In only six years, Rhymesayers has created one monster of a hip-hop festival. With attendance estimated at 28,000 people strong, the two main stages were bursting at their seems by the afternoon despite the cloudy, cold, March-like weather. Add to that a car show, half pipe, live graffiti gallery, a side stage with up and coming acts, and yet another tent with DJs and B Boys.
The day started early, as gates opened at 11am and three stages kicked off instantly. Dan Speak spun on the West Stage for the first hour as we all filtered into the festival grounds. Sway Calloway MCed the East and West main stages. Sway has been an MTV News Correspondent for a decade, and a radio personality, record producer and hip-hop artist before that.
Around 2:30 or 3pm, it became abundantly clear that if you had to leave the pit area, you were not getting back in without issues. There was so much talent on the Fifth Element stage, the B Boys, car show and half pipe among other things, but I was unable to explore as much as I did in previous years because attendance hit new heights. I am sure though that Rhymesayers will address this issue for next year.
Brother Ali is simply amazing on stage and off. During the song “Stop the Press”, Ali’s voice cracked as he recited a lyric about getting a phone call from Mikey’s Mom. Michael “Eyedea” Larsen was a well-known freestyle battle champion and underground rapper from St Paul, MN. His unexpected passing in 2010 hit the community hard. By far the most emotional moment of the day.
Juicy J of the Three 6 Mafia broke out some rose champaign half way through his set and proceeded to work his way through it, while constantly asking to see some *cough* breasts. He certainly was not the only one to issue this request, but it struck more than a few people as a dicey request at an all-ages show.
Excitement was mounting with Busta Rhymes being up next after Brother Ali. I looked up and behind the turntables stood DJ Fundo. One minute later, Prof came out. Turns out, he was spending the day at Soundset, just hanging out for the day, and was asked 15 minutes earlier if he felt like performing for 28,000 people today, and soon. The word from Busta is that his 9am plane from Las Vegas had mechanical issues and he could not make it. It was a disappointment, but The Gampo took it upon himself to put on a great set with a ton of energy. He pulled it off with flying colors; kudos to Prof and Fundo.
Sway introduced Slug, Ant and Plain ol Bill as Atmosphere (the band’s current configuration) and they kicked off their abbreviated, non-headlining set with a new song. The rest of the set went on at a swift pace with little time for banter. Songs like “Trying to Find a Balance”, “Shh”, “God Loves Ugly”, and “Sunshine” made for a really solid set. Slug’s expressive nature, his swing-like flow and control of the crowd makes him one of my top rappers to see in concert.