By: Gus Navarro
It was exciting when Dan told me that we might have a shot at interviewing Dessa. From Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dessa’s impact on hip-hop, literature and education has been a big one. Through her work with Doomtree and other projects, she has touched so many. Naturally, I was looking forward to getting to hear her thoughts. Ann Arbor, Michigan was one of the places on her “Parts of Speech” tour and she was going to be making a stop over at the Impact 89FM studio, Michigan State’s student radio station. The original plan was that I would interview her following an in-studio performance. However, due to time constraints this did not happen because the band had to get down to Ann Arbor for the show. Initially, I was bummed. However, when one door closes, another opens. Despite missing out on the chance to talk in person, it was decided that we could do a phone interview. I was also put on the guest list for the show in Ann Arbor (Thank you Mars!). At the show she mingled with fans before the performance, with each encounter being seemingly genuine. On stage, she interacted with the crowd, bringing them into the show. It felt as though we weren’t just there to watch musicians on stage, instead it felt like we were part of the performance. At one point, she said to the crowd, “You are the record label.” What she meant was that with the decision we make to pay for records, we keep independent artists afloat. As someone that chooses not to download music illegally, it was refreshing to hear an artist acknowledging the role that fans play in supporting musicians. On stage, it never felt that she or the band were working too hard or not hard enough. They were in the pocket, playing well and feeding off each other’s energy. A perfect way to spend a Sunday night. After the show, i introduced myself. As we talked about the show and setting up a phone interview, her approachable and humble personality was the same as it had been on stage. There is an edge to Dessa that manifests itself within her sense of humor, intelligence and beauty. It was an honor to talk with her in person and on the phone because of her honesty, insight and dedication to her craft.