On the necessity of Soundset

Special to Creative Exchange by King Fuvi.

Without hesitation, Soundset 2018 steps it up a bar from last year’s festival. Every Memorial Day weekend for the past eleven years, Rhymesayers Entertainment puts together the biggest…pardon me, the HUGEST (yep, you read that correctly) one day hip-hop festival in the United States here in St. Paul, at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. This is the third year the Minnesota State Fairgrounds hosted Soundset having been at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN years prior. Boasting an attendance of nearly 40,000 devout hip-hop fans, Soundset always seems to have something for everyone to enjoy from the time you arrive, up until the closing performances and May 27, 2018 was no exception.

This year, Rhymesayers spared no expense in the headlining acts selected to play one of the many stages. They even provided a free downloadable app in its second year running with constant updates and free wifi in the VIP area close to Main Stage North. Artists and groups such as Logic, Erykah Badu, Migos, Jaden Smith, Tyler, The Creator and The Lioness were just a few to mention. Not even the sweltering heat of almost 90 degrees nor dehydration could stop the fans from having a great time, many of whom would remain in the constant bunch of spectators positioned as close as possible to both main stages while they waited for their favorite artist to perform.

Full house at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

DJs, producers, as well as b-boys and girls represented heavily in the Essentials Element Tent with the iconic DJ Jazzy Jeff (think DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince…you know, the quick-witted character named Jazz that was always getting thrown out of the house on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?) served as the headliner, handling the 1’s and 2’s like no other. Soundset brought back it’s Custom Car show, where competitors brought out their classic Chevys on 24” or better rims, customized Range Rovers, cars with ridiculously knockin’ subwoofers alongside motorcycles and bicycles that would probably be the cost of a single-family home with all of the modifications and add-ons; as well as time involved bringing their dream means of transport into fruition.

…and the winner and trophy for first place goes to?

The selection of food trucks available at Soundset catered to the palates and dietary restrictions of many, ranging from vegetarian/vegan options to even those that are gluten intolerant. I would like to give a special shout-out to West Indies Soul Food for FINALLY having a delicious vegetarian option, as I have pleaded with them as a patron of their food truck for many years at various events around the Twin Cities. The Curry Beyond dish was BANGIN’!…Somebody put their ankles in it!! For those that don’t know what that means…it translates to someone preparing a dish or food in question extremely well. Similar to the food you would expect your grandmother to prepare for Sunday dinner. Hands down, it was so necessary that I ended up visiting them not once, but twice during the festival. On another note, one may hope in the future that the organizers of Soundset will find a way in making water more accessible to patrons as well as adding more shaded areas for folks with General Admission entry as well as more vantage points within the Fairgrounds as many spectators seemed to be fainting or fall ill due to heat exhaustion. A tremendous kudos indeed is extended to Soundset in at least giving a heads up to patrons to drink plenty of water via their app as well as encouragement to wear sunscreen and bring with them only positive vibes.

…now back to the music.

Wu-Tang Clan celebrated their 25 year anniversary at Soundset, as all nine members (R.I.P. Old Dirty Bastard) hit the stage performing countless hits from their catalog. Kicking off their set was RZA, leader of Wu Tang Clan as well as head producer first addressed the crowd then brought out Cappadonna to perform his severely sharp 64 dart verse to the ‘Winter Warz’ featured on the classic Ghostface Killah album ‘Ironman’. Hit after hit they had the crowd throwing up their hands in a ‘W’ chanting back lyrics as each member on stage took turns with their verses, all feeding off of one another’s energy. Method Man took the stage after a few songs and the crowd of thousands erupted as he bounced around Main Stage North. Older hip-hop heads got a hefty dosage of nostalgia while the younger crowd experienced lyricism within hip-hop while it was arguably at its peak within the culture. It was great to see Brother Ali step in as an unexpected performer on the Atmosphere and Friends stage, perhaps he stood in for the only announced cancellation of the day being BROCKHAMPTON.

Rapsody takes the stage at Soundset.

Soundset has continued to be extremely instrumental in the narrative of inclusion and diversity of all aspects of hip-hop music, so they knew exactly what they were doing when they booked Erykah Badu. Personally, I have never seen her perform live. I anticipated when she took to Main Stage South rocking an off-white top hat covering majority of her face, just standing there, without saying a word in her tribute Michael Jackson poses. Swag unlike any other, there is a reason why she’s dubbed the Queen of NeoSoul. She killed her set with her many of her hits ranging from ‘Baduizm’, ‘Mama’s Gun’, to ‘New Amerykah Part Two’, even dropping a freestyle or two in the meantime all while playing with the beat machines that surrounded her during her set. Later acts would include Tyler, The Creator, Logic, and Migos who all garnered necessary crowd participation and involvement as they pushed through various hits and singles throughout the festival.

Rumors swirled around this year in that this would once again be the last year of Soundset. Come on now Rhymesayers! We all know the saying that you don’t appreciate something you had that was good until it’s long gone, but I’m sure by now the fans and attendance have spoken in that this festival is much needed not only being pivotal for the Minnesota hip-hop scene in the international draw it beckons, but also for music in general. It’s way beyond being deemed as just a simple hip-hop festival. We NEED events like these as this is not only a time to see your favorite artists, but for up and coming mid-career musicians to network in providing their creative to other artists alike within a constructive platform as part of one of the biggest music genres and cultures to grace the planet.

So, as stated last year…Soundset 2019 anyone? (Don’t worry, it’s on for May 26, 2019.)