Getting conversational with Twin Cities singer / emcee Dessa (playing World Cafe Live on 1/11) - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Photo by Bo Hakala

As a toddler, Minneapolis-based musician Dessa started a ritual with her parents. She would regularly ask them, she says, if “we could do that thing where I talk and you talk and we take turns.”

“You mean a conversation?” her mom would reply.

Today, Dessa has channeled that passion for dialogue into a career as a singer and emcee, emerging from the Twin Cities hip-hop scene. She is touring in the Midwestern and Northeastern cities this winter after the 2011 release of her live album, Castor the Twin. That tour includes a stop at World Café Live on January 11.

Castor the Twin blends driving rap and dreamy vocals with vibraphone, piano, viola, and stand-up bass. It is a live reworking of her first full-length album, A Badly Broken Code, with the addition of a newer single, “The Beekeeper.” A member of the DoomTree collective of Minneapolis hip-hop musicians, Dessa drew praise for that album from NPR and the Chicago Tribune, among others.

When she first set out to create a full-length album, she performed for friends both the spoken word pieces and also the more melodic ones she had been working on. Some of her collaborators suggested she create two separate albums, assigning one to each genre. Dessa declined.

“The genre is a really good tool for talking about music, but not for making it,” she said. Limiting an album to pure rap, she said for example, would prevent her from creating a richer, more variable sound. “It’s easy for me to disregard genre,” she added, “cause I’m not really good at identifying it.” She admitted difficulty identifying the time period or exact genre of songs she hears in passing.

The album title Castor the Twin references the twin brothers Castor and Pollux of Roman mythology. The title of “Castor,” the more human of the twins, references the reworking of her previous studio album. The title reflects this album’s live, more immediate sound—more of a conversation, she says, between her audience and herself.

Dessa performs with Kuf Knotz at World Cafe Live Upstairs on Friday January 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets and information on the show can be found here.

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