If you’re looking for the best hip hop Minnesota has to offer, look no further than Soundset, an all-day festival that takes place on the Canterbury Park grounds. This is the first year that the festival sold out before the actual day which amounts to 30,000 people in attendance. This was my first experience and I’ll admit it stayed fairly limited to my interviews and the performances by the artists I interviewed, but it made it well worth it. I got to take in a little break dancing and enjoyed watching artists tag the paint wall as well.
A series of DJs kicked things off at 11am and young rapper deM atlaS performed first at noon, the perfect choice. I asked him about the experience and he said, “It was mad surreal. That was like a dream. A really lucid dream, but it happened and I’m really glad it did.” Rhymesayers signed deM atlaS November 2013 and he’s been blowing up the scene ever since. He’s even on tour with Atmosphere and Prof for the North of Hell Tour. In our interview he said because of the tour and other opportunities, “This is about the be the most memorable summer of my life, I feel.” I also asked about advice he would have for anyone else who’s young and up and coming: “Be yourself. Always just be yourself; don’t try to be like anybody else.” I would say following that advice is working out very well for him. Another young rapper making some waves is Allan Kingdom and I made sure to catch his set as well. He has a unique style in regards to sound and performance and you should check him out. Sizzlin had a special Soundset show that includes Jason Douglas’ interview with Allan Kingdom that you can get here.
My other interviews and performances included Lizzo & Lazerbeak and Toki Wright & Big Cats, all whom I’ve seen multiple times now. Lizzo is the hottest Twin Cities female rapper right now and she was recently signed by Virgin who will re-release her album Lizzobangers. She announced during her performance that she will perform at Rock The Garden June 21 at the Walker Art Center. Her set included special guests GRRRL PRTY, Sean Anonymous and none other than POS, fresh off recovery from a kidney transplant. The set as a whole was the highlight of the day for me between the energetic performances and guest appearances. When I asked Lizzo how she balances between her solo side and her GRRRL PRTY side she said, “I think it naturally happens. I never overextend myself. We never double book but we get close to it. I love it and I wouldn’t want it any other way.” I also loved the advice she offered to any aspiring performers and to young people in general: “Find something you’re passionate about and stay very ‘you’ about it. Be very selfish when you’re younger, think about what you’re doing and learn from all the mistakes. Keep on trucking, keep on learning from all of the beautiful accidents.”
Toki Wright and Big Cats have performed with Bomba de Luz’s Lydia Liza and Crunchy Kids’ Eric Mayson multiple times in the past year, making the group a well-established unit. Toki (by far one of my favorite rappers) informed me during our interview, and then informed the crowd during their performance, that they are releasing their album Pangaea in mid-September. In describing the vision behind Pangaea, Toki said, “The whole concept is millions of years ago, all the continents were one big mass and that over time they became separated and that people are just like those continents. People all came from one tribe, and we’ve all separated out to other places. We can focus on the little things that separate us, but we have to keep in mind that we’re one people.” Going into the day, I had already heard a lot of buzz about the album and now I can’t wait for September. They’re scheduled to perform June 8th as part of the Lyn Lake Street Festival but said for the most part they’ll be laying low the rest of the summer as they prepare for Pangaea’s release.
I asked the artists who their must-see performances were, and here’s what they had to say:
Lizzo: deM atlaS, K. Raydio and Psymun, Nas, Rapsody
Lazerbeak: Mac Irv, Nas, Chance the Rapper, Earl Wolf
Big Cats: DJ Qbert and D-Styles are two dudes that influenced me a lot early on, and I’ve never seen either of them live. Unfortunately, they’re scheduled at the same time so I’ll be running back and forth trying to catch them both. Also K. Raydio and Psymun
Toki Wright: Toki Wright and Big Cats! Everybody else is dope. (When I mentioned Wiz Khalifa’s appearance as questionable, Toki also said, “We’ll hold Wiz’s set down.)
Soundset makes for a long day, but it’s rare to be able to take in so many awesome rap and hip hop acts all in one go. Kudos to The Nerdery for developing a Soundset app that I used multiple times throughout the day to look up set times, see what food was available, and check the map. I would recommend paying additional for VIP admission because between the VIP parking and the VIP area with seating and TVs live-streaming the performances, it’s well worth it. Will I attend next year? The dirt and smoke was a bit much for me so maybe not, but I’m happy to be able to say I’ve experienced Soundset at least once.