Doss The Artist
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Doss The Artist

Detroit, Michigan, United States

Detroit, Michigan, United States
Hip Hop Jazz

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"Discovery: Doss The Artist"

23 year old, Ivy League-educated Doss the Artist is making waves in Detroit's underground hip-hop scene. We know what you're thinking: 8 Mile! Rap battles in dank basement rooms! Sweaty palms, vomit on his sweater already, Mom's spaghetti. Luckily—or perhaps unfortunately, depending on where you are coming from—Doss the Artist is not Eminem. Nor is he what you would expect from a rising rapper. Doss' musical style is much harder to pin down; he has rapped over everything from jazz to indie darling Imogen Heap, the "producers' producer" J-Dilla, and club favorite, Daft Punk. When asked to name his favourite contemporary artists, his immediate reply is Radiohead and Andre 3000.

We caught up with Doss the Artist to discuss Brazil, Lois Lane, and whether his Brown University degree is hurting his street credibility.


AGE: 23

HOMETOWN: Detroit.


ON GROWING UP IN DETROIT: Growing up in Detroit was always kind of a balance between the city and the suburbs. A lot of opportunity in the city is outside in the suburbs as far as anything to do recreationally or educational or anything like that. I spent a lot of time, especially when I started rapping, outside of the city even though I'm from the city and I lived in the city. The reason Detroit appears in so much of my music is, not only because the city's important to me, but the writing sort of evolved out of a kind of nostalgia for the city and hanging on to our parents' memory of what the city used to be.

MUSICAL INSPIRATIONS: I grew up listening to a lot of soul music just around the house with my mother, with my father. It wasn't really until high school that my father and I began to connect with music; he was going through midlife crisis kind of stuff so we would listen to DMX and a lot of Tupac. [My father] got me a Bootsy Collins album, he's one of the musicians who worked with The Parliament-Funkadelics and George Clinton, and he got me Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On for my 15th birthday. We also became really big fans of James Brown around the same time. I think what all of those artists have in common is a sense of a really rough and kind of in your face (sound), so I kind of grew from that tree of music in a lot of ways. Right now I'm listening to a lot of Little Dragon, a lot of Panda Bear, a lot of really indie alternative artists.

WRITING SONGS: I try to draw upon my daily experiences, but as the artist I feel like I have to paint a picture, I have to write a novel. I really want to make (my music) something a bit abstract and have people latch on to it and interpret it how they will. In terms of the beats that I pick for my rap, a lot of it comes from the mind of my producers, but a great deal of it comes from me coming up with a sound or a sample, I like to reach wide—old school R 'n B, classic rock, psychedelic, independent music—some of the deepest and dirtiest sounds I can come up with on my own. We try and put that all together and create one crazy stew of all types of ridiculousness. I know that when the (song) comes out, some people may interpret it as a rap song, some people might interpret it as a slag song where I can just talk shit and do a normal rappity-rap type deal, but I always want it to be leaning towards a greater look, and that's why I try and make my music diverse, so people can take what that will from it and find every different feel.

TRYING TO RECORD AN ALBUM IN YOUR BOARDING-SCHOOL BEDROOM: Hir-O is the executive producer on all my projects, because he and I came up together into the rap scene. We made our first album together in high school under the name Question Mark. I think the musical content is some of the best work I've done, but the actual recording quality is crazy because we were at a boarding school and a lot of the recording was us, sneaking around late night in the dorm room recording into a really shitty mike and just trying to make it happen. We were surprised by how much love we got; it was 2005, so we were still selling CDs. We never got in trouble for recording after hours, but there are definitely a couple of takes where you can hear the housemaster knocking on the door and then we just cut the recording because we were trying to be quiet and hide out.

BEING RECOGNIZED AT HOME: Once I got back from college, I really got involved in the Detroit hip-hop scene. It was crazy to come back from the East Coast and go to a show for a Detroit rapper or some type of opening and meet people who are like, "Hey, you're Doss the Artist, I heard Computer B!ue and have good things to say about it." I think I made my way on to the Detroit scene through the Providence hip-hop scene; I originally started rapping in high school and I had a little bit of spin then—but when I came back from college, it was like the stage had already been set for me here. It was a really nice homecoming.

