In the grand scheme of things, releasing group albums is at the relatively basic end on the spectrum of Doomtree’s abilities. The Minneapolis-born hip-hop collective of five MCs (P.O.S., Dessa, Cecil Otter, Sims, and Mike Mictlan) and two producers (Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger) is too diverse and too talented to restrict themselves to just that, and they luckily haven’t; between the current roster, members have individually dropped a book of original poetry and fiction, a documentary, a punk rock LP, and a slew of solo projects since their self-titled debut in 2008.
With each member capable of carrying their own weight, it makes the times in which they all collaborate—as on their latest excellent release, All Hands—that much more fun.
“Doomtree is a co-op that facilitates artists to do whatever they want to do,” explains Sims on the phone, fresh from the first stop of their tour, which arrives at The Sinclair on Monday. “Every now and then we say we should do an album together because they are really fun and a good process.”
That’s the simple part; assembling the entire crew is where things get tricky. For their first release since 2011’s No Kings, the group found a remote cabin about four hours outside of Minneapolis and set up camp, recording All Hands over the course of multiple two- to five-day stays spread over five months.
“We still really like each other,” says Sims with a laugh. “We don’t actually get to hang out that much, so the cabin was the most we’ve seen each other in months or in a year.” With the space split into multiple recording rooms, a dedicated writing area and living quarters, All Hands’ production was something like a family affair.
“The producers had already laid the foundations for all the beats that we were going to work on,” says Sims. “We’d go through all of them, listening, and then something would catch somebody’s ear and we’d write to that beat. You kind of sit together, then break off for about 30 minutes and write some stuff, and come back with ideas or verses or choruses. We would start to let the song take shape organically that way.”
Sims sums up the frenetic sonic landscape of All Hands in simple terms: “I guess we felt like just making bangers was the idea.” Propelled by the relentless blitz of moody electronic instrumentals, Doomtree’s lyricists attack in waves of inventive wordplay and nimble flows, deftly sneaking biting social commentary and punchlines into the maelstrom. Muscular tracks like “Final Boss,” “Mini Brute,” and “Gray Duck” echo the brash menace of Run the Jewels, but with a penchant for more nuanced subtext.
After the band’s 10th and final installment of their annual year-end Doomtree Blowout, a week-long run of shows at venues in the Twin Cities, in November, All Hands serves as a both a fitting end to one chapter of Doomtree’s story, and the beginning of another.
“I think oftentimes you have to make a deliberate attempt to keep pushing forward and staying new,” says Sims. “This album is a nice step in the continued progress and future of Doomtree. The Blowout was the best event we’ve ever had, so now it’s time to put a stamp on that and go do something bigger.”
DOOMTREE w/ Open Mike Eagle. Mon 2.16. The Sinclair, 52 Church St., Cambridge. 617.547.5200. 9pm/18+/$15. doomtree.net