Desda-what, Desda-who? Hip-Hop and spoken word heads in the Twin Cities already know, but outside the cold reaches of Minnesota not many people have heard of Desdamona. She’s a five time state champion of “Best Spoken Word Artist” which makes her one of the hardest spitters out there, a contemporary of orators like Saul Williamsand Jello Biafra, but somehow I’ve missed seeing her on “Def Poetry.” That’s not to say she hasn’t, but it’s possible the committee who choses artists to appear on the Russell Simmons funded function have somehow managed to overlook her skills. That’s impossible to do once you’ve heard “Infinity (Ill Chemistry)” the opening track of “The Source”:
“None like Des she be original
Singular sensation, not your typical
Where I’m from I am the pinnacle
I stand alone, un-for-get-table
When I die they gon’ call me the live
From the way that I do, to the things that I write
The legacy I leave is bright, right
Mystical critical, birthed into the true
Seminal radical, sincere in every move
Actual factual, I hear the fear in you
Transformin retractable convertible COOL!
Shapeshift adaptable, now invisible
So diverse I leave MC’s miserable”
Set to a beatbox backdrop by Carnage these lyrics pack a powerful punch that take other MC’s out to lunch and eat them for dinner. Desdamona is not all about lyrical ferocity though as she shows a softer side on the seductive and sly title track:
Lullabies linger like lollipops on luscious lips
I grab the mic but it slips from my grip
Sticks like the sweet to my tooth cavities
Like gravity capture me pull me back to eternity
Wisdom focused on the future, grasped to the past
Gotta hold on to make that goodness last”
Desdamona displays a wide diversity of styles on “The Source,” and in fact it seems that almost any reviewer would be incapable of pinning her down to one style, thought, philosophy or genre. “Refracted Light” or “Mellow Blue” would be at home in a smooth R&B mix, while tracks like “What I Might Say” and “Triple Goddess” are hip-hop flows at their finest. Meanhile oratorical gems like “Too Big for My Skin” and “Miss America” are powerful poetical expressions that sound like Ursula Rucker bonus tracks from the end of albums by The Roots.
Which of these styles best defines the deft and adept Desdamona? All of them and none of them. Like any great spoken word poet, Desdamona defines words as musical in their own right, embracing the power and beauty of oral communication in all forms. She sings the words when they need to be sung, speaks the words when they need to be heard, and gets all up in your grill if it fits the bill. “The Source” is a statement putting Desdamona on the map, not asking butDEMANDING you pay attention to what it is she has to say. The good news is that what she has to say is not only worthwhile but universally accessible, a lyrical adventure backed by strong production from the likes of Paul Marino, Carnage and even (surprise) Sly & Robbie throughout. “The Source” is an album that’s going to turn a lot of heads and open a lot of eyes, and you may be seeing more of Desdamona in the mainstream sooner than you think.