When you think of Minneapolis Hip Hop, you may first think of Rhymesayers. When you think about 9 member Hip Hop crews, you may first think of the Wu-Tang Clan. Well, the Doomtree collective have simultaneously added their name to both lists with their self-titled LP, released earlier this year. While the crew consists of people from different races, ethnicities, genders, and musical upbringings, they share a mind set that makes everything work.
“We all care about good music first and foremost,” Doomtree member P.O.S. tells about the common thread running through the crew. “We want to do music and put out albums the way we want them to go, not necessarily the way they’re supposed to go,” he adds.
Putting together an album with 9 different solo artists can be a difficult task, and in this RH First Look, P.O.S. gives us a rundown of the process, a crash course on the Minneapolis DIY mindset, as well as the skinny on a couple choice album cuts. Get behind the microscope below…
RubyHornet: I want to start by talking about the things that link your collective together. I mean you guys are 9 individuals of different backgrounds, ethnicities, etc, what is that common mindset or vibe that you all share?
P.O.S.: We all grew up together. We all have a few solid principals running through all of us. A few of them being that we all care about good music first and foremost. When it comes to our stage show, you’ll never see us just standing around in our cool clothes. When it’s over, you’re going to see us covered in sweat, and ready to go to sleep. We’re not hanging out trying to be cool. Everybody wants to be cool, but that is not our main focus. That is one thing that definitely sets us a part in Hip Hop to start with, but also comes from our roots in different genres of music besides Hip Hop…Ultimately what links us is that we want to do music and put out albums the way we want them to go, not necessarily the way they’re supposed to go.
RubyHornet: You hail from Minneapolis, which in terms of Hip Hop music is best known for Rhymesayers and their approach to everything from creating to touring to marketing. I know that you all also have a relationship with them. My question is, when you were younger did you look to them as a model in anyway, and what’s it like to now work with them?
P.O.S.: My first year of high school, when I was in school with Mictlan freestyling or whatever, we all heard Rhymesayers. We all heard Atmosphere. We all thought it was cool, but I personally come from a DIY/punk rock background. Everybody in the group comes from DIY, we looked at the Rhymesayers collective before it was really cracking on a national level, and we didn’t know that. That was the first rap music that I ever heard that I was like, ‘this is from here? This is from Minnesota?’ I knew that it could happen, but I associated the whole Do It Yourself vibe with punk rock, so when I realized that there were people in Minnesota doing it with Hip Hop, that kind of blew my mind. It also blew the door open a lot.
RubyHornet: In terms of the DIY attitude, how is that reflective of Minneapolis as a city, and the people that inhabit it? Do you feel we can see it through your music?
P.O.S.: One of the biggest things is that we’re a major city to ourselves, but nobody moves to Minneapolis to be a star. Nobody does that. They move to L.A., they move to Chicago, they move to New York, Denver, Dallas, big cities. Our city is big enough, it does what it is supposed to do, but there’s no coast here. There’s no major record label, there’s just a longstanding history of music. So, the one thing we know out here is that right from jump there’s no record label. There’s no executives coming to the shows to watch you play. You know that from jump, you’re in Minnesota. It’s one of those things where if you expect to get anything done, if you expect to progress and advance as an artist, you got to expect to do that for yourself. Being located in the middle of America, our sound, not just Doomtree but Minnesota, the sound is made of various artist’s favorite sounds from every coast, every genre, every style. You take it to make it feel how you want, there are no rules. It’s one of those cities that has such a long musical history of people cracking out how they want, a lot of people who came out doing it how they wanted to do it and made a name. That’s one thing that keeps us going. When you’re a musician out here and you take it seriously, you think about the history of Minnesota music, you definitely don’t think, ‘what’s cracking right now? How can I make this? What’s popular? Should I chop and screw this cause everybody else is?’ We’re in the middle man, we’re in the middle top of America. We’re getting everything, mixing it up, and making it our own thing.
RubyHornet: What is going on there from a socioeconomic standpoint with the things effecting the country as a whole? How is that taking shape in Minneapolis, what are everyday people going through there?
P.O.S.: Man, same as everywhere else. Where are you at right now?
RubyHornet: I’m in Chicago.
P.O.S.: Yeah. You know what it’s like man…There’s the same amount of unrest in Minnesota as anywhere else. Maybe a little more so because we’re in the Heartland, everybody expects us to be one certain type of people and we’re not. Everywhere I go, and I’ve been on a lot of tours, everywhere I go, there’s struggle. It’s all America, it’s all American politics. And it’s all people that have a perception of you that you have to take their perception, deal with it, then show and prove. Whether it’s musically, whether it’s what you believe in, whatever it is, people don’t really take anything for face value these days. They assume everyone is on something.
RubyHornet: What was the project like in terms of constructing the album, and showcasing the individuals in Doomtree, and showcasing your strengths as a collective? Is it almost another skill of everyone in the group to work with each other and not let their egos get in the way?
