Photo credit: Sam Gehrke

Dessa

A true force of nature both on the stage and on the page.

Singer, rapper, and writer Dessa has made a career of bucking genres and defying expectations. Her solo albums include rap bangers; a cappella arrangements; and big, catchy pop hooks. She’s co-composed for a 100-voice choir, contributed a track to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s The Hamilton Mixtape that’s notched over 16 million streams, and recorded a cover of the Mountain Goats’ song “Balance” (Merge Records) that plays like a Bond theme.

VIDEOS

See Dessa in action.

FULL BIO

A true force of nature both on the stage and on the page.

Her performance venues are equally varied: gritty rock clubs; velvet-lined theaters; top-tier festivals like Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, and Riot Fest; and countless tours stops spanning North America, Europe, Australia, China, and South Africa. Her most recent full-length recording, Sound the Bells, was recorded in 2019 with the GRAMMY-winning Minnesota Orchestra and showcases lush, symphonic arrangements of previously-released work, performed live at Minneapolis’s Orchestra Hall. Dessa also takes special pleasure in designing themed events for intimate rooms, such as her sold-out residency series at WYNC’s The Greene Space, in which she matched lyricists with scientific researchers to investigate free will, romantic attachment, and intoxication.

As a writer, Dessa’s byline has been featured in The New York Times, National Geographic, and in an episode of the cult-classic Welcome to Night Vale podcast. She has written two short collections of poetry and essays, and in 2018 published a memoir, My Own Devices (Dutton Books, Penguin Random House), that tells the story of her life, career, and an ambitious plan to fall out of love. Dessa has delivered presentations on art, science, and entrepreneurship for Fortune 500 companies, keynote speeches at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum and the Mayo Clinic, and guest lectures at universities and colleges across the country including Georgetown, Macalester, NYU, and Iowa State. Her TED Talk “Can We Choose to Fall Out of Love?” has been viewed over 2 million times and showcases Dessa’s funny, charismatic style that engages, entertains, and inspires audiences from all walks of life.
Dessa grew up in the 80s in South Minneapolis as a strong-willed, brainy kid. Both parents were musical—her mother sang and her father played classical guitar and medieval stringed instruments. After earning a philosophy degree, Dessa began competing on the slam poet circuit. There she met members of the Minneapolis rap scene and was soon invited to join Doomtree, the hip-hop collective known for bold production, charismatic lyricists, and explosive live shows. Dessa learned from and contributed to the Doomtree ethos—a gritty, DIY attitude that presumed musicians would make their own way, without help from industry players. Dessa’s songs are the product of her unusual trajectory: she’s part academic and part hip artist, a lute player’s daughter who spent her formative professional years touring the world in a van full of guys.

Whether she’s composing rap lyrics or writing creative non-fiction essays, Dessa’s style and dedication to wordcraft is unmistakable. The LA Times says she “sounds like no one else,” NPR says she’s “breaking the rules of rap,” The Chicago Tribune simply calls her “enchanting.” On the stage and on the page, Dessa exemplifies ferocity, wit, tenderness, and candor.

PRESS

Our speakers get attention.

  • Dessa releases new single ‘Tyranny’ timed to election
    You'll never guess who inspired the song, proceeds from which benefit HeadCount.org.
PRAISE

Dessa was amazing! And she and Margaret Wappler had fantastic chemistry. Thanks for sending her our way!

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