The originators of Rap music have a
lot to be happy (or worried) about in 2008. Not only has the music dominated
the Pop charts but also inspired a generation of fans into making this once
exclusively inner-city art form of funky beats and rhythmic poetry as their
personal outlet for suburban angst and middle class malcontent. This distinctly
North American phenomenon is still considered by many to be underground but the
impact of this particular sub-genre is surprisingly tremendous. Enter Doomtree, a Minnesota-based, Rhymesayers-affiliated collective ready
to bombard your eardrums with this ever emerging brand of music.

Doomtree definitely lives up to their
not-so-average name and the group’s newest album, False Hopes, manages to do the same (with mixed results). The simplistic
talk of guns, money and bitches are refreshingly absent from their album and
replaced by conflicting layers of bleak metaphors, wrangled introspection and
off-kilter bravado. The music, however, marches to the beat of a different drum,
providing playful moments of head-nodding pleasure that heavily contradict the
constant barrage of focused lyrical energy. As a result, the dichotomy of
passion-fueled lyricism and playful sounds make for a unique listening experience
that will either bring joy or frustration to the listener.

For those uninitiated, the 11 person
collective is made up of RSE‘s P.O.S., Dessa, Cecil Otter, Sims, Mike
on the vocal front and Lazerbeak,
Paper Tiger, Turbo Nemesis, MK Larada, Tom Servo
and Emily Bloodmobile on the boards, decks, etc. With so many hands in the
pot, everyone has to make the most out of their moment to shine, particular the
emcees. As a result, there is so much disenchantment and anger packed into each
verse that it would be hard-pressed for the listener not to feel deftly
energized (or decidedly claustrophobic and overwhelmed) after hearing just one song
from the group. Tracks like Knives
On Fire, Dessa‘s solo cut Veteran and No Homeowners (Renter’s Rebate) exemplify the fervent eloquence of disappointment and “anguished apathy” funneled
through the group’s heady vocal appreciation of Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony, Freestyle Fellowship and Blackalicious. Even a mellow track like
A Hundred Fathers manages to press the listener’s
ears with the rapper’s inebriated lyrical expression and vivid descriptions of
haunted towns and imaginary monsters. In other words, some Hip Hop fans will
bite and others will find this eclectic approach towards rapping a detriment to
Doomtree‘s music.

On the majority of False Hopes, the dark intensity of the group’s
vocal delivery surprisingly merges well with the enthusiastic tone of the music. However, on a few songs,
the marriage of anger and playfulness creates songs that are plagued with
awkward and irreconcilable moments, making the album even more of a challenge
to get into (especially for the average Hip Hop fan). This contradiction is no
more apparent than in Savion
Glover, a verbal exorcism of
introspective thoughts and metaphoric wordplay that manages to elude the
ass-shaking potential of the spastic drums and funky banjo sample.

Believe it or not, Hip Hop is still
growing and groups like Doomtree are
paving the way for its future by
injecting a much-need dose of angst-filed creativity from America’s suburbs. False Hopes is entertaining and
different; full of rapid-fire poetics that sustain a high level of energy while
the music joyfully bounces with ease. However, this can lead to a noticeable divide
between the joyful expression of the beats and the guarded seriousness of the rappers vocal styles. Their punk-rock
approach to Hip Hop isn’t for all comers, but it is some real hope for the underground.