Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard’s series that showcases artists’ very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard’s Spotify account. The curated set features the artists’ favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.
This week’s edition comes from Dessa. The rapper-singer released her new live album Sound the Bells: Recorded Live at Orchestra Hall this November alongside the Grammy-winning Minnesota Orchestra and arranged by composer Andy Thompson. The release was recorded across two sold-out shows at the 2,087-capacity Orchestra Hall in March. The Twin Cities maverick is a genreless force, who slides with ease between aggressive rap releases as a member of the collective Doomtree (Lazerbeak, Sims), as well as various solo releases and collaborations including the RBG theme-song (“The Bullpen”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton Mixtape cut “Congratulations.”
A true intellectual, Dessa is also an avid author, who has published works in National Geographic Traveler and the Mississippi Review. Her book, “My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science and Senseless Love” (Dutton, Penguin Random House) made NPR’s 2018 Best Books List. The former high school valedictorian also recently collaborated on a neuroscience research project alongside the University of Minnesota in an attempt to train her brain to fall out of love with her ex-boyfriend. She did a TED Talk on the heady experience, “Can We Choose to Fall Out of Love?” which has since racked up over 630,000 views to date.
To celebrate her new era, Dessa put together this week’s #TBT Mixtape to accent her earliest sonic influences, including tracks by Bonnie Raitt, Tracy Chapman, Paul Simon and others.
Give the playlist a spin and also check out Dessa’s reflection on the set and some throwback snaps from her childhood below.
“My sweetest music memory as a kid involved my little brother, a toy flashlight tricked out with colored gels, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. On special nights, my parents (then still married) allowed my brother (still toddling) and me to stay up very late. My dad would turn out the lights, turn on the stereo, and we’d party–well, as hard as four people with the same last name can party. My parents would dance with each other, mom doing all her cool Latin turns; I’d happily dance by myself; and my brother devoted himself to his job as light tech. For as long as his strength held out, he shook the hell out of that flashlight, sending a single beam of light spazzing around the living room. My teenage years were considerably darker–unrest at home, a brief stint as a runaway, some drugs, some booze. I burned through a lot of AA batteries walking after dark with a Discman, mouthing the words to songs written by people who seemed to agree that the world had just been built rather badly–rich and poor, men and women, we’d gotten it all so seriously wrong. (In my most compassionate, lucid moments, I still think that at least a little bit.) It’s strange, listening to all these old songs almost seems to resurrect a younger self–her old feelings welling up in my new sweater. What hits you young hits you hard; I guess there’s less of you to knock down.”