BY NICK NELSON
With crisp winter air blowing outside and Pabst Blue-Ribbon flowing freely at the bar, Minneapolis-based rappers P.O.S., Sims and Hand Over Fist felt right at home performing for a packed room eager to throw up the “wings and teeth” hand signals trademarked by the rappers they came to see.
Last Friday, Minneapolis invaded the District as the aforementioned members of hip-hop collective Doomtree played DC’s Rock & Roll Hotel. For a modest twelve-dollar ticket and the customary five-dollar beer, fans were treated to three hours of bass-heavy, punk-influenced, Midwest-born rap.
The Doomtree collective is comprised of five rappers and four DJs, and apart from the heavy use of punk samples in their beats, pride themselves on the diversity of their group; six members are white, two are Latino and one is black, while Dessa is one of the few female rappers in the game today. Not exactly what you picture when you think of most rap crews.
The diversity of the group brought the same out in the crowd, as out-and-out rap fans were interspersed with indie kids, metal-heads and straightedge hardcore fans. Every group found something they loved in the music, with lyrics and beats paying homage to such bands as Fugazi, The Hold Steady, Beanie Sigel and Underoath.
The show began as Sims sauntered onto the stage. The best rapper in the crew, he did not disappoint. Having shared a laugh and a couple Camel Lights with him in front of the club, I knew I would be getting a performance filled with sincere emotion and a sense of humor witty enough to make the most stoic people crack a smile.
As he played such crowd favorites as “15 Blocks,” and “Market Made Murder,” as well as new singles “Like You Mean It” and “Rap Practice” off of his “False Hopes XIV” record, the crowd was left amped up and loose. The night had just begun.
Next on stage was newly formed duo Hand Over Fist, which is comprised of rapper Mike Mictlan and resident DJ Lazerbeak, who got his name after a friend—in a state of relative insobriety—told him that his beats sound like a bird shooting lasers from his beak. The feeling was there that all these guys care about was making sure the crowd had the best time ever.
The duo played a setlist comprised almost entirely of songs from their newly released self-titled album, including crowd favorite “LA Raiders Hat.” As he put it “I’m the only cat here that ain’t from Minnesota,” and the words were a love song to his So-Cal hometown, while still showing love to his transplanted home in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Finally, with the crowd full of adrenaline, dripping with sweat and yelling chants of “DTR!” and “Wings And Teeth!” the house lights came down and headliner P.O.S. took the stage.
As the label head of Doomtree Records and the only member of the group with a recording contract outside of Doomtree as part of Rhymesayers Entertainment, P.O.S. (real name Stefan Alexander) is arguably the most prolific and recognizable rapper on the bill on Friday night.
If you find yourself wondering what P.O.S. stands for, it is not the easiest question to answer. It refers to anything from Promise Of Skill, Product Of Society and Promise Of Stress to the more well-known and profane Piece of, well, you know.
With all of this mythos surrounding him, P.O.S. could easily have walked onto the stage as a mere backup singer and received the same level of acclaim. Thankfully, it’s all about the fans for Stefan, and by the end of his eighty-minute set, he had blown out his voice, and instead of rapping at a vicious bellow, had brought it down to a raspy sneer.
With a set heavy enough in decibels and adrenaline to be heard for miles, Stefan blasted through his entire catalog, songs as old as “Slow Burn” “Savion Glover” and his trademark “POS Is Ruining My Life.”
The latter had bass so heavy that the floor was vibrating, and most fans knew every word. The material off his newest release, “Never Better,” was received just as warmly, with the Wings & Teeth hand signals in the air for nearly the entire set.
As the set was winding down, the entire bill came on stage to find out how far people had driven to see them. Most were from the DC Metro area, but a very large contingent made the same Minneapolis to Washington drive that the artists themselves had to make for the show. To outsiders, such a commitment may seem crazy.
But as Sims states in 15 Blocks: “If you feel how I feel at the end of the week, throw your hands up and thank god for Doomtree.” I sure do.