly offered them twenty bucks for the tickets, the ticketsellers actually paused. Further negation was interrupted, however, by the surge of the line and a drunk, shouting dude in a Hurley hoodie. “Who’s ready for some motherfucking DoomTree?!”

     DoomTree, the Uptown crew-cum-peripheral-label of Rhymesayers Entertainment, has so many Twin City devotees down for its own cause — as evinced by the their packing the former Purple Rain film set — that it’s no absurd thing to wonder if the D to the T might eclipse the label that Atmosphere made famous as the Twin Cities default house of hip-hop.

     To add to that supposition, the hip-hop collective’s second Blowout went down exactly as a label showcase should: as so much more than the mere live manifestation of a roster promo disc. Rolling 10 deep —two DJs and seven other rappers—the DoomTree MCs swapped supporting vocal duties for forefront time on a cycle that seemed to run every four songs — and for damn near four hours.

     If the DoomTree Blowout 2 can be thought of as a tag-you’re-it sort of coup d’état, then P.O.S. is its charismatic, frenzied leader. A rapper with a penchant for punk (who also fronts a hardcore band called Building Better Bombs), P.O.S. is the best known branch on the DoomTree, with his 2004 Rhymesayers debut Ipecac Neat and the 2005 follow-up Audition enjoying a considerable cross-over to the pop-punk scene (a questionable thing that seems to attract as many Hot Topical teenagers as it does detractors).

     P.O.S., as of late, when not in the studio trading verses with Slug, towered over his frothing fraction of Generation Y that lapped at the stage’s narrow extension. During the choruses the chubby, bright-eyed rapper passed the audience the microphone and followed it 90 degrees around the catwalk. Retrieving the mic, “Pissed Off Stef” dedicated his lyrical remix of De La Soul’s “I Am I Be” to both his mother and his baby’s mother before rapping between the ribs of Posdnous’s scheme: “But I’m livin’ dreams ’cause my rent’s always a month late / Product of an East German Black / Who kissed the neck of a pretty woman named Grace / But he left my life just a little too soon / Didn’t see me catch the DoomTree fame.”

     When P.O.S. wasn’t evoking the loudest crowd responses, it was the female MC Dessa who reaped the audience’s affections. Spitting the climax of her signature song “Mineshaft” (from her 2005 EP False Hopes) with the shrapnel-sharp violin accompaniment of friend Jesse Greene—the tattooed chick who accompanied P.O.S. in her skivvies on the cover of Ipecac—Dessa crammed about a dozen bars within a single, nearly unintelligible breath.

     Throughout the blowout, hipster artists slathered stage objects with wheat-pasted, Jeremy Fish-esque depictions of marshmallow skulls and cowboys with dollar signs for eyes. A film projector flashed shots of CAT scans and suited men writing checks. A thirty-minute break dance set was delivered by local breakdancers; that, coupled with DoomTree DJ MK Larada churning out the breaks, proved itself a thrilling intermission.

     Other DoomTree notables were Sims, the short, stocky, day-time construction worker who held it down for smooth-talking white MCs everywhere. Mike Mitzlan, with a blue bandana around his neck and strutting with the braggadocio of a cholo, led other DoomTrees on the Diet Coke diatribe “Revolución,” adding the final words: “Don’t buy crack / Don’t sell crack / And don’t listen to crack.”

     Cecil Otter, who embodies all the hunky qualifications most female English majors check off when evaluating a fawn-worthy T.A., schooled the attendees with a concise, senatorial flow that carried monologues about relationship slip-ups and counter-readings of everyday snafus. Rhymesayers’ veteran I Self Devine stopped by to drop an impromptu stack of bars. Shortly after, Dessa, with a large smile stretching between her big loop earrings, strode the catwalk holding up a piece of paper: “My friend just gave me this note!” Across the page read in permanent ink: SOLD THE FUCK OUT! “You guys helped us sell out First Avenue!”

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