Interview: Desdamona

Desdamona (Minneapolis)
By Kandis Knight

Minneapolis boasts a hip-hop scene like none other. It is extremely diverse. In some parts of town, you can find an extremely organic and artistic style of hip-hop, reminiscent of the early 80’s. Someone who is well known in many circles is spoken word artist extraordinaire Desdamona one of the most famous B Girls emerging out of Minneapolis’s “vintage” hip-hop scene.

Desdamona, the grand daughter of an award winning poet, and daughter of a historian/storyteller has a deep relationship with words. Because of her background as a spoken word artist sometimes people challenge her status as an emcee, however no one can deny her true artistry. She is a lyrical trail blazer. From brilliant spoken word contributions to her work in the community, Desdamona has been plowing the field since the 90’s doing her share to put the Midwest on the map.

“I moved to Minneapolis in 1996 and started performing locally in 1997. Prior to that I started performing hip-hop in 1986 when I was in 9th grade. I was horrible at it, but I was still performing,” she explains. “That’s when I first started writing rhymes. I grew up in a small town called Mount Pleasant, Iowa. There were probably 8,000 people living there.”

Desdamona’s true love for music is what propels her to greatness in the face of personal sacrifice. “I moved here with my best friend for school. She was a singer and I would write stuff and she would sing it and we just played around and we eventually started performing together.”

Eventually Desdamona met a few Minneapolis producers and her recording career blossomed. “For the first three months all we did was work. We worked night and day literally, nighttime Target and bank shifts. There were times when I had three jobs and I was like wait a minute, what am I doing? We slept on the floor. It was horrible.”

In 1997, Desdamona landed her first gig, she performed at Jazzville in St. Paul, MN. Jazzville was one of the first venues in Minnesota that spoken word artists embraced. However, people were not quick to embrace her. In addition to being the only “white” b-girl in many cyphers, she was also an outsider. “They were just like “I don’t know who you are” it was kind of like a clique. For a long time I couldn’t understand that.”

Almost ten years later, Desdamona is still doing what she loves and her talent has made her way. Desdamona is living life according to her own terms with her love for music her number one priority. “I don't have a day job. I do contract through schools and arts organizations to teach workshops and residencies on hip hop and spoken word, writing and performance. Most of the work I do is performing locally and nationally and I also host a weekly open mic (one of the most established open mics in the Twin Cities) at the Blue Nile on Tuesday nights.”

In addition to all of the things she does music wise, she still finds time to build up her local community. This summer marks the third Annual B Girl Be Celebration in Minneapolis. It is a celebration of the contributions of women in hip-hop, one of the biggest in the country. It is an event envisioned and partly produced by a team headed up by Desdamona.

Desdamona’s latest album is also near completion, it is called Hymn of the Human Spirit and is comprised of songs about life and the spirit of life. “Most of my work is very spritual for me. Hymns of the Human Spirit is more mature than my last release (The Ledge) and I think I have grown a lot as an artist between the two projects,” she explains. “I hope people will see the growth actually, I know they will. I am singing more and the rhymes have become more complex as well as the sound.”

Featured on Hymns of the Human Spirit are collaborations with the New Congress, Katra Quey (an up & coming young producer), and Carnage. Desdamona’s favorite songs from Hymns are The Source, Orange & Blue, and Infinity. Hymns of the Human Spirit will feature about fifteen tracks, and will mark her first national release through FS Productions, a St. Paul Record Label.

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“Work hard and people will notice, eventually. It doesn't come easy and it shouldn't. Keep your ego in check. It will get in the way if you let it and it can destroy everything that you are trying to accomplish” –Desdamona

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