Sunday, May 29th marked the fourth year for Rhymesayers Entertainment’s hip-hop festival, Soundset. What started out as a hip-hop festival in the parking lot in front of the Metrodome in 2008 drew more than 20,000 fans to Canterbury Park this year. Sunday’s attendance marked Soundset to become officially the largest hip-hop concert held in Minnesota, and to many, the best. Attendees came from far and wide, driving or taking long flights just to see and with any hope, meet their favorite hip-hop artists.
Although the will call line to pick up tickets was long, the ATM’s may have run out of cash, the grounds muddy and wet from the rain, the complaints were few. Young fans smashed to the front of the barricades while parents of artists either gathered backstage or in lawn chairs.
The festival included a main stage, a smaller stage (Fifth Element Stage), the Essential Elements Tent for break dancers, the Familia Skateboard Showdown, a custom car show, a wall for live painting and graffiti, and multiple vendors. The lineup consisted of Rhymesayers and Minneapolis heavy weights, Brother Ali, Doomtree, Atmosphere, Grieves and Budo and Blueprint. The Main Stage brought in major artists Big Boi and De La Soul this year, to the surprise and delight of everyone.
The Doomtree crew hit the stage with their signature energetic stampede and “Flex”. The crew showcased individuals as well. Despite a mic not working, Dessa ran full speed with it as her crew handed her a second mic. With both in hand, the audience just cheered even more than before. She later let her hair down for her sultry, “Dixon’s Girl”. P.O.S. performed a new track, as did Cecil Otter and Sims rocked “Burn It Down” from his Bad Time Zoo album. The crew ended with the crowd favorite, “Low Light, Low Life”. There is no doubt that watching Dessa’s performance inspired some women in the audience to go home and start writing raps of their own.
The main stage was hosted by the great Toki Wright, while Carnage and Kevin Beacham hosted the Fifth Element stage and Essential Elements tent. If you were tired of standing in a mob of sweaty, muddy fans Rhymesayers had you covered. At all times there were activities for all ages. From the hydraulic hop contest, the tattoo contest, skate demos and skateboard showdown there was no downtime. Best bet was to gab your cheese curds or tamale, beer and wander in the amazement of talent that surrounded you. Even if you didn’t purchase a VIP ticket you could still meet and greet your hip-hop favorites. Blueprint was at his merch tent virtually all day long talking with fans, signing shirts and albums and taking pictures. The Doomtree crew could be found bouncing back and forth from backstage to their merch tent.
Perhaps the most touching moment of Soundset came from the Fifth Element stage when Face Candy did a tribute to Mikey “Eyedea” Larson who passed away this past year. Mikey’s mom was in attendance along with DJ Abilities. A few dozen balloons with Mikey’s verses written on them were released to the sky. Fans in homemade “R EYE P Mikey” shirts and “Do you love Eyedea as much as me? Let’s hug.” looked on in silence. This was bone chilling and beautiful.
De La Soul greeted the stage with a “Is everyone ready to party out there?” Hands shot up and inaudible sound came from the crowds screams of excitement. They played classics,”Saturday” and “Me, Myself and I”. Brother Ali debuted a song so new that he had to rap from reading from his notebook. But he did play old tunes like “Truth.” Taking time out of starting a record label with his daughter, Big Boi’s appearance at Soundset was unstoppable. Half of the Southern group, Outkast and a true hip-hop great, Big Boi took the stage with effortless swag. He played classic Outkast tracks, “Rosa Parks”, “Miss Jackson”, “The Way You Move” and “So Fresh, So Clean”. He also played new material from his album, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. Host Toki Wright spoke of him as one of the “most underrated emcees of all time.” If you’ve never seen him perform, this is a solid fact. Big Boi took crowd requests, which were mostly Outkast songs. But not a single beat or lyric unmuttered by the crowd was missed.
“The power of truth that is inside of the music, does it make you feel connected to your humanity? Does it feel connected to your community, your soul, your neighbor?” Brother Ali asked the crowed as they jeered and waved hands. Toki Wright took to the stage to introduce the final artist, “Representing Minnesota rap music I want you all to make some noise for Atmosphere!” “SLUG I LOVE YOU!” “ANT I WANT YOUR BABIES!” girls jumping up and down on the barricades screamed as Atmosphere took the stage. Slug walked on stage, “Is is okay if we play some old songs?” taking a breath and an audible pause, “Whoa. I just realized how many fucking people are here tonight. Let’s get some solidarity, put a fist up in the sky.”
“Yo, can we all be family?” Slug asked as the crowd cheered wildly. “Awww no we can’t be family, you’re not ugly enough.” he said as he launched into “God Loves Ugly”. One would think they would do more songs from their new album, The Family Sign, but the crowd didn’t mind. “Puppets”, “Sunshine”, “Modern Man’s Hustle” and “Shrapnel” were just a few of the favorites they played.
The party didn’t stop as fans exited the grounds at Canterbury Park. The official Soundset after party was held at First Avenue. Many rushed right over to the venue still sweaty and tired from an entire day of glorious hip-hop. Hosted by Brother Ali, the after party included hip-hop karaoke NYC and Get Cryphy. Grieves participated in hip-hop karaoke, while other rappers, P.O.S., Sims, Budo, and others roamed the venue. Toasting to industry pals, catching up and taking pictures with fans, the Soundset after party was the perfect ending to the perfect day of hip-hop.