Dessa, a rapper-singer-writer from Minnesota, recently spoke about the state’s Rap scene in an article for Explore Minnesota.
“On tour, I’m often asked about the music scene in Minnesota,” Dessa writes in the piece. “People joke and flatter, ‘Is it something in the tap water? The long winters?’ I think it’s what’s not here that has shaped our sound and culture. If you grow up in New York or [Los Angeles], you might reasonably imagine the way to get a foothold in the music business is to be discovered by an industry rep. As a kid growing up in South Minneapolis, I remember singing at the grocery store, hoping that a man in a grey suit might discover me, a little diamond in the dry goods. It became clear, however, that agents weren’t hunting for new talent at Rainbow. In fact, talent scouts didn’t seem to be hunting at the nightclubs here, either. People were building successful careers without the intervention of major labels. They were working in small groups to record and release their own work, running labels out of their basements, or their mother’s basements, or their cars. In the absence of an infrastructure, a robust [Do-It-Yourself (DIY)] culture took hold.”
Dessa explains how the DIY culture allows people to interact and collaborate freely. “No distribution deal? OK, borrow Mickey’s truck and drop the discs off yourself,” she says. “I’ll learn how to write a press release; you learn how to use Microsoft Excel. People here trade favors, swap resources, and congeal into little collectives of complimentary skillsets…As it happened, musicians often had something to gain by working together, even if their music sounded really different. The rap duo Atmosphere shared stages with punk outfit Dillinger 4. I grew up here, so I didn’t know how weird that was until I started touring. In most other cities, performers and listeners aren’t so casual about genre. A mixed bill can be a great way to empty a room.”