Women MCs, A Letter From Dessa: Politics, Pleasure, And Art

Two of our talented female New Years headliners: Kid Sister and Dessa, are skilled in spinning, writing, and rhyming.  Unfortunately for the masses, the hip hop and electronic music industries tend to be male playgrounds.  We’re proud to host these self-defined artists, and hope you will support them as well.  In response to an internal conversation about this party, Dessa wrote the following letter to our readers to share a bit about her experience as a female MC .


My membership in Doomtree has been the largest single factor in my career as a hip hop artist. I make music with with smart, funny, good-hearted guys who aren’t particularly concerned with the fact that I’m a woman. So my gender hasn’t played a very large role in my process of making music.  My gender has, however, affected the presentation of that music.

The fact that I’m female seems to be more interesting to listeners and critics than it is to the people I work with. And I think I understand why. Women are rare in hip hop and novelty is interesting. My private fear, as a person who hopes to have a sustainable career as an artist, is that people might become interested in me for the wrong reasons. Youth is brief and beauty is fleeting, and I don’t want to tether my reputation to variables that are so temporary–and that are completely distinct from my art and from my character. The challenge for me has been to find a way to work as a rapper without diminishing my gender (in effort to fit into a pretty masculine environment) or exalting it (for some easy coverage).  It’s a surprisingly fine line, and honestly I’ve made missteps on either side of it.

The other primary challenge is probably even better known to actresses than to rappers. It involves trying to understand the motivations of men who profess to be interested in professional collaboration. To be totally frank, I’m a little nervous that this paragraph will come off as whiny–but it’s an honest account of my experience, so here goes:

As an artist, it’s marvelously exciting when someone you admire offers you a professional opportunity–it’s one of the best feelings in this line of work. As a single, female artist in her late twenties, one of the worst feelings you can have is when you realize that someone has offered you a professional opportunity because he’s hoping for a romantic encounter. The artist part of you feels disappointed because the proposed collaboration was not motivated by a respect for your art. The female part of you feels insulted for being deceived. The human part of you feels embarrassed for having hoped…and then been duped. Repeat this experience at a regular interval, year after  year, and it’s hard not to feel a little jaded about the way that people work.

But all said and done…I love being a woman. And I love being an artist. And I’m privileged to live in a culture that allows me to be both in almost any manner that I please. The challenges are offset by the genuine responses that I get from listeners, and by the thrill I get working with the other artists in Doomtree.

Doomtree Records


*Dessa is about to release a new album titled Badly Broken Code, grab a sneak peak and free download here.


One Response

  1. It is hard not to notice when a group or culture casts your individual presence in a unique light. In hip hop reviews women are often emphatically praised as *able* to compete with the guys. As if the foundation of hip hop might just crumble if a woman’s work was evaluated not by (a nod and wink) comparison but rather it’s own merit. Talent and commitment care not about social, cultural, or biological attributes. Bravo to Dessa and the Doomtree crew for casting categories aside while allowing the art and story to take center stage.

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