From Monday to Wednesday this week, American rapper and singer Dessa was the center of attention in numerous classrooms and on stage. She spent her time in these classes to teach students about visual art, music, and how to combine different art platforms. Dessa also took the opportunity to perform at a sold out concert held in the Minnesota State University Elias J. Halling Recital Hall for both university students and the Mankato community.
Dessa began her solo career in 2005 when she released her EP, False Hopes, which was listed as one of the top local albums of the year by Minneapolis Star Tribune. After taking some personal time to explore new creative outlets for songs, Dessa issued her first album, A Badly Broken Code, in January 2010. Since then, she has released three more albums in 2011, 2013, and 2018, with each one giving fans original and sensational music to listen to. I took some time to listen to Dessa’s music, considering I have never listened to her before, and two of my favorite songs are “Good for You” (2019) and “Mineshaft” (2005) due to the soft romantic and real life tones I felt from both songs. With these two songs being released in different times of Dessa’s career, I was able to see the change and growth she went through, which helps not only myself but other listeners to feel connected with Dessa.
She stays loyal to her home state by making numerous performances in Minneapolis and working with Minnesota organizations to spread music. In recent past, Dessa has gone on stage with the Minnesota Orchestra three times to amaze fans with the incorporations of rap and the orchestra. She has also made local appearances by singing the National Anthem at the Minnesota Twins home opener in the 2018 season. Just a few months later, Dessa sang the National Anthem again at the 2018 WNBA All-Star game in Minneapolis. Another amazing opportunity Dessa took was traveling to South Africa for a five-stop tour with the Minnesota Orchestra and documenting the trip for the Minnesota Public Radio. After all of this, it only made sense for Dessa to help students find their inner artist at MSU.
Senior Ely Taylor was lucky enough to have Dessa visit his aesthetics class and discuss how she goes through her creative process. He attended the concert on Monday night and after hearing her music, he said, “Her music isn’t really my type, but she seems like the type of person I’d like to work with because she’s easy to talk to”. Other students agreed on the fact that Dessa is a celebrity who makes sure the people around her are comfortable. A&E editor Kolby Spomer also had the opportunity to meet Dessa in his techniques in writing class, where she expressed her struggles of feeling like a true artist. Dessa said, “There are famous artists who have parts of them insured, like Rihanna having her legs insured, and when trying to figure my unique aspect it was difficult to come up with one. After some time, I came to the realization that my depression and heartbreak would be the thing I would want insured”. She said this with light-heartedness, but also explained that these are the things that help her write songs.
The concert on Monday night was hosted by Minnesota Storytellers, an organization that brings inspirational musicians to the campus for students and the Mankato community to learn from and enjoy. During her performance, Dessa would take breaks in between songs to answer questions, giving insight to the audience of her creative journey. One quote from the performance that will stick with anyone who attended would be, “Artists shouldn’t feel subjected to one style of art”, which is something Dessa strives for every day.
Dessa’s main goal for her Mankato visit was to help students learn how to express their artistic conceptions, and she didn’t fall short of this objective.
Header photo courtesy of Dessa’s Facebook page.