Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dessa in 2017
Dessa in 2017
Background information
Birth nameMargret Wander[1]
Also known asMaggie Wander, Dessa Darling, Dessa Margret Wander[2]
Born (1981-05-23) May 23, 1981 (age 43)[3]
OriginMinneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Years active2002–present[4]
LabelsDoomtree Records

Margret Wander (born May 23, 1981), better known by her stage name Dessa, is an American rapper, singer, writer, and former record executive. She is a member of the indie hip hop collective Doomtree.

Early life[edit]

Dessa was born to Robert Wander Jr. and Sylvia Burgos Toftness,[5] and has a younger brother, Max.[6] Her father is white and her mother Puerto Rican.[7][8] Dessa went to Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, graduating from the IB Diploma Programme in 1999. She attended the University of Minnesota, where she earned a B.A. in philosophy.[9] Before becoming an artist full-time, she waited tables and worked as a technical writer for a medical manufacturer.[10]



Dessa performing in 2007

Initially drawn to their raw aesthetics and unique sound, Dessa forged a friendship with Doomtree. Soon after, she was asked to join the crew and did so. Between 2005 and 2019, Dessa toured with and appeared on all Doomtree albums, as well as on the other members' solo albums. She was the CEO of Doomtree;[11] however, she relinquished that post to her label mate, Lazerbeak, to focus on her own career.[12]

Solo career[edit]

Dessa performing at First Avenue in 2010

Dessa's debut solo EP, False Hopes, was released in 2005. Despite being only fifteen minutes long, it was listed as one of the top local albums of the year by Star Tribune.[citation needed]

Dessa's first solo album, A Badly Broken Code, was released on January 19, 2010. The album’s tracks "Dixon's Girl" and "The Chaconne” were released as singles. The album featured production from Paper Tiger, MK Larada, Lazerbeak, Cecil Otter and Big Jess. MK Larada also designed the album art.[13]

In 2011, Dessa released Castor, the Twin, an album featuring new recordings and arrangements of songs released on previous projects, primarily A Badly Broken Code. The original production in the reworked tracks was replaced with live instrumentation.[14]

In 2013, Dessa released her second full-length album Parts of Speech that made its debut in Billboard's Top 200.[15] The singles from this album are "Warsaw" and "Call Off Your Ghost”.

On February 23, 2018, Dessa released her third full-length album Chime, that made its debut in Billboard's Top 200, and at #3 on Billboard's Independent Charts.[15] Chime was listed as one of NPR Music's 40 Favorite Albums of 2018 (so far).[16]

On March 26 and 28, 2019, she recorded concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra; the collaboration led to a live album released in November 2019.[17]

On January 15, 2021, Dessa released "Rome”, the first title in her IDES Series.[18] The IDES series is a project to release a new single on each 15th for the first half of 2021.[19]

Writing works[edit]

At the fourth annual Doomtree Blowout in 2008, and via Doomtree Press, Dessa released Spiral Bound a seventy-page collection of fiction and poetry.[20][21] Following that, in 2013, she released a book of poems called A Pound Of Steam, in partnership with Rain Taxi.[22]

After having been scouted by the Francis Golden Literary Agency,[23] in 2018 Dessa signed a book-publishing deal with Dutton Penguin, which released her collection of creative non-fiction essays entitled My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love on September 18, 2018.[24][25] The book is an uncompromising and candid account of her life in motion, in music, and in love,[26] and was listed by NPR in their guide for 2018's Best Reads.[27]

Dessa's work has also been published in periodicals, including a 2009 poem in Ars Medica[28] and a 2017 article about visiting New Orleans as a tourist in The New York Times Magazine.[29]

Side projects and non-Doomtree collaborations[edit]

Dessa is a founding member of The Boy Sopranos, an almost all-female a cappella group, with frequent collaborators Jessy Greene, Aby Wolf and others.[citation needed] She also taught at the Institute of Production and recording and the McNally Smith College of Music.[30] She was also a member of the indie super-group Gayngs founded by Ryan Olson (of Poliça fame), in 2010, along with 22 other musicians including Justin Vernon.[31][32]

On March 2, 2012, Dessa presented "Mic Lines: Art, Ethics, and their Contested Connections" at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as part of the three-day Nobel Peace Prize Forum .[33][34]

Dessa was the host of Twin Cities Public Television's The Lowertown Line, a live music series, from 2012 to 2014.[35]

In 2012, she partnered with the "artisan cosmetic house" from Minnesota, Elixery, to create her own shade of lipstick, all of the proceeds of which were donated to CARE (relief agency).[36]

She was a contributing artist on the 2015 Saint Paul-based "Plume Project", a public art installment in which images and colors were projected onto steam rising from a smokestack in downtown Saint Paul and music and spoken-word pieces could be accessed by calling a phone number. Dessa read her poem "Circle Games".[37]

She had a flavor of ice cream named after her on July 27, 2016, by Izzy's Ice Cream, "Dessa’s Existential Crunch".[38] The same year, she contributed to The Hamilton Mixtape with her cover of the song "Congratulations.".[39] Dessa collaborated with RockFilter Distillery in Spring Grove, MN, to release two bourbons, Dessa's Time and Distance and Dessa's Hand Shadow.

