Friday Night in the Sett: Dessa w/ First Wave Performers, Co-sponsored by the Campus Women’s Center


Guys, I have a confession to make. I am more than a little bit obsessed with the artist I’m currently writing about. Some have called it a Level 3 girl-crush…Whatever. Basically, THIS is the blog post that I’ve been waiting for. Friends, WUD-ians, countrymen, lend me your ears. I’m going to tell you a tale. A tale that begins far, far away in the land of Minneapolis.

Dessa’s unique combination of musical talent and smart, biting lyricism first arose from participating in slam poetry competitions in college at the U of M. While living and working in Minneapolis after graduation, she befriended members of the Doomtree rap collective, and when they discovered her incredible talent for writing, they  asked her to join the group. She has since gone on to basically conquer the world, releasing four albums with Doomtree, writing and publishing a book, developing her own lipstick color with The Elixery in Minneapolis, and releasing two solo albums with one more, Parts of Speech, on the way on June 25th. Parts of Speech is being hailed as Dessa’s best work yet, with a wealth of different genres, beats, and instruments weaving together into a beautifully cohesive album that has critics falling over with pure excitement. The first single, Warsaw, was described by one reviewer like this: “The track boasts a beat like Azealia Banks playing Pacman, which provides a background for our emcee’s confident, hypnotic flow.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. You can listen to that here.

Dessa’s style is truly exceptional. It’s rare to encounter a rapper who makes amazing music without conforming to the genre’s stereotypes, but she accomplishes it, refusing to be put exclusively into the box of “singer,” “rapper,” or “writer.” She’s not shy about calling out the sexism and hypocrisy present in the world of hip-hop, with lyrics like “I found your steel ladder/Now your ceilings don’t matter/Check me out now I got glass floors.” Dessa will make you think. She will grab you by the collar and make you listen to her lyrics. She will change how you think of women in rap music.

She is what I listen to when I’m blissfully happy, and what I listen to when I’m so angry that I want to punt strangers through the Camp Randall goalposts. Dessa is an incredible artist, and a role model for women everywhere. Not just those in the music industry, but all the women who deal with sexism and stereotyping in their lives and work.

Of course, this night would not be complete without the incredible talent of an all-female group of First Wave performers, in honor of this event’s co-sponsorship with the Campus Women’s Center. For those who don’t know, First Wave is a multicultural coalition of artists who are also students here on campus. They perform spoken word and hip-hop, polishing their skills and showcasing their talents all across campus, the city, and the country. Anyone who has seen First Wave in action before knows that they consistently put on an energetic and passionate show, and will be the perfect intro to a night full of strong women with mad talent.

And as a final quick plug, the Campus Women’s Center does amazing work on this campus, and we are very proud to be working with them to put on an incredible show that honors and promotes female artists and their accomplishments. This show is going to be ridiculously awesome. Get there.

Friday 4/19, The Sett, 9:00 PM

Here’s some videos, to get you pumped.

Just Announced: Saul Williams Presents CHORUS – A Spoken Word Tour with Dessa

It’s been more than a decade since Saul Williams last visited the UW-Madison campus, and both nothing and everything has changed. At the time of his 2002 slam workshop and performance here at Madison, Williams had established himself as one of the leading figures in slam poetry, gaining recognition for winning national competitions and both starring and writing in the 1998 Sundance Grand Jury Award-winning Slam. In the years since his visit, Williams has shown the depth of his talents, now recognized as much for his music as his poetry and acting. His unique industrial hip-hop has gained a wide audience, propelled by the success of “List of Demands (Reparations)” from his 2004 self-titled album and collaborations with other top-tier talent like Trent Reznor, Zach de la Rocha, Serj Tankian, the Fugees, and Janelle Monae.

Ten years later, Williams returns to campus to once again perform spoken word, the facet of his life that not only spurred his recognition, but has influenced everything he’s done in his career. This summer sees the release of his new book of poetry, CHORUSThe Terrace will play host to a performance of this new material and other spoken word pieces from his extensive career on Thursday, September 13th. While the Terrace has seen many performances over the years, spoken word has been a genre relatively unexplored on its stage. The setting lends itself beautifully to such a raw and intimate art, which will truly make the show something you won’t want to miss.

Kicking off the show will be a special monologue performance from a talent that the Midwest is lucky to call their own. Dessa hardly needs an introduction around these parts, known for her skillful blend of singing and rapping, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Minneapolis collective Doomtree. In the last year, Dessa released her highly successful Castor, The Twin while still finding time to release No Kings with Doomtree and tour behind it. That tour included a March date in the Sett that saw the venue packed to a previously unseen volume. No matter how many times you’ve seen the homegrown artist, you probably haven’t seen her perform the way she will on this date; with her own roots in spoken word, Dessa will perform a monologue.

We couldn’t be more excited to host this show on the Terrace, scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. Like all Terrace shows, in the event of bad weather the show will be moved inside Memorial Union to Der Rathskeller. Don’t miss this unique show with a master of his craft and one of the Midwest’s shining talents. Check out Williams performing “Children of the Night” below.