Starting in 2001, a group of six high-school friends shared the dream of making a living from their love and passion for hip-hop. In the earliest days, they played small local shows and sold their music on self-produced CD-Rs, and developed a dedicated cult following. Since then, they've added a seventh member, and together produced a bevy of mixtapes under the "False Hopes" title, and put together two, full-team albums.
Their self-titled, 2008 album featured each member's individual skills and style, serving as a proper introduction to their abilities and range. In late 2011, they released "No Kings," which was a much more aggressive declaration of talent, experience and confidence, using the tracks to demonstrate that they are more than a stew of influences. Rather, the independent elements have bonded together in collaboration to create something greater than the sum of its parts. The original mix of members included four emcees, Cecil Otter, Mike Mictlan, POS and Sims. Cecil Otter's love of hip hop started at age 8 with an incident of tragedy. His older sister, then 14, ran away from home and left him with a box of rap tapes, and he learned every word of album, hoping to impress his sister upon her return. He soon began writing stories, and from stories he moved to rhymes. In addition to his work with the Doomtree, he has also put out one full-length solo album, "Rebel Yellow" (2008).
Mike Mictlan is a native of Southern California, but moved to the Twin Cities during high school, where he met the other founding members of the group. He's well regarded for his technical abilities, and his mix of both West Coast and Minnesota style influences. Although he returned home to California, his connection to Doomtree and the fans brought him back after a few years. He released a project with producer, Lazerbeak, called "Hand Over Fist" in 2008.
P.O.S. is perhaps the most widely-known solo artist of the collective, in no small part because of his affiliation with the independent hip-hop mogul, Rhymesayers. He is both an emcee and a producer, and blends a background in the raw sounds and content of the punk-rock scene with the more experimental sides of the hip-hop spectrum, and has demonstrated it over three full-length, solo albums, "Ipecac Neat" (2003), "Audition" (2005), and "Never Better" (2009). Sims brings a lifelong love of hip-hop and R&B, and began his career many years before Doomtree began, working with P.O.S. from the earliest stages, and the home-recording enterprise eventually blossomed into what we know today. He's released two albums of his own, "Lights Out Paris" (2009) and last year's "Bad Time Zoo."
In addition to P.O.S.'s production, the group has also included two powerful producers, Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger. Lazerbeak's professional success started even before high school as a member of indie rock group, the Plastic Constellations, which went on to tour nationally. He's responsible for many of the hard-hitting, and high-energy pieces, and has a reputation for assembling and disassembling beats with the finest results. His production has been included on much of the Doomtree collective's discography, including full-albums with Mictlan and Sims, and two solo releases in 2011, "Legend Recognize Legend" and "Lavabangers."
Paper Tiger serves as both the live DJ and resident artist for the collective. His production reveals a varied taste and background, and is noted for creative textures treatments to the sound. Like Lazerbeak, his production if featured widely throughout the collective, but is highlighted by a single, full-length album "Made Like Us" (2010). To finish out the Doomtree sound, the group added Dessa, a poet, essayist and vocalist. With a background in essays and "slam" poetry, she added the ability to seamlessly blend rapped lyrics within soulful melodic verses. She's released two full-length albums, 2010's highly acclaimed "A Badly Broken Code," and 2011's "Castor, the Twin" which featured new arrangements on previously released songs. In addition to music, Dessa has also been published in written form, and was recently a presenter at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College.
All photos by Nate Burrell.