Dessa has been involved with the popular fiction podcast Welcome to Night Vale as both a contributing writer and musical guest. Her first appearance was on the "Weather" segment of Episode 27, "First Date," which featured Doomtree's "Team The Best Team." She was the musical guest for Welcome to Night Vale's second anniversary live show, performing "Call Off Your Ghost" for its weather segment. She appeared again as part of Doomtree for episode 61, "Briny Depths", which featured "The Bends" as its Weather; her single "Fire Drills" was the Weather for episode 122, "A Story of Love and Horror, Part 2: 'Spire.'" In 2017, she co-wrote and acted in episode 113, "Niecelet," lending her voice to the character Sabina.[40]

Notable performances[edit]

Dessa performing at the Mayo Civic Center in 2017

In April 2017, she headlined a show with the Minnesota Orchestra, which featured new arrangements of her songs as well as a story performed in prose.[41] She followed that set of performances with another two sold-out performances in October 2018, this time premiering new material from her album Chime.[42] In December 2018, it was announced that Dessa would return for an additional two performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, on March 26 and 28, 2019; both performances were recorded to be released at a later date in collaboration with Doomtree Records.[43]

Dessa sang the National Anthem at the Minnesota Twins home opener on April 5, 2018.[44] And on July 28, 2018, she sang the National Anthem at the 2018 WNBA All-star game held in Minneapolis.[45]

In August 2018, Dessa traveled with the Minnesota Orchestra as they went on a two-week, five-stop tour through South Africa, reportedly the first tour of an American orchestra to the country, and helped document the trip for Minnesota Public Radio alongside MPR journalist and cultural critic Euan Kerr.[46]

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar used Dessa's song "Bullpen" as her campaign rally walk-on song during her 2020 run for the presidency.

Deeply Human[edit]

Dessa is the host of the podcast Deeply Human.[47] The show explores questions about the inner self and takes a deep dive into the psychological, biological, and anthropological explanations of our common traits.[48] Episodes are anchored in her experience discovering the details of her own thoughts and actions. Deeply Human launched in March 2021 and is a co-production of the BBC World Service, American Public Media, and iHeartMedia.


Solo studio albums[edit]

List of solo studio albums, with selected chart positions
Title Album details Peak chart positions
US US Heat US Hip-Hop US Indie
A Badly Broken Code 13 48
Castor, the Twin
  • Released: October 4, 2011
  • Label: Doomtree Records
  • Formats: CD, download
8 26 36
Parts of Speech
  • Released: June 25, 2013
  • Label: Doomtree Records
  • Formats: CD, download, vinyl
74 19
  • Released: February 23, 2018
  • Label: Doomtree Records
  • Formats: CD, download, vinyl
139 3
Bury the Lede
  • Released: September 29, 2023
  • Label: Doomtree Records
  • Formats: CD, download, vinyl
- -

with Doomtree[edit]


  • Apple S Apple Z (2003) (with Medida)
  • Medida (2004) (with Medida)
  • False Hopes (Doomtree, 2005)
  • Parts of Speech, Re-Edited (Doomtree, 2014)
  • Ides (Doomtree, 2021)

Live albums[edit]


  • "Matches to Paper Dolls ('Castor, the Twin' Mix)" (2013)
  • "Warsaw" (2013)
  • "Call Off Your Ghost" (2013)
  • "Quinine" (2016)
  • "Good Grief" (2017)
  • "Fire Drills" (2017)
  • "5 Out of 6" (2018)
  • "Grade School Games" (2019)
  • "Good For You" (2019)
  • "Tyranny" (2020)
  • "Rome" (2021)
  • "Who's Yellen Now?" (2021)
  • "Bombs Away" (2021)
  • "Life on Land" (2021)
  • "Terry Gross" (2021)
  • "Talking Business" (2021)
  • "I Already Like You" (2021)
  • "LYTP" (2021)
  • "Blush" (2022)
  • "Hurricane Party / Chopper" (2023)
  • "Decoy" (2023)

Guest appearances[edit]


  • Spiral Bound (2009)
  • Sleeping with Nikki (2011)
  • Are You Handsome (2013)
  • A Pound of Steam (2013)
  • My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love (Dutton, 2018) ISBN 978-1524742294)[24]
  • Tits on the Moon (2022)


