Dessa

Rapper, Singer, and Writer
Headshot of a woman.

Photo by Bill Phelps

Music Credits:

Good Grief” and “Jumprope” written and performed by Dessa from the album, Chime.

Poor Atlas” written and performed by Dessa from the album A Badly Broken Code

Final Boss” written and performed by Doomtree; live performance.

Jo Reed: That’s singer, rapper, and writer Dessa singing “Good Grief” from her new CD, Chime -- and this is Art Works, the weekly podcast produced at the National Endowment for the Arts. I’m Josephine Reed.

As a rapper, Dessa is the real deal. Fierce and propulsive, she layers words and rhythms into rich textures. Dessa got her start with the rap group Doomtree in 2005—an innovative collective she considers her musical brothers and teachers. But while rap might be the base of Dessa’s work, it’s not close to its totality. Dessa can put together lyrical, flowing a cappella arrangements for women’s voices. She let go with a ballad about heartbreak and bounce out a pop hook you can’t let go of. She’s contributed to the Hamilton Mixtape with the song “Celebration” and to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song to raise money and awareness of the devastation in Puerto Rico, “Almost Like Praying.”

And did I mention that she has a fascination with science? Dessa has given a talk at the Mayo Clinic, brought scientists and lyricists together during her residency at WNYC’s Green Space, and most spectacularly—became the first rapper to perform with the Minnesota Orchestra in two sold-out evenings during which she detailed in story, song and powerpoint her work with neuroscientists to create a protocol to help her fall out of love.

Dessa: I cut my teeth in the world of underground rap, and so when I got a call from the Minnesota Orchestra to do a full evening backed by 70-some players onstage I was stoked and nervous. <laughs> So I spent a lot of months trying to design a show that could be interdisciplinary and tell a story. So the story that I told was about a really lousy romance. I had been in love with the same guy for a really long time. He's a great dude, he also loved me, but it was one of those relationships that we just couldn't get right. We tried for years on again and off again, and it was always drama, and we loved each other, but we couldn't make each other very happy for...

Jo Reed: Right. I've been there.

Dessa: Yeah. So, I'd seen a TED Talk by a scientist named Dr. Helen Fisher, who had isolated these particular spots in the brain that were associated with romantic love, and that surprised me because I didn't know that there would be specific spots in the brain that had that job. And I thought "Well, okay, if it's localized I wonder if I could find my love maybe I could get it out," so I sent out a tweet asking if any neuroscientists would like to partner with me, if they would give me access to their FMRI labs if I traded them for backstage passes and whiskey, and this woman named Dr. Cheryl Olman took me up on it, and so I was able to get into her FMRI machine and actually take images of the love as I felt it in my head. But after that I partnered with a woman named Penijean Gracefire, who lives in Tampa, and she's a neurofeedback clinician, so she works usually with kids with autism or maybe with epileptics or people who are suffering through post-traumatic stress to change the way that their brains work by allowing patients to watch their brainwaves in real time on a screen and then to try to modify some of that activity through a series of sounds and lights. So I thought "Okay, well, if this neurofeedback stuff can work for people with these localized brain issues like epilepsy and trauma I wonder if we could try to use it on me, on the loving centers of my brain that just do not seem to let go of this dude." And so that was the story I told onstage at Orchestra Hall, and I use that narrative as a scaffolding on which I could place all these sad songs that I'd written about this guy over the course of the last 10 years of songwriting, and then the players from the orchestra were kind enough to help me demonstrate some of the scientific protocol by-- the harpist, for example, played out the little neurofeedback chimes that Penny Jean's computer created when she and I were watching my brainwaves.

<Excerpt - Harp playing Dessa’s Brainwaves>

Dessa: And so with the help of the arranger for that show, whose name is Andy Thompson, I think we pulled off one of the most ambitious shows that I've been a part of anyway. It felt really good, and, like a lot of artists who probably talk to you, I'm a kind of perfectionist sort who's always sort of bummed <laughs> about how the last thing went. So that one felt really good. Yeah, that was the most complicated project I think I've done to date.

Jo Reed: This isn’t the only project you’ve been involved with that centers on science. Now, you studied philosophy as an undergraduate in college so where does this interest in science come from?

Dessa: I don’t know why I like it so much. I’ve been thinking about it lately and I was trying to like run the tape back in my head to figure out why I’m compelled by it, but I think I always have been. Not all of it. I'm no chemist, and my eyes glaze. I don't have the mind for that, but behavioral science? Oh, man. I think behavioral science feels like it lands at this really interesting intersection of philosophy and experiment.

