Imagine a new film coming out and it is a post-apocalyptic tale that begins with its protagonist riding down a deserted road in a beat-up Camaro. Blasting in the background is the opening guitar riff and pulsating drums of the first track, “No Way,” from the group Doomtree’s album, No Kings.
It is those energetic pounding rhythms that pull the listener into the rest of the album. Throughout No Kings, Doomtree prove that they are not your average rap group. They even have a song, “Bangarang,” declaring it loud and clear that they have been around 10 years and are not going anywhere. In their words, “all these rappers sound the same.”
The Midwestern group from Minnesota consists (above in a Kelly Loverud photo, l to r) rapper Sims, producer Lazerbeak, rappers Cecil Otter, P.O.S., Mike Mictlan, producer Paper Tiger, and rapper/singer Dessa. They have released two albums, False Hopes and the self-titled Doomtree as well as the Wu-Tang Clan influenced mixtape 13 Chambers. All of the members have worked on records on their own, but have reformed again for this latest release.
The lyrics straddle the line between hope and destruction, reality and fantasy, and fun and pain, which reflect the group’s oxymoronic name. There are references to chakras, rebirth, and the Egyptian gods Horus and Osiris in “Beacon,” goblins and monsters in “No Way,” science in “The Grand Experiment” and “String Theory,” and zombies in the pugnacious “Punch-Out.” The dark side of life is explored through songs like “Bolt Cutter” and “Gimme the Go.”
One song on the album, “Little Mercy,” sounds like a modern-day spiritual. Beginning and ending the song are the words, “The candle’s in the window and it’s open/we watch the flames duke it out/with every gust and we’re hopin’/no it must just burn to the bottom of the wick/it’s the bottom of the fifth/and that shit is still burning.” That fighting for life mentality is expressed through other songs, “Team the Best Team” and “Own Yours.” It all culminates to the triumphant-sounding “Fresh New Trash.”
Every song on this album is a powerful on its own from its beats to the lyrics to the flow. I hope this is the future of music.