Soundset: Minnesota’s Hip Hop Christmas


The annual Memorial Sunday hip-hop festival was bigger than ever this year, selling out days prior to the show. Rap fans of all generations and kinds gathered in the Minnesota sun for an onslaught of sounds and sights. Over 30,000 sensory overloaded attendees meandered from each corner of the park to catch their favorite artists on stages in tents or amongst the crowd. However, it didn’t go off without some good old fashion suspense.

Co-Headliner Wiz Kahlifa was in an El Paso, Texas jail cell Sunday morning on a small possession charge just hours before he was scheduled to take the stage in Shakopee early Sunday evening. He pacified the masses in Minnesota by tweeting, “To the people at soundset . Don’t worry. This is what jets are for.”

Wiz hit the stage on time and the show went off with out a hitch, except for Pusha T canceling just a week prior to perform in Las Vegas. “Y’all are some free minds. I will ride for y’all,” Wiz said to the crowd.

The masses lined up to await the gaits. 808s emanated and vibrated the giant hill upon walking down the entrance.

DJ Fundo (Get Cryphy, Prof) was followed by Dem Atlas (Rhymesayers’ newest signee) first on the main stage.  Grouch and Eligh were next up in classic G&E style, Grouch’s verses sounding like life’s best aphorisms and Eligh’s unorthodox blazing fast rhymes syncopated in rapid fire rhythm.

The Fifth Element Stage crowd was rowdy and packed tight for the Ecid performance as he rocked the crowd. Los Nativos kept it revolutionary and direct as always for the purists in attendance. Later on, Lizzo blasted onto the stage to put on one of the most electrifying performances of the night.

Because Soundset fell on a nice stretch of weather, (sun, no rain) there was an inevitable layer of dust covering all concert goers around mid-day. It kept many blowing black dirt out of their noses into the next day.

Prof and Grieves provided some early day Rhymesayers flavor to an eager crowd still able to move about mainstage area freely and quickly. That wouldn’t last long as the 30,000 plus continued to pour in.

By the time Ab Soul hit the stage, it seemed the venue couldn’t get much more full. Finally, DJ Qbert showed off the table skills as the sun became hot, dazzling the Fifth Element Stage as it provided perfect refuge.

Cypress Hill livened up the party with a well rounded set with plenty of favorites from “Black Sunday” just as the crowd was beginning to be at its thickest. 2 Chainz followed up by taking over Soundset with the flavor and vibration of Juicy J’s set last year, big bass and catchy one liners leaving the masses bouncing and shaking.

Never to be outdone, Nas looked and sounded like he hadn’t aged a day since releasing “Illmatic” in 1993. He ran through classics like “NY State of Mind,” and “If I Ruled the World” with legendary poise and seemed to rock all 30,000 effortlessly.

Atmosphere closed out the night in proper fashion to a satisfied crowd like kids Christmas Day.

The development and evolution of the festival over the past seven years says a lot about Rhymesayers, Minnesota and hip-hop here and abroad. Soundset is a microcosm to the way the Minneapolis hip-hop scene has evolved over the past 20 years. It started as a festival comprised of artists who were all already affiliated with or would later sign to Rhymesayers (Aesop Rock & Dilated Peoples) in the Metrodome parking lot.

For the past few years, Soundset has landed hip-hop’s biggest names (Nas, Ghostface, Raekwon, De La Soul, Cypress Hill, Pharcyde) and newest rising stars seemingly just before they propel to higher fame (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Yelawolf, Mac Miller, Wiz Kahlifa.)

The point I am about to make is now too cliché and obvious to point out, but it need not be forgotten. Before Rhymesayers artists became popular in the early to mid-nineties, it was more difficult finding hip-hop shows in the Twin Cities and for artists here to be heard elsewhere. The health of the scene here for all artists (multiple hip-hop shows daily) and the flow of quality hip-hop in and out of the Twin Cities has Rhymesayers and Atmosphere to thank.

Most of our readers don’t need to be told this. We all take things for granted that we are used to. But 30,000 people deep and having Shade 45’s Sway In The Morning Broadcasted from The Fifth Element as 30 emcees from Minnesota go ham on the air is a pretty big flag posted on the map for our city, certainly something to behold.