  1. ^ "Dessa's Brain". Minnesota Alumni.
  2. ^ "ALIBI". ASCAP. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved April 27, 2023.
  3. ^ Wander, Margret (May 23, 2013). "Good morning, world. Today is my birthday, ..." Facebook. Archived from the original on February 26, 2022. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
  4. ^ "2005.02.24 – MN Daily – "Rise of the rebels" | Doomtree". February 24, 2005.
  5. ^ Eveland, Emily. "Dessa's mom, Sylvia Toftness, shows us around her Wisconsin cattle farm". City Pages. Archived from the original on February 8, 2018.
  6. ^ "Dessa's brother (Max Wander, see "Children's Work from A Badly Broken Code) has been singing "The Chaconne" with her this week". twitter.com.
  7. ^ Darling, Dessa. "Dessa reflects on her artistic journey". City Pages. Archived from the original on February 15, 2018.
  8. ^ "Best of What's Next: Dessa".
  9. ^ "Making Music Series: Dessa on Coffman Memorial Union". University of Minnesota. Archived from the original on November 1, 2008. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  10. ^ Scholtes, Peter S. "The Revolution Starts... Right After the Drinks". City Pages. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011.
  11. ^ "University of Minnesota, College of Liberal Arts, 2012 Spring Commencement: Keynote Address by Dessa". University of Minnesota, College of Liberal Arts. May 18, 2012.
  12. ^ Utley, Tori. "Meet Dessa, The 35-Year-Old Internationally Touring Rapper, Writer, And Social Entrepreneur". Forbes. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  13. ^ "A Badly Broken Code". Doomtree Store.
  14. ^ "Review: Dessa – Castor, the Twin (2011)". Mezzic. October 6, 2011.
  15. ^ a b "Dessa Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  16. ^ "NPR Music's 40 Favorite Albums Of 2018 (So Far)". NPR.org. June 26, 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  17. ^ "Dessa and the Minnesota Orchestra Announce New Live Album, 'Sound the Bells: Recorded Live at Orchestra Hall,' out November 8, 2019 on Doomtree Records". Shore Fire Media.
  18. ^ "Dessa Announces New Single Series Project IDES, Shares First Single "Rome" -". mxdwn Music. January 15, 2021. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  19. ^ Oechler, Meredith (March 2, 2021). "Q&A: Dessa On Recording During the Pandemic and Her New Podcast". Minnesota Monthly. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  20. ^ Tardio, Andres (November 18, 2008). "Dessa of Doomtree Cuts Hair for Locks of Love Donation". HipHopDX. Retrieved August 4, 2023.
  21. ^ "Spiral Bound review". Culture Bully. Archived from the original on June 6, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  22. ^ Provenzano, Katie (October 16, 2013). "A Pound of Steam - Rain Taxi". Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  23. ^ "Sam Stoloff - Frances Goldin Literary Agency". Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  24. ^ a b "My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Sensele(ss Love, by Dessa". Penguin Random House. 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  25. ^ "Rapper Dessa working on book of essays, due in September - NY Daily News". nydailynews.com. Associated Press. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  26. ^ "Press". Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  27. ^ "NPR's Book Concierge".
  28. ^ Wander, Dessa (Spring 2009). "The Letter S, by Steven Ward". Ars Medica. Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  29. ^ Dessa (March 21, 2017). "Wandering New Orleans After Seeing It From the Stage". New York Times.
  30. ^ "dessa - McNally Smith College of Music President's Blog". blog.mcnallysmith.edu. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  31. ^ "Gayngs: Relayted". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  32. ^ Swensson, Andrea. "That time Prince almost played with Gayngs at First Avenue". Local Current Blog - The Current from Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  33. ^ Mark (February 21, 2012). "Ethics and Hip Hop: A Discussion with Dessa – Tickets on sale NOW!". Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Archived from the original on March 3, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  34. ^ "2012 Forum: "The Price of Peace"". Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  35. ^ Thompson, Erik (December 26, 2012). "MN Original leaps forward". City Pages. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  36. ^ "Elixery presents: Dessa". www.elixery.com. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  37. ^ Kerr, Euan (November 17, 2015). "Plume Project aims to make art in St. Paul's sky".
  38. ^ "Izzy's announces 'Dessa's Existential Crunch' ice cream". Minnesota Public Radio. Archived from the original on December 24, 2021.
  39. ^ Johnson, Cecilia. "Hear Dessa's ferocious song on "The Hamilton Mixtape"".
  40. ^ "Welcome to Night Vale (RSS feed)". feeds.nightvalepresents.com. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  41. ^ Riemenschneider, Chris. "Dessa gives a truly brainy performance with Minnesota Orchestra". Star Tribune.
  42. ^ "Minnesota Orchestra - Dessa Returns to Orchestra Hall for Concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra". www.minnesotaorchestra.org. Archived from the original on December 18, 2018. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  43. ^ "Dessa and Minnesota Orchestra to make a live record together in March at Orchestra Hall". Star Tribune. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  44. ^ "Minnesota Scene: Dessa to sing, U.S. curlers to throw pitch before Twins' home opener". Star Tribune.
  45. ^ "Dessa to Perform National Anthem at Verizon WNBA All-Star Game 2018". Minnesota Lynx. Retrieved January 5, 2019.
  46. ^ Dessa; Kerr, Euan (August 2018). "Minnesota Orchestra in South Africa". Minnesota Public Radio. Archived from the original on December 7, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  47. ^ "BBC World Service, iHeartMedia and American Public Media first-ever podcast collaboration: Deeply Human". American Public Media Group. February 12, 2021.
  48. ^ "Deeply Human". BBC World Service. March 7, 2021.

External links[edit]