Jo Reed: And when you performed with the Minnesota Orchestra, you actually projected images of your brain.

Dessa: Yeah, I told Andy Thompson -- I was like "Could you arrange the TED theme for the orchestra, and I could put on one of those stupid half-headsets that everybody wears with the little foam tip?" And he was like "Yeah. I mean, we don't want to get in copyright trouble, but it'll sound almost like the TED theme," and he just did this brilliant job of adding all sorts of comedic moments in the music, but also he burned all of the rap songs down to the ground and then rebuilt them for this full beast of a musical machine.

Jo Reed: Exactly. I was just going to ask you about that, because clearly you don't typically record with a full orchestra.

Dessa: Right, right, and in hip-hip you're working in a form where the sound palette is particularly important, so a really good rap producer-- my friend Lazerbeak, for example, who's a member of a group called Doomtree, of which I'm also a member-- and when we work together, I mean, these guys-- to get the perfect snare sound they go through countless, countless numbers of sampled snares, and they layer them, so sometimes that one <imitates snare> or <imitates snare> if there's delay on it-- that one hit that you hear on a record is the product of like-- there's a handclap, and then on top of the handclap there's a small explosion, and then on top of the small explosion there's also a real snare drum, and then on top of that there's a snap. I mean, they just curate these sounds, so a lot of times on a hip-hop record the snare is different in every song, and that sonic diversity is part of what makes the genre work and go, and that's not how classical music works, right? I mean, you're not going to have a different snare for every song. In fact, a snare drum is probably less important in all of classical music just generally. <laughs> So we wanted to make sure that the songs translated well, and to do that-- I mean, I imagine it's like translating poetry or something, right? It's not a one-to-one correlation of parts in a song. You're trying to figure out how with a very different musical palette to create a big swell, and sometimes that means with a huge layered string section, whereas on the record I'd done it by layering my own voice a few times, and we'd manipulated the volume or played something backwards to go <imitates backward sound>, right? Okay, well, how do we represent that sound with the palette of the orchestra? Andy was just masterful. He has this really rare talent I think to be able to take recorded stuff, get to the heart of it and then redesign it larger for orchestral presentation.

Jo Reed: You’ve been in Doomtree since 2005. For listeners who might not know Doomtree can you describe who you are and what it is that you do?

Dessa: Yeah. Doomtree is a hip-hop collective from Minneapolis, and most of the members met in their high school years. I met them shortly there-afterwards, and we just kind of forged this bond of art and friendship, and we didn't really sweat what to call it in the-- like "Is this a production entity? Is this an LLC?" Those were not the questions we were asking. We're like "Okay, you're good at rapping, and you're good at making beats, and you're also good at drawing and graphic design. How do we get a rad show? We should maybe make a T-shirt. Does anybody know somebody at Kinko's that'll copy this flyer for free?" For us it's just been, yeah, this kind of talent pool of love and music for most of my adult life now. So as we exist today-- fast-forward like 15 years-- we're a record label and a seven-member collective who sometimes makes music all together under the name Doomtree and sometimes makes solo records and put them out on the Doomtree label.

Jo Reed: And in fact your own solo album was just released, called Chime. Was that album impacted by your scientific inquiry?

Dessa: You know, after doing that performance with the Minnesota Orchestra, and going through this neural feedback experiment, I made a concerted effort to write a different kind of song. I’d written a lot of torch songs, and I’m proud of a lot of them, but I know that that’s not the only kind of song to write. So on the next record, on Chime, I also tackle some of the philosophical stuff. There’s a song about free will that references St. Thomas Aquinas, called “Velodrome,” and there’s a song called “Good Grief,” about pain’s role in recovery.

<Excerpt from Chime>

Dessa: And then there’s just some rap bangers, because there’s rap bangers.

Jo Reed: How did the album come together?

