ID CHECK: From left to right, a diverse team: Dessa, Mike Mictlan, Lazerbeak, P.O.S., Cecil Otter, Paper Tiger, and Sims.
Doomtree are a true collective, with no single voice dominating. Here's a quick guide to Dessa's cohort.
MIKE MICTLAN | Mictlan (a/k/a Mike Marquez) has a voice with a muscular sense of aggression otherwise absent in the Doomtree crew. The Southern California transplant occasionally known as BAMF the Butcher is constantly working to make each new verse faster and more intimidating than the last. Hand over Fist, his 2008 team-up with Lazerbeak, is rife with mission-statement lines like this one, from "Prizefight": "I don't know what I'm doing/I keep my eyes on the prize."
LAZERBEAK | Producer Lazerbeak's fingerprints are all over Hand over Fist: he'll concoct one track that thunders like a sci-fi soundtrack, another that kicks off with a '50s rock-and-roll guitar, a third that resembles rejuvenated gospel music, a fourth anchored in crunchy horns. His MC-free solo LP from last year, Legend Recognize Legend, distorts the boundaries separating rock, pop, and hip-hop.
P.O.S. | After touring for years, Warped Tour regular Stefon Alexander has established himself as Doomtree's de facto public face. His brisk wit aside, P.O.S.'s punk-rock past has been instrumental in garnering attention. His records have lassoed decidedly non-hip-hop guests from the Hold Steady, the Bouncing Souls, and None More Black. Recently, he joined Har Mar Superstar and Gayngs leader Ryan Olson in a supergroup called Marijuana Deathsquads.
CECIL OTTER | When Kyle Smith was eight, his 14-year-old sister ran away from home and left behind a tape collection that included the likes of Eazy-E and N.W.A. These led him to hip-hop-centric activities like sampling and graffiti. As he was working on his debut, Rebel Yellow, the MC and producer now known as Cecil Otter lived through a creative nightmare: his hard drive wiped out his in-progress files, destroying some four years of material. But that didn't stop him — the ornate album appeared in 2008. His follow-up, Porcelain Revolver, is due soon.
PAPER TIGER | Don't take the on-stage shades he wears as evidence of a diva complex. Paper Tiger (a/k/a John Samels) has admitted to being a shy performer, and the eyewear allows the producer to be comfortable delving into his grooves. Working both visual and sonic sides of Doomtree, he's crafted graphics and propulsive beats for Mike Mictlan's "Game Over" and P.O.S.'s "Low Light Low Life." Made like Us, his July release, drew repeated DJ Shadow comparisons — the likely result of his desire to give his record what he calls a "cinematic quality."
SIMS | In 2003, Andrew Sims was on the cusp of graduating from the University of Minnesota when he dropped out to pursue a slot as a vocalist in Doomtree. He and P.O.S. became frequent collaborators, and Alexander aptly describes Sims's style as "pattern-heavy." Sims's 2005 album Lights Out Paris found the rapper ably fluctuating between menacing and smug, sullen and hyped, incisive and hostile. Sims and Lazerbeak are now putting together an LP called Bad Time Zoo; it's expected to hit in early 2011.