Who is Doomtree? The simplest answer – that it’s currently P.O.S., Sims, Dessa, Mike Mictlan, Cecil Otter, Paper Tiger, and Lazerbeak all brought together – isn’t the best answer. Certainly each of them, after a few years of producing some excellent solo work (P.O.S.’s Never Better was a particular highlight), has brought ideas to No Kings, and that makes No Kings an album by Doomtree. But if Doomtree is a collective of personalities who are forging careers in their own right, then how should we characterize their music as a whole?
The most obvious contrasts could be made between vocal styles. On “Bolt Cutter”, P.O.S. keeps his hook simple and percussive, almost mouthing the beat at the start of each bar; whereas Sims stays open and Dessa sort of half-sings. But there’s a great deal more to consider musically than what may be apparent on the first few listens. After all, Doomtree is a collective of diverging personalities, though one that comes together and understands what it is to be Doomtree. There are certain recurring tropes: freneticism, dirty guitars, masculine beats.
Yes, you could pick out the varying vocal styles (i.e. Mike Mictlan’s chants on “Bangarang” as opposed to his rattling performance on “Own Yours”) and forget the diverse colors of the music that underpins it. Only that would undermine the performance of the collective as musicians and producers in favor of their position as MCs. The beautiful, jangling minor chords that open “String Theory”, the fanfare that begins “Team the Best Team”, the opening drumroll and angular chords of “Punch-Out”, the poignant, solitary piano that cuts softly into “Bolt Cutter” from nowhere; these are all gorgeous musical moments.
No Kings, the second time Doomtree has stepped out for an all-crew release, is a triumph of musicianship. Where the album might have the potential to break under the weight of increasingly big names, it’s cohesive and impressive. And that’s true whether they’re rapping, playing, or producing. “All these rappers sound the same. Beats? Sound the same. Raps? Sound the same,” extols Mictlan on “Bangarang”, but not here.
Essential Tracks: “Boltcutter”, “String Theory”, and “Own Yours”