Dessa: You know, it’s really varied. It’s 11 songs, and some of them came together in the way that rap songs usually do, which is a producer like Lazerbeak or one of my other Doomtree collaborators would make a beat, and then I’d listen to the beat, and I’d go through my notebooks of lyrics that I keep where there’s like little scraps, you know, so no full lyric sets, but maybe little images I’ve been interested in, or overheard turns of phrase that I’d written down on an airplane. So I’ll listen to this beat on repeat, and then I’ll go through all these little scraps of lyrics to see if there’s something that might fit the same kind of emotional tenor as the music that I’m listening to. And then I’ll slowly put together the song, kind of like an archaeological dig where you’ve got all these little tiny bones and now you’ve got to put them back into the order that they make a composition. So it’s kind of a mosaic process for me. So that’s how most rap songs come together, at least when I’m writing them. But for this record, there was also, like it’s the first record on which I’ve produced, so I went out and bought my first beat machine at Guitar Center, you know, having no idea how to use it and then spent a lot of time and swear words reading the manual and furrowing my brow and going back and forth and pressing buttons on this thing, it’s called the Machine. I made my first beat and that ended up being a song called ‘Jump Rope,” and I was insufferably proud of-- it was like I had own finger-painting on my fridge. It was like-- it was just like every time I met with my production team, it was like, you know, I did this one.

<Excerpt of Dessa’s Beat>

Dessa: I was just so excited. I don’t know, man, I just-- beat making is so magical to me and has been such like a foreign skill set for so long, so I was disproportionately stoked to have anything to do with it on this record. And then one of the songs, one of the songs that was an early single, was called “Fire Drills.” And that one came together in a really unusual way in that as I was preparing for a symphonic performance, where I wanted to debut a new song, Andy Thompson and I worked together to create a full orchestra composition over which then I rapped and wrote a chorus to be sung by three singers. So that means that he had pages and pages and pages of sheet music. You know, here’s what we give to the pianist, and here’s what we give to the cellist and violist, you know, a full orchestral score. And then after we performed it together, it felt like the thing might have legs as a rap song. So now we had to reverse engineer a rap song out of a full orchestral score. That was an interesting musical exercise, most of it undertaken by Andy Thompson himself. But that was probably the weirdest one.

Jo Reed: So, we get the album and it’s completed, here it is, you’re used to it, it seems organic and natural, but obviously a lot of thought and consciousness goes into putting it together. What considerations did you have?

Dessa: Oh sure. Some of the moments that are the most fun for me, maybe because they do sort of tap into this native interest in science, are the very last steps of making a record. So the first steps are the song writing and getting the music right. And then you-- after you’ve committed to the lyrics and to the production and to the performances that you like -- You know, because very often I’ll perform the same line, I don’t know, 10 or 20, or sometimes even 30 or 40 times, to get the performance you really like. After all that’s done, then you go into the mixing and mastering phase. And some of that is just so fascinating to me. So, if you listen to a record in your car, you can toggle through each queue settings, you know, so it can be like this is the button that I press when I listen to talk radio, and this is for pop and so these guys are wizards of that. You know what I mean? It’s not just like kind of six settings or whatever, I mean, it’s this limitless-- these huge consoles. They can manipulate everything. And so it’s really interesting to me to watch someone who is such an audiophile. Like the guy who masters our records, his name is Bruce Templeton. The guy who mixes them is named Joe Mabbott. And to watch Bruce master, it’s like-- I remember a few records ago that every time we played a new setting, right? Every time he’s changed some small feature of how the music was going to be treated before he presses play, he’d take off his glasses. And I would say, okay, what’s with the glasses thing? Is that maybe just a tic to kind of help him think? For him, he said it was because the glasses were ever so gently, by virtue of resting on his face, pushing the pinna-- the outward part of his ear forward and that would change the way that he heard the music. So to get a perfectly pristine listen, he took off his glasses to restore his ears to their native shape. I mean, just so -- like princess and pea. I mean, these are masterful listeners. And so one of the things that’s always interesting to me like vocal performances, the snare frequencies and the string frequencies and the frequencies of my voice all live in the same region, so very often if you do one thing to the snare drum, that’ll really change the way that you perceive where the voice sits in the mix. Yeah, it’s fascinating science. And then I think my very favorite thing is what you do, the final, final step is after you’ve mixed everything and mastered everything, you sit with your friend and you decide how much space there should be between each song on the vinyl. So the song ends. You know, the last note is struck <sings>, and then you both snap, or clap, or poke one another when you think that the next song should start. And it’s really fun to hear all those snaps land, very often exactly in the same instance, although none of us know why we’re doing it.

Jo Reed: What have you learned during that long association with Doomtree that you now can bring to your solo work?

Dessa: Oh, man. I think the harder question would be like "What do you know that you haven't learned? <laughs> Can you list one thing that you can do that is not informed by your time with Doomtree?" And that might be like quilting.

