Shapeshifting Detroit Rapper Doss the Artist

Photo: Shruti Parekh

"When I was younger, I always thought of myself as ‘the artist’ because I could pick up on any style of rhyming” Doss says. “It's a lot like Ol' Dirty Bastard, he took his name because there is no father to his style.” An unfettered style might be the only thing the Detroit native shares with the late Wu-Tang emcee. A toolbox of flows at hand, Doss the Artist is known for spitting highly conceptualized rhymes over synesthetic beats, a far cry from the improvisational lyrics over purist boom-bap ODB was famous for. Doss's debut project Computer Blue, produced by childhood friend Hir-O, showcases the thoughtfulness he puts into every track. As a whole, it plays out as an atmospheric love ballad set in a detached world of text messages and Facebook posts, scored by a soundtrack of video game samples. “Computer Blue was a love story for women, for my city, and for the thrill of a generation that looks at the world through an electronic filter,” he explains. And it’s generational in every way, even musically -- far from just a mashup, the beat selections and rhyme schemes combine to gently bend genres in a way millennials seem to dig.

But for his next project, Doss wants to depend less on thematic development and more on his skills. “With my new offerings, I knew that I had to go beyond all the concepts and just spit … at the end of the day people want to hear my voice for what it is,” he says. For his 9 Lives project, Doss is dropping a single every Friday over the course of nine weeks, with the energetic “Shapeshift the Whip” and pJAYd-produced “Never Can” already unleashed. Last week Doss reverted back to Hir-O for his third installment, “Cave.” Over a delicate piano loop and a hollowed out Kid Cudi sample, Doss straight spits, his voice intensifying steadily with the percussion of the song. With the inescapable eloquence of his natural style, he binds his lyrics with references to ancient hieroglyphics, his "personic melodic"  and spitting that "stanky shit." "The track draws upon that raw spoken word tradition, " he says. "Nothing else I've done sounds quite like it.” We can agree.