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Upon the release of her new book of poetry, Dessa returns to Des Moines for Music University

Dessa, a Minneapolis based hip-hop artist, poses for a photo.
Dessa is giving a keynote talk at Music University, a one-day event for Iowans in the music industry hosted at Drake University by the Des Moines Music Coalition.

The last time Dessa was in Des Moines, things were different. It was 2019, and she serenaded us with her specific brand of minor key, sad rap songs at 80/35. It was everything that summer for us. Little did we know it was some intense foreshadowing.

If you love her music, have read her memoir or have heard about her new book of poetryTits On The Moon, be aware that she's coming back to Des Moines this weekend. She's on a five city Midwest tour with Open Mike Eagle. They're playing at 6 p.m. as a part of Music University Sunday, Oct. 23 in Des Moines at xBk.

"You know, for a while there, I wasn't worried about writing music or rhyme scheme, I was trying to get paper towels," she said in conversation with IPR's Tony Dehner. "I do feel like for the last 18 months, it’s been particularly productive. There was a part of the creative cycle that was totally dampened there for a while. But now, it feels good. I’m on the road and touring with Open Mike Eagle. He just put out an album too, so there’s like this boom of creative output. It feels good to be releasing music again. The pandemic has really changed the way we’ve collaborated with people, and it’s leading to really good stuff.”

We share that sentiment.

Music University keynote

For those who don't know, Music University is a one-day conference hosted by the Des Moines Music Coalition for artists and music industry folx.

As a hard touring artist who is also a published author and scrappy creative, Dessa’s got to be full of good advice. She wrote about her early career in her 2018 memoirMy Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love. Then throughout the pandemicand what’s come after, she’s been thoughtful about what “all this” has meant for artists, writers and DIY musicians.

“We’ve all got Spotify or something on our phones. Streaming has really changed the way we listen. Which is awesome as a consumer, and really hard as a creator, because it’s really hard to get paid. So, what I want to ask is how much can your early career be accomplished without a lot of capital? There’s a lot of non monetary value that can be traded among artists,” she said. “Musicians are also too readily characterized as competition for one another. [...] People were either going to do laundry, or they were going to go to my show. My biggest competition is chores, not other artists.”

In addition to her book of poetry Tits On The Moon, which was just released this week, she’s got a new single called BLUSH. If you pull nothing else away from staying with this story for so long, take a listen. It’s got pop vibes and starts with a distorted guitar, but the lyrics are classic Dessa, even if they're not delivered in her signature style.

“I have always been a sucker for pop music,” she said about the track. “But for me, I don’t like this idea that really catchy stuff can’t be smart - that those things are mutually exclusive. So, I want to maintain the accessible, but literary style that I really enjoy feels native to me, but to maneuver that style through a really hook-driven catchy universe. It’s been really fun.”

Listen to the full conversation she had with Tony about her new song and her trip to Des Moines this weekend by tapping on the blue player bar above.

If you're interested in seeing her live with Open Mike Eagle at xBk Sunday, get tickets to the Music University showcase concert here, or register for the Music University conference here.

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host
Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer