Rapper, singer, spoken word artist, writer, and science nerd Dessa is an open book. As a young girl in Minneapolis, she dreamed of being a writer, and in high school she submitted essays unsolicited to the New Yorker. She refused to speak the Spanish own heritage (she’s half Puerto Rican) and instead insisted on learning French. She was, in her own mind, headed for a literary life on the Upper East side of Manhattan. “The third martini and witty repartee” she says.
Life seemed to have other plans for her. She ended up channeling her love of language into a different outlet: rap. Dessa has been a longtime member of Minneapolis based hip hop collective Doomtree. Her résumé as a musician includes performances at Lollapalooza and Glastonbury, co-compositions for 100-voice choir, performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, and a top-200 entry on the Billboard charts for her album Parts of Speech.
Eventually she was able to turn her success in music back towards her original passion: writing essays. She’s been published by The New York Times Magazine, broadcast by Minnesota Public Radio, published two literary collections of her own, and is set to release her first hardcover collection with Dutton Books in the fall of 2018.
Her most recent solo album, Chime, brought together her songwriting with her longtime love of science (one of her first jobs was as a medical technical writer). She turned her own personal experience of heartbreak into a kind of science experiment, and let the process inform her songs. The result is extremely compelling and also great pop music.
In this week’s Spotify playlist hear some of the songs we discuss in our conversation. Listen here.