No clear line separates Doomtree from the solo careers of the seven MCs and producers who make up this Minneapolis hip-hop collective.
Doomtree helped make the Twin Cities an underground hip-hop haven. After forming in 2002, it didn't just perform as a crew. It released EPs by local artists under the Doomtree label.
Albums by Doomtree members Dessa, Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak came out this year. Instrumental experimentation defines each one. You can hear it in the pensive, earnest piano passages of the Paper Tiger song "The Bully Plank."
Doomtree performs at the High Noon Saloon this Sunday, Dec. 5. When I caught up with Doomtree MC Andrew Sims, 28, by phone last week, he talked about group's ability to thrive individually and collectively.
Were you involved in hip-hop from an early age?
I grew up in Hopkins, a Minneapolis suburb. I went to high school with [Doomtree MC] P.O.S. We didn't really know each other that well. We'd see each other skateboarding. I was in a rock band back then. I didn't intend to become a rapper. I was always interested in a lot of different kinds of music. Before I knew it, this became my focus.
How does the crew balance the interests of the group with so many active individual artists?
One of the reasons Doomtree works is that we all get opportunities to do our own projects. You get the freedom to be who you are. When we come together we leave our egos at the door.
Are you working on a solo project?
I just finished an album called Bad Time Zoo that will be out Feb. 15. Lazerbeak made the beats. They're mind-blowing, the best beats he's made to date. It's an album about personal choice. It's set in a city, and the songs are about the experiences of people who live in that city. It's about my perspective on life in 2010.
High Noon Saloon, Sunday, Dec. 5, 8 pm