The third track of Doomtree’s No Kings, “Bangarang,” is a bombastic statement of purpose with a chant-along chorus built around the Minneapolis hip-hop collective’s wings-and-teeth logo. The image is an apt representation of the crew’s aesthetic: fanged, punk-tinged aggression married to lofty hip-hop ambition, with a collaborative, mutual-appreciation attitude that’s reflected in the album’s democratic title. With five MCs (P.O.S., Sims, Cecil Otter, Mike Mictlan, and Dessa) and two producers (Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak) trading verses and beats, No Kings is a crowded, dense album that embodies Doomtree’s teeming, basement-party vibe.
There are no stars on the 12 give-and-take tracks—none of which feature fewer than two MCs, and three of which feature all five—but No Kings is by no means a homogenous listen. P.O.S.’ chest-thumping delivery tends to blow whatever track he’s on wide open, while Cecil Otter brings a moodier, deliberate vibe; Sims and Mictlan spit more familiar hip-hop swagger, while Dessa’s melodic, ethereal inflection toes the line between rap and poetry.
The MCs’ different approaches are arranged in a variety of permutations built on wide-ranging production from Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak: Mike Mictlan and Sims come out swinging on the hard-hitting “Punch Out,” while Dessa and Cecil Otter bring a low-lit, late-night energy to the bluesy “Little Mercy,” and P.O.S., Sims, and Mictlan create a hard, grimy atmosphere that butts up against a haunting interlude from Dessa on “Bolt Cutter,” whose industrial, dubstep-influenced production is perhaps the most unusual on an album full of sonic twists and turns.
With so many voices contributing to the clamor, No Kings can’t help but occasionally succumb to moments of bloat—the hyperactive, overlong “Own Yours” being the biggest offender—but when all five MCs are locked in give-and-take communion, as on the standout “The Grand Experiment,” No Kings explodes with the fiery collaborative energy of five unique voices united in the singular intent of making hip-hop that snarls and soars.