Review Summary: My blood is thicker than liquor, your skin is thinner than money; I’ve seen a ghost in every picture you’ve taken. This love is hidden in scripture, my pen is splintered and bloody; I hear a ghost in every record I’m making.
Doomtree’s self-titled “crew album” was a project three years in the making. Throughout various successful (and unsuccessful) solo records and False Hopes
releases, it seemed as if the collective was treading water – just hoping to stay commercially afloat with the influx of indie hip hop albums constantly being released in the Midwest (mainly by P.O.S.’s label Rhymesayers Entertainment). In fact, for a time it looked as though P.O.S. was the only member that would be able to continue putting out records. Sims’ album The Veldt
has been delayed multiple times over the past few years as was Dessa’s A Badly Broken Code
(which was finally released in January, 2010). However, after multiple teasers and pre-release material, Doomtree
dropped in July, 2008 with barely a whimper to those who weren’t paying attention.
Building upon all the trademark aspects of the crew’s previous work – including complicated, poetry-influenced raps, alternative beats rife with soul samples and keys as well as Dessa’s irresistible vocal melodies – the disc reverberates with simultaneous hipster and hip-hop cred. Doomtree has always sported a DIY-ethic (everything is written, produced and published in-house) and it comes across in the obvious chemistry between the emcees and producers contained herein. From the bombastic opener “Drumsticks” to the gripping album closer “Jaded,” the record simmers with a bristling energy that bubbles underneath the surface; it’s clear that the group had something to prove and apparently still does as their most recent False Hopes
(XV) contains the same feeling. The songs are extremely varied and range from brooding, down-tempo numbers (“Last Call”) to more free-spirited raps (“Accident”) and blisteringly catchy alternative hip-hop numbers that are often the highlight of the record (see “The Wren,” “Dots and Dashes” and “Kid Gloves”).
The lyrical content is generally heavy and dark, but that doesn’t stop the emcees from dropping entertaining lines filled with syllabic and rhyme-scheme interplay, as P.O.S. raps on “Kid Gloves” – “we still ain’t motionless, test the restless hands for shakes and see the flutter when the patience breaks; I keep time with the crickets in 4/4 and gangster-lean against the sirens in free speech.” Doomtree
is bursting at the seams with unique and original lyrics which often fit the production to a tee. Although these songs have the depth to require repeat listens to truly be appreciated, there are certainly enough cuts present that will stick upon first spin. In fact, the album’s only true weakness lies in its overwhelming breadth. At twenty-one tracks in length, it definitely could have benefitted by the group choosing to trim some of the fat. That’s not to say there are bad songs here, simply ones which don’t quite hold up to the others (“Down the Line” and “Twentyfourseven” stand out as examples of this issue), but there are more than enough striking, epic moments on the album to make up for it (i.e. “The Wren,” “Last Call,” “Sadie Hawkins,” “Let me Tell You, Baby” and “Liver Let Die”).
There is absolutely no reason for fans of P.O.S. and the other members’ solo works not to own Doomtree
, as it basically is an amalgamation of everything Doomtree has to offer as a collective. Almost two years later, it stands just as relevant and breath-taking as it did upon release – a defining album for the group.