P.O.S.: That’s the thing about us, we’ve all be really good friends for a lot of years. These are my oldest and closest friends hands down. So, when it came down to making the record, Lazerbeak, who is the primary producer on the record, and primary producer on a lot of Doomtree projects, he turned in somewhere between 40-50 beats. We all just sat down with the beats on repeat and wrote, and worked it out. Sometimes it was like, ‘everybody’s got verses, we’ll put the verses together, how do the verses work?’ Essentially it’s a lot of solo artists figuring out how to work together. We all know each other so well that it’s not an ego thing. We’re all 100% certain that if we’re not on this track, there’s another track being made tomorrow. It’s never been an issue of, ‘I want to get on that one. Let me on that one,’ or anything like that. It’s always been like, ‘You got a verse? Cool. Is the song long? It’s not too long, hop on? You got an idea, something we could add to this? Fix this chorus…’ All the ego stuff, and all the transitioning from solo artists to trying to work together, all that happened within the first 5-6 months of writing the record. Everybody was kind of holding back their best s**t, cause everybody wanted to save it for their solo record, and then, by the time the record started to get made, you see what everybody else is coming with and everybody just stepped it up. Nobody wanted to be outshined, or really outshine everybody else so it just melted and worked its way to where everyone feels like their shining in their moments. That’s why there’s not too many solo songs. We didn’t want it to be a label compilation, we wanted it to be a crew album. We didn’t want 3 P.O.S. songs, and 3 Sims songs, and 3 Dessa songs. We wanted it to be one solo song apiece and collabs on everything else. We knew that going into it, so there was no butting heads. It was actually way easier than it should have been with 9 people.
RubyHornet: I also want to ask you about your solo track, “Liver Let Die”. You say, ‘this is a little city, so twisted this village be, it’s a wonder nobody just ever told you leave it be.’ Are you talking about Minneapolis? Or is this a place that may exist in your mind?
P.O.S.: It is literally talking about Minneapolis being a small city, but when I wrote it, I was writing from a place of panic and the whole bar culture. I finished that song up and placed it in the wintertime in Minneapolis. The winter there is probably the same as the one in Chicago, your friends disappear. Your friends don’t disappear, but the people that are peripheral friends in your life, people that you know, but don’t know that well, the one’s you see and have almost exclusively bar conversations with, the people you’ve known 5 or 6 years but have never met sober…I’m not a big drinker, but I’m a musician, I’m in the bars, I’m out. There’s a lot of people that I know. That’s what I’m commenting on in that song. It’s like, this is a little city, but every city is a little city if you break down whatever scene and people you’re rolling with. It’s kind of hard to break out of that, no matter what city you’re in…Essentially what I’m saying is, ‘I don’t know what you guys are doing, but I’m working on something.’ That’s the general vibe. I’m talking about people in the bars, interpersonal relationships, and I’m just commenting on ‘I don’t know what you guys are doing, I’m not sure what you guys are feeling, but this is what I’m about. I’m about progress, I’m about moving forward.’ I’m just trying to say that in the most rapp-y way to make it fit in a rap song.
RubyHornet: You have a song with Sims, “Accident”. He says, ‘we went from primates to inmates of a mindstate.’ What mindstate do you think that is, and what do you see as your music’s role in perhaps freeing people from that?
P.O.S.: To be straight up, I don’t see myself, or Sims, as somebody who is freeing anybody from any kind of mindstate. All we’re trying to do in songs like “Accident” is point out where people are kind of just sitting and tell them to let go in the flyest way possible. When he says, ‘we went from primates to inmates of a mindstate,’ he’s talking about evolving communities, and then growing out of primates, monkeys, with inmates of the mindstate being the idea that ‘they’ are in power. This nameless thing that you can’t do anything about it so you might as well enjoy it…We spend a lot of time doing everything we can to not say ‘they’ and talk about imaginary rappers, imaginary situations. But we’re treated the way we allow ourselves to be treated, and every once in a while it’s important to call that out. The whole vibe of you watch TV or you listen to NPR and you hear what’s going on in the world and you hear it and you can recite it back to your friends of how f**ked up it is. But you don’t actually realize it’s happening to you…This is actually happening to us, all of us at the same time. It’s like, ‘oh man, everything is so f**ked up, dude.’ But there’s nothing to say or do after that. That’s kind of what we’re talking about. He’s got a lot of my favorite verses on the album talking about social politics and the way people are treated.
RubyHornet: Within the crew do you see everyone in the crew having their specialty as far as what they talk about?
P.O.S.: This is not our first record, but this is our first record. We’ve all been rapping for a longtime and have our own records, but now we’re all out as Doomtree. I got two solo records under my belt, and one coming out next year. All of us have releases that we’ve put out in Minnesota only. So everybody has the niche they like…We all have goals, we all want to be the best emcee that we can be, but it’s never been in our best interest to be the best emcee in the world. There’s too many emcees to try and do that. We want to be the best emcee that we can be. We don’t want to pose. We don’t want to posture for people, we just want to rap our asses off about s**t we care about. I can honestly say that about everybody in the crew.