Here’s a standardized test question: “Wu-Tang Clan is to the five boroughs as Doomtree is to {blank}.” Did you say the Twin Cities? Then congratulations, you passed. Both are rap collectives which represent a specific part of the country, who form like Voltron to release group projects, but are just as well known for what the individual members do. We’ve spoken about (and with) individual members like P.O.S. and Dessa, but until today their second collaborative effort “No Kings” hadn’t been covered. There’s a complication there… but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The lead single “Bangarang” was produced by Cecil Otter and Lazerbeak, while the accompany video features P.O.S, Cecil Otter, Mike Mictlan and Sims in what appears to be a karaoke party room (or a staged version of one) where they are performing the track. I’ve done my share of karaoke over the years and have never once seen Doomtree on a playlist, but I’d be pleasantly surprised to find any indie rap group on one let alone these Minnesotan stalwarts. “I built more than a rap career/I got my family here” quips Sims, and I can’t sum up the vibe better than that. The same feeling can be found on the well titled “Team the Best Team.” Doomtree was very into supporting each other and the result is a sum greater than the total of the individual parts.

You’ll notice I used the past tense when referring to the crew, and there’s a very unfortunate reason for that. In 2020 P.O.S. acknowledged a long history of “using and manipulating women” after some allegations against him went viral. He went on to say that he was stepping away from music to work on bettering himself, and that seems to have ended any chance of new Doomtree albums. The bad news only gets worse though as Mike Mictlan experienced severe health problems in 2022, and I can only hope things have gotten better since. His last Instagram update was January 1st, where he also revealed his father passed away, so my condolences on his loss and regrets he had such a lousy year.

These events definitely color “No Kings” in a different light than I expected going in. Tracks like the Otter, Lazerbeak and P.O.S. produced “Bolt Cutter” feel like such a joyful representation of their chemistry and of the DIY Twin Cities rap scene. If you didn’t know about the dark times of the recent years you’d just appreciate how rebellious and playful the track is. Dessa in particular is a treat here. “You said the golden era’s over but we’ll rise and fall again” are words for any rapper or rap group to live by. It’s just odd in context now to see P.O.S. deliver the hook after verses from her and Mike.

In a since deleted Instagram post, Dessa spoke about her former bandmate: “Doomtree means something, and you are not allowed outside of that compact. And as soon as you can align yourself with the values that this crew holds, I welcome you. But you are not allowed to undermine what we have built, we are going to do our best to practice radical honesty in a way that this community has not. We will be devoting resources to you, Stef, and to the domestic abuse project in the city.” I suppose that leaves the door open for him to come back at some point — if the audience would accept him doing so at this point. In the meantime song titles like “The Grand Experiment” feel unintentionally accurate. It’s as though Doomtree was itself a test of what a collective of great artists could be at their best together, but one chain slipped a gear and broke the experiment.

In a vacuum “No Kings” is a joy to listen to. In light of the many allegations and statements and events that followed it, it is hard to revere it the same way I once would have. I’m trying my best to judge them for the music alone and not feel heartbroken by the developments of recent years, so perhaps it’s best said that in 2011 there were few rap collectives better than this one.

Doomtree :: No Kings
8Overall Score