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False Hopes XV

(Doomtree; US: 6 Dec 2009; UK: Import)

As the years pass and rap as a music genre continues to age, it’s nothing short of interesting to watch how it develops. Its heroes and villains change every few years, almost like a soap opera, and new role players emerge just as frequently. Samples have remained a steady element, though they are certainly used much differently, mostly because of the strict copyright laws. As a result, the sound of the genre fluctuates greatly as you move from one sub-genre to the next. And while subgenres remain one of the most frustrating and nitpicky ways to categorize music, they are useful. But perhaps the most intriguing element to watch is how new cities and locales have risen to fame, be it underground or mainstream. In particular, there is Minneapolis, MN, a city so chock-full of talent it’s almost unfair. The only other cities/regions competing with Minneapolis today in the underground scene are DMV (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) and Detroit.

And carrying that Minneapolis torch proudly is the nine-member collective of MCs, DJs, and producers known as Doomtree. The crew isn’t new or just hitting the scene by any means, but it definitely appears poised to gain more popularity. While he wouldn’t admit it, much of the reason for that is P.O.S., who released one of 2009’s best albums in Never Better. And though he handled the majority of rapping and production duties, he was helped by his fellow Doomtree’ers. Lazerbeak, for example, produced four of its 15 tracks and Sims, Dessa, and Cecil Otter all stopped by for a posse cut on “Low Light Low Life”.

After hearing those cuts and the rest of the record, it would be safe to say you were hopefully expecting more from the collective in ‘09. Honestly, the only way you could not have wanted more is if you hadn’t heard Never Better. Thankfully, Doomtree delivered with another installment in its False Hopes series, this one being the fifteenth. And, unlike some of the installments that showcase one member at a time, this eight-track project features every member in one way or another. Cecil Otter, for instance, has the album’s best cut in “A Rickety Bridge” as he channels the urgency usually exhibited by P.O.S. That track also features some of the best lyrical imagery on the record as Otter spits lines like, “I saw your eyes go from lower-case to capital” over a haunting, yet gorgeous backdrop. Also impressive is when Dessa, Mike Mictlan, Otter, P.O.S., and Sims bring back the posse cut on “Profit & Loss”. Similarly, P.O.S. and Sims absolutely kill it over Lazerbeak’s party-ready beat on “Coup For The Kings”, a track that is just as progressive as it is a throwback to hip-hop’s golden age.

False Hopes XV only hits the wall on “Scuffle”, a catchy but flimsy joint from Dessa, who is typically nearly flawless when she’s featured.  But “Scuffle” is just far too unbalanced and lyrically dull, even if her flow is nothing short of amazing. It’s also frustrating to hear her flop on this track after she stole the show on “Profit & Loss”, especially with her fantastic vocals on the hook. Otherwise, this fifteenth installment is undoubtedly worth your time from front to back. These nine like-minded artists clearly feed off one another creatively, which you can hear in their cadences and militaristic beats. And here’s hoping they all appear in one way or another on Dessa’s upcoming album A Badly Broken Code, which drops January 19.


Weekly newspaper reporter by day, music reviewer by night (OK, and by day, too). When he's not writing for PopMatters, Andrew spends most of his time at online magazine Prefix and hip-hop site Potholes In My Blog.

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