BEING THOUGHT OF AS AN "IVY LEAGUE" RAPPER: I don't raise my Brown University flag onstage, I don't talk about - Interview Magazine


"Shapeshifting Detroit Rapper Doss the Artist"

“When I was younger, I always thought of myself as ‘the artist’ because I could pick up on any style of rhyming” Doss says. “It’s a lot like Ol’ Dirty Bastard, he took his name because there is no father to his style.” An unfettered style might be the only thing the Detroit native shares with the late Wu-Tang emcee. A toolbox of flows at hand, Doss the Artist is known for spitting highly conceptualized rhymes over synesthetic beats, a far cry from the improvisational lyrics over purist boom-bap ODB was famous for. Doss’s debut project Computer Blue, produced by childhood friend Hir-O, showcases the thoughtfulness he puts into every track. As a whole, it plays out as an atmospheric love ballad set in a detached world of text messages and Facebook posts, scored by a soundtrack of video game samples. “Computer Blue was a love story for women, for my city, and for the thrill of a generation that looks at the world through an electronic filter,” he explains. And it’s generational in every way, even musically — far from just a mashup, the beat selections and rhyme schemes combine to gently bend genres in a way millennials seem to dig.

But for his next project, Doss wants to depend less on thematic development and more on his skills. “With my new offerings, I knew that I had to go beyond all the concepts and just spit … at the end of the day people want to hear my voice for what it is,” he says. For his 9 Lives project, Doss is dropping a single every Friday over the course of nine weeks, with the energetic “Shapeshift the Whip” and pJAYd-produced “Never Can” already unleashed. Last week Doss reverted back to Hir-O for his third installment, “Cave.” Over a delicate piano loop and a hollowed out Kid Cudi sample, Doss straight spits, his voice intensifying steadily with the percussion of the song. With the inescapable eloquence of his natural style, he binds his lyrics with references to ancient hieroglyphics, his “personic melodic” and spitting that “stanky shit.” “The track draws upon that raw spoken word tradition, ” he says. “Nothing else I’ve done sounds quite like it.” We can agree. - MTVHive


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Doss the Artist began making waves in Detroit's underground hip-hop scene in 2005 with Detroit producer Hir-O. His first LP was released with the group Question Mark followed by a second effort with the producer as a member of the Detroit collective The Tomorrow People. Early on Doss The Artist defined himself as an edgy and charismatic rhyme-slayer with glimpses a conscious hip-hop cadence.

After gaining a cult following around the city and its suburbs, Doss ventured east to Providence and soon NYC to build his fan base on the back of an 8-man band, Doss the Artist and the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour, consisting of tenor and alto sax, bass, guitar, drums, keys, trumpet and trombone allowed Doss to woo audiences with crowd riveting energy and the thunder of experimental jazz and live sampling to back him up. At the pinnacle of Doss the Artist and the PGA Tour’s three-year run, Doss lead the team in playing the largest outdoor venue in New England at Providence’s famed Brown University.

Immediately afterwards, in the summer of 2010, Doss released the critically acclaimed Computer B!ue, a genre bending concept mixtape deemed an opera told from the treetops. As a whole, it plays out as an atmospheric love ballad set in a detached world of text messages and Facebook posts, scored by a soundtrack of video game samples. Computer B!ue was well received by audiences, gaining over 4000 downloads before the close of 2010.

Since then Doss has followed up with a number of features among the Michigan Hip-Hop scene and has continued to do performance in Detroit and Ann Arbor, MI as well as Providence. His latest efforts, titled 9Lives, a mixtape series that releases a new chapter each Friday from September through December 2011, totaling 9 tracks at the completion of the series.

Doss continues to work out of his hometown of Detroit. Doss the Artist is a constant solider, a sometimes poet, and he will be king.