Dessa is best known as a member of Doomtree, a hip-hop collective based in Minneapolis. But there's much more singing than rapping on her latest album, Castor, the Twin, which puts a jazzy, melodic spin on some of her previous work.
Dessa says the title refers to the brothers Castor and Pollux from Greek and Roman mythology. Castor, she explains, is the milder of the two.
"I liked the idea of a more human, tender, mortal take on what had been pretty aggressive songs," Dessa says. "Pollux is said to have had metal hands, and he was this great warrior. And the producers I work with in Doomtree are like my metal-handed friends.
"In making this new record, I thought, I had songs that played really differently when they were performed with live instrumentation," she adds. "So we have grand piano, mandolin and stuff that you would associate more readily with an orchestral vibe."
NPR's Guy Raz speaks with Dessa about making Castor, the Twin and turning her literary background — including a philosophy degree — into a music career.