A.V. Club Most Read

News Newswire Great Job, Internet!
TV Club All Reviews What's On Tonight
Video All Video A.V. Undercover A.V. Cocktail Club Film Club
Reviews All Reviews Film TV Music Books
Features All Features TV Club Newswire
Sections Film Tv Music Food Comedy Books Games Aux
Our Company About Us Contact Advertise Privacy Policy Careers RSS
Onion Inc. Sites The Onion The A.V. Club ClickHole Onion Studios

Dessa: A Badly Broken Code

A-

Dessa

Album: A Badly Broken Code
Label: Doomtree

Community Grade (12 Users)

  • A
  • A-
  • B+
  • B
  • B-
  • C+
  • C
  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F

Your Grade

?

The fact that Dessa name-checks the Minneapolis edition of the Chicago Manual Of Style on the track “Dutch” speaks to two important facets of her debut album, A Badly Broken Code: 1) It slots in nicely with the flourishing Twin Cities mode of hip-hop characterized by the Rhymesayers and Doomtree collectives. (Dessa is the sole female on the latter’s roster.) 2) More significantly, it indicates the weight she places on her lyrics. Dessa, a former spoken-word artist who recently released a collection of short stories and poetry, clearly considers writing a craft worthy of study and precision, and Code reflects that in its intricate, sometimes confounding, but always intriguing wordsmithery. 

Unpacking Code’s winding allegories, allusions, and metaphors takes multiple listens; luckily, there’s plenty amid the esoteric literary fireworks to latch onto. Dessa’s flow is clearly influenced more by her spoken-word background than hip-hop convention, which will require listeners to adjust, but they’ll soon be enveloped in its smooth expressiveness. Dessa is also an impressive vocalist, easily transitioning between rapping and a soulful singing voice, most impressively on the standout “Matches To Paper Dolls,” “Dixon’s Girl,” and the gorgeous, rap-free a cappella number “Poor Atlas.” Code challenges fans without alienating them by catching them up in a tangled but beautiful web.