<Excerpt Dessa Rapping>

Dessa: They're everything, and I mean that in the good and bad-- when you talk about your family, right, it is as long and as serious and as enmeshed in my life and as full of love and joy and pain as any of our most important human relationships. I mean, I've crowdsurfed with those dudes, I've cried with those dudes, I've vibrated with victory after full sold-out nights for the first time in big rooms, and I've sat down on a hotel floor to pass a bottle and try to talk out whatever is wrong with us. They are my brothers. The other members of the group who are rappers are Cecil Otter, Mike Mictlan, Sims and POS, and there's also Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger, who primarily do production, and I think my understanding of gender has largely been formed by tooling around in a van with those guys for a good chunk of my adulthood. Before I joined Doomtree I didn't know what a snare drum was. I didn't know how to count measures. I didn't know that a measure and a bar were the same thing. I didn't know how to properly use a microphone. I didn't understand how different lives might work, lives that hadn't been lived in a middle-class, loving house. To be honest, I think I would've been snottier and more classist if not for those affiliations, because we were all thrown together, and it was only later that we realized as an adult you don't really spend all that much time with people who are different than you and who grew up in really different ways. That's not all that common, and I feel like all of my big presumptions about what success looked like and what love looks like have been challenged and strengthened by virtue of knowing those guys.

Jo Reed: There are very few women MCs in rap, which I'm sure offers challenges and opportunities for you.

Dessa: Yeah, you're right, and I think a lot of people identify the former and not the latter. There are opportunities. I mean, being different-- I think music or not all of us turn to investigate novelty. That's why BuzzFeed works <laughs> with their alarming headlines. So, yeah, I think when I'm in a crowded bar and I step up to a microphone to rap very often that's the first female voice that will have rapped that evening, and there is something that-- there's a curiosity, right, that the room full of drinking people might have for a moment to turn their heads, to say "Hang on for a second. Let me just check this out." And as a musician, I mean, those are the moments you spend your whole life fighting for, is like-- more than anything, for me anyway, it's not the money, it's the attention, it's how to try to earn my next audition, to earn my next at bat. I mean, I know I'm not going to connect with everybody, but it's that drive and that fight to try to say "Listen for 30 seconds and see if you dig it, and if you don't dig it move on. I hope you find something else you dig," but the novelty has benefited me. Are there challenges with it? Yeah, for sure, and there are probably some that you could easily itemize without me doing so, but I think also just, male or female, I think traveling this much makes me feel like I've got a privileged perspective on the world. I've been to a lot of places, and because I'm working there, not just touring, that provides you some opportunity to have conversations other than those that you're going to have like at the beach and poolside, like to have legitimate exchanges to widen my perspective of the world, and on the other hand it can be a lonely way to live. You're not in any one place long enough to see the same people regularly, so you are your own company for a lot of your life.

Jo Reed: Right. In New York magazine in an article you wrote you called in an adventure tax, which I thought was a great term.

Dessa: Kind of it's that. There's something on the opposite side of the scale for all this rad stuff, and it is rad, but it's lonely I think too sometimes.

Jo Reed: No pets. That's hard.

Dessa: <laughs> That's true. I don't have pets. I tried to keep a house plant it was a basil plant, and I named him Milagro, which is "miracle" in Spanish, and then my mom was like "You know, they aren't super-hardy. It might not be alive when you come back two weeks later," so I took him with me on tour, but he died in my cup holder. <laughs>

Jo Reed: You came to rap through poetry slams. Was that your first time on stage?

Dessa: Yes, it was. And I was really nervous. I bought a pair of like satin pants for one of my first competitions because I thought they made my butt look great. And I didn’t realize that because they’re shiny material shows movement readily, so readily, in bright lights, right? And so my knees were shaking on stage, and then if you had footage of that evening it would be like a still torso and then like a sparkling waterfall below the waist, this constant distracting motion. And I still get really nervous. I used to think that would go away, like, okay, you didn’t put in your 10,000 hours, what are you going to do? Get nauseous and nervous your whole life? The answer is yes. Yes, you will. But, no, I’m just better at performing nervous, I think. And I do not wear satin pants.

Jo Reed: And you know you can perform through that fear?

Dessa: Yeah. I do not find it to be the case that being really nervous makes my stuff better. It constricts your voice. Right? I can’t hit the low notes right away. But now I know it, I’ll put the lowest notes at the beginning of the set, and I know that within 90 seconds my shoulders will drop a little bit and within two songs, I’ll have my voice back, and my heart will slow down.

