Soundset 2013: A Chilly Celebration

by Steve Poons and Schuyler Conners —


IMG_1693 copy

The weather may have been dismal, but that didn’t stop 28,000 of every type of hip-hop head from attending the 6th annual Soundset festival in Shakopee, MN on Sunday, May 26th.

Few festivals match the representation of all the elements of hip-hop as well as the Rhymesayers’ giant, which grew from 12,000 in 08 featuring mostly crew members and friends, to drawing some of the biggest acts in the country.

Soundset had a few surprises this year: Atmosphere relinquished their headling/closing duties for the first time to the legendary Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes was unable to perform due to the mechanical issues with his flight departing from Las Vegas. This was the first time a main-stage artist no-showed at any of the Soundset festivals.


The exuberant Prof stepped in seamlessly in place of Busta. He was sitting peacefully eating chips when he was approached to perform.

His pinch-hit homerun set earned him some airplay from Soundset and Shade 45’s Sway in the Morning Host, Sway Calloway.

Snoop Dogg’s undeniably charismatic, smooth as butter flow inevitably stole the show. Running through the classics old and new, he continued with the element of surprise and brought out Daz and Kurupt to perform “We Can Freak It” and “Gin and Juice”.

There is a much wider scope of the genres of hip-hop offered as Soundset continues to grow and become more of a cultural mainstay. Three Six Mafia’s Juicy J showcased why southern fried rap has its place here in Minnesota.

“Juicy’s set was the most turnt’ up by far. I was trying to get up to take pictures with the media pass and people were like ‘f- you and your camera, you ain’t going nowhere,’” said Dream Group Management’s Daniel Robbins.

Walking the muddy, gusty grounds of CanterburyPark the senses are overwhelmed, with 2 main-stages, The Fifth Element Stage, the B-boy/DJ tent, Custom car Show, Skateboard Showdown, and the Live Painting Wall, you would need a couple clones to be able to take it all in. Sound, movement and color emanates from all angles.

The sea of people didn’t appear to be disenchanted by the weather much. Spirits were light and not many were seen leaving early. Vendors sold out of hoodies and long sleeved shirts within hours as the masses improvised to stay warm.

Atmosphere, accompanied by Plain Ole Bill, catered to the elders performing older favorites like “God’s Bathroom Floor” plus gems from Lucy Ford and Seven’s Travels.

“You guys make me feel old. I like that,” said Slug.

IMG_0360 copyThe Fifth Element Stage provided a more up-close and personal vibe and the artists performing seemed to appreciate being at Soundset more than most of main-stage acts. Mixed Blood Majority, Abstract Rude and Musab, and Open Mike Eagle all blessed the stage with a polished approach and presence. The Chalice and Haphduzn also captured the crowd with energy filled, memorable sets.

Local up-and-comer Greg Grease put on a set that was a sure highlight for a lot of local fans in the crowd. With appearances by Meta, Mike Mictlan, and Franz Diego, it was a high-octane ride that refused to come down.

As far as lyrical chemistry goes, Evidence and Alchemist stole the show in the Fifth Element Stage. It was a finely tuned performance in which the west coast icons got loose and showed some liveliness. Combined they are called Step Brothers, keep an eye out for their upcoming debut release ‘Lord Steppington’.

Sean Price of Heltah Skeltah and The Boot Camp Klic, took the main stage early in the afternoon. He ripped the stage in traditional Brooklyn fashion though it was awkwardly quiet during the set. Sway attempted to smooth it over by asking the crowd if they were familiar with his latest release “Mic Tyson.” But that only added to the silent tension.

IMG_1008 bw copy

The multi-talented, enigmatic R.A. The Rugged Man also blessed the main-stage with his presence quite early in the day. His energy and stage presence was some of the best of the evening for the main-stage but it seemed the young crowd didn’t show much familiarity with his work. He responded well to the early lull by engaging the audience with an aggressive a capella.

With festivals of this size, technical difficulties are inevitable. However, few are as severe and prolonged as the complete audio power failure during Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz’s set. For what seemed like hours, Aesop continued to rap at the top of his lungs while thousands in the crowd stood motionlessly in silence. Only a true professional can take a technical breakdown like that and continue like nothing’s even happened.

Overall the day was just as advertised, despite the few small unexpected problems. Thousands of hip hop heads from around the country collected themselves in a chilly mud pit to celebrate generations of the music that has influenced them.

Check out the complete photo album from Soundset 2013