Jo Reed: Experience is a great teacher. When you first started to perform with Doomtree, clearly you were scared then too, as you just said. Was it a different feeling when you were up there because you’re up there with other people?

Dessa: Yes, I think so. There’s also like, there’s so many of us -- there’s seven members of Doomtree-- that it’s like we’re kind of our own audience and party, too. So there’s a lot of times listening to all the other guys in Doomtree perform, before it’s my turn to go up, you know, to take the next verse or to sing the next song. performing in a group that large, there’s this nice rhythm of being able to step out of the spotlight for a few minutes while somebody else takes his turn, and then just step back in. You get these reprises where you can kind of recollect yourself. So if your ponytail fell down, or if you’re really thirsty or you jumped a lot in that last song and just need to catch your breath, there’s all these natural, built-in moments to do that, which you do not get if you are the front person of your own show. Then you have to figure out how to really make every-- every second-- make sure that you’re giving something for every second on stage for your hour and a half set.

Jo Reed: Right, no time to sit back.

Dessa: Yes, you don’t want to waste people’s time, right? So even taking a sip of water, try to make sure something is happening that rewards people’s attention, because attention is a serious thing to ask in a room full of people.

<Excerpt Dessa>

Jo Reed: Dessa you’re a triple threat because you’re a composer, you’re a writer, and you’re a performer. And I know that the three in some ways are interchangeable but do you feel more at home…

Dessa: In one?

Jo Reed: In one, yeah.

Dessa: For a long time, I felt more at home as a writer working for The Page. I thought I was a really good essayist, and I thought I was an okay slam poet, and I was frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t get any purchase anywhere. Trying to figure out how to be a writer. Now, many years later, I probably can see the flaws a little more clearly in that early writing, so I know where they lie. And I’ve been surprised at how much, I don’t know, how much time has changed my relationship to performance. I’m a lot more extroverted than I used to be, and I think that’s because I spent a lot of time behind a merch table, you know, learning every night, while on tour anyway, learning how to talk to strangers and how to engage them quickly, not only, just transactionaly and like what’s up, want to buy a t-shirt? But also in listening to very real stories that people want to talk about after hearing a sad song. You know? Maybe they had a pretty hard breakup or maybe they just lost their dad. Learning how to engage in those conversations, which you know, there’s only two and a half minutes to have, right? They know it, too. It’s like, this is our one chance to be human beings together, so let’s try. So now I feel more comfortable on stage. Like I know I’m a really strong performer. I know that I’m not a strong performer in the way that an opera singer is really strong, where there’s these perfect technical performances that have to be delivered, you know, eight times a week or six times a week. That’s not my skill set. But being honest and ferocious and feeling things that are real and not manufactured on stage, I’m good at that. And I believe that people can tell when you mean it. I don’t know exactly the mechanisms, how we know it, you know, but I think all of us have had an experience of watching a performer go through the motions or move their arms and face in a way that they’re hoping conveys sadness, but you can tell they don’t feel it. This is just what they do during this part of the set. And I think my talent lies in being able to really feel things in real time and then emote them and trust that they’ll connect with people who’ve had similar experiences.

Jo Reed: What’s your background? Was your family musical, did you come from a literary family? Who are they? Who are your people?

Dessa: My mom grew up in the Bronx, in the projects in the Bronx. She’s a New York Puerto Rican, and she moved to the Midwest for a gig in broadcasting. She moved to a city called Duluth, which is a few hours north of Minneapolis and there she met my dad. She has this beautiful singing voice. She doesn’t really play instruments, but she has this amazing singing voice. My dad, meanwhile, had been living in Duluth, and he is a guitarist, a classical guitarist, and he played an instrument called the lute, which is like an old ancient guitar. So they’re both like liberal arts people, if that make sense. They’re both curious. They were both worried about financial security, but neither of them was like fundamentally motivated by money, you know. My dad was kind of a classic Renaissance guy. He was fascinated by flight, and after he stopped being a musician he ended up becoming a glider pilot. So he flies motorless planes around. And my mother had a collection of little leather bound books of all of Shakespeare’s plays. So I remember when I was like 11 lighting candles with my best friend we’d read through the last scene of “Othello,” which was sort of like titillating and weird, because I got to call her a strumpet and kill her. Yeah, so both of my parents were interested in art, but neither of them were really tuned into current pop trends.

Jo Reed: But you’d hear music in your house.

Dessa: Yeah. My dad would practice his guitar, playing a lot of songs that-- whose names I don’t know, but who-- the sound of them, I think, really got into my head and informed the kind of harmonies I like. I tend to like fourths, so it’s like a sadder-- to my ear anyway-- it’s a more interesting interval than a fifth. And I admit that I don’t really know music theory, so I’m just parroting what people have told me about my own preferences. But I know that the kind of sounds I heard him play were melancholy and the kind of shapes of those melodies were those that sometimes I’ve tried to recreate in the pop stuff that I write.

Jo Reed: Well, your songs are often sad.

Dessa: I know.

Jo Reed: Yeah.

Dessa: <laughs> I know.

Jo Reed: And what did your parents think. What did they think when you told them you were going into the music biz and what are they thinking these days?

Dessa: As you can probably guess, it wasn’t as stoked in the very beginning. My mom was like, I thought you were going to go to law school, and my dad was-- he had concerns about the genre. He was like, I don’t quite get it -- I don’t understand why you are attracted to a genre that doesn’t seem to think too highly of women, near as I can tell. And so to answer my dad’s concern, in particular, it was something that I wanted to answer well, you know what I mean? My dad and I are close, my mom and I were close. I think what they think matters to me more than it does to most adults. I really do care what my parents think. So for my dad I made a mix tape of the rap songs, the kinds of rap songs that he might not find -- there’s some really regressive stuff out there, for sure, Dad. But I think that that’s over represented in mass media. There’s really thinking, thoughtful, politically potent and emotionally moving rap music that just doesn’t get the same kind of airplay. So we sat down there together, and I played him a mix tape of the other kind of rap. And now they’re super stoked. Like my dad, when he came to the orchestral show -- and he wanted to come to all the rehearsals, and it was really, really sweet -- and I can always tell where he is in the audience because he’s the only one who yells “Brava!”

<Musical Excerpt>

Jo Reed: With Chime, Dessa, what will make or what does make this album successful for you. What does it look like?

Dessa: The kind of music that I want to make has taken a long time to learn how to do. You know, to say, oh I really like these harmonies that I heard when my dad was playing the lute in our sewing room. I want that to be part of my music. I also really like those crazy machine gun drums in OutKast, Bombs over Baghdad. So I want that to be part of our music. To try to find like a way to combine really varied sounds that doesn’t sound like it’s reaching or like it’s kind of fusion-y and lame, or it’s trying to be some kind of like big concept, you know, recombination of elements. Just to write a good song using varied components that are drawn from a lot of different traditions and genres. That’s been a skill that’s taken a long time to hone, and I think on Chime it’s the best job that I’ve managed to do yet with my team of collaborators, due in large part to the skill of Andy and Lazerbeak, who I’ve mentioned already. Like, this album I think for the first time sounds like it’s, like it’s a cohesive whole, even though there’s these moments where I layer my voice, you know, to make a makeshift choir at the end in this huge vocal burst, right? And then at other times, it’s just me, you know, swearing like a sailor and bragging like rapper. Like this album feels like it’s one unified project. Also, I think I’m, as a person and as a musician, taking more risks, and I’m more comfortable with that. Now that you’ve got some road behind you, it’s easier -- I think the prospect of taking a misstep is more palatable, because you’ve already taken enough right ones that it’s like, well, okay, I missed that pitch, but I’ve hit others, and I’ll hit others again. And so, I think good musical work and good artistic work and good living is done when people have some appetite for risk. And I feel like I’m working hard to increase that appetite in my own life and in my own career.

Jo Reed: And I think that’s a good place to leave it. Dessa, thank you so much. I really was just such a pleasure learning more about you and thank you for giving me your time.

Dessa: Thanks so much Jo. I really appreciate it.

<Musical Excerpt>

Jo Reed: That’s rapper, singer, and writer Dessa—her new album is called Chime. You've been listening to Art Works produced at the National Endowment for the Arts. Please subscribe to Art Works wherever you download your podcasts and leave us a rating on Apple. It really does help people to find us. For the National Endowment for the Arts, I'm Josephine Reed. Thanks for listening.

Music Credits: Good Grief and Jumprope written and performed by Dessa from the album Chime.

Poor Atlas written and performed by Dessa from the Album A Badly Broken Code

Final Boss written and performed by Doomtree from the album Final Boss

Finding the intersection of science and love.