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Sweet Heat: The Soundset 2018 Experience

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DSC06768 2

I have to be a bad luck charm for Soundset Weather. What did I do to piss off the weather gods every time I went to Soundset? I better stop calling Chance The Rapper so corny, maybe he actually controls the weather. Of the Soundsets I’ve attended, one year featured blistering heat, another featured blistering heat plus a nice tornado touchdown, and in 2015 I experienced a muddy and rainy, trench foot inducing day where a vendor handed out free Frisbees to the crowd. You can imagine how that went. Seems like the years I missed out the concertgoers of Soundset also missed out on the trash weather. So, now that another year of the hip-hop only festival has come and gone, I profusely apologize for cursing the weather.

2018 was another year of record heat, with the temperatures rising well into the 90s, but that did not stop fans from across the country from flocking to the Minnesota State Fair Grounds to see their favorite rappers spit. My experience began around 1:00 when I entered the grounds from the north. It looked like a scene straight out of the State Fair, just without crotchety old people. Once I was geared up, lens attached and ready to go, Grieves was about to take the stage. Grieves is a mainstay of Soundset festival. He is signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment and his music has been streaming in the Twin Cities for years. He played a relatively abbreviated set, as did everyone, featuring his big hit “On The Rocks” & recent work like “What It Dew.”

Grieves - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Grieves – Photo by Chris Taylor
Grieves - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Grieves – Photo by Chris Taylor

Up next was Jaden Smith, yes, that Jaden Smith. Karate Kid, After Earthin’, White Batman Suit Jaden Smith. I had a little experience with his music, with his with some of his collaborations with Soulection, but, for the most part, other than a listen to his “Syre” album, I was going in fresh. I’d call what I saw 100{a43c2147d37bcf8b898f59ebaaf066dc60bd9fbfc7430ae40ed3f9adbaab469e} authentic Jaden Smith, it was exactly what I expected from his show. High speed, a little off-kilter, with a little inspiration thrown in. Between songs he talked about how he believes in every single person in the audience will succeed. Yeah, Jaden, you tell em! (But, I really do hope this whole photography thing takes off, so thanks.) Eventually, Jaden played “Icon” his most ‘iconic’ track to date (sorry). and mentioned that as he was hanging around the cities he had to go see a movie in the West End. Why? They had a movie theater called the ICON— he just had to.

It was back to the media tent for a break from the heat, and then it got wacky. When you’re hanging out in the tent, you’re back behind the action and you don’t see a lot of what’s going on in the crowd. I started my walk down the chain-link fence alleyway that the venue set up to funnel us media folk straight to the stage, and I emerged to see this:

The Work of Prof - Photo by Chris Taylor
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The Work of Prof – Photo by Chris Taylor
Concert Photography Can Be Hazardous - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Concert Photography Can Be Hazardous – Photo by Chris Taylor

Now, I totally understand there are going to be hazards in the line of work of concert photography. You might get splashed by an errant water bottle, get manhandled by security or get kicked in the face by Josh Homme. But, giant balls right in my face? This is the work of Prof, of the house Gampo, First of his name, breaker of beds, king of the party, Pookie Baby, and the proclaimer of NNNNNNO. Or Just Prof if you’re not trying to go all Game of Thrones on everyone.

If you’re not familiar with Prof and you’re living in Minnesota, you should be. This man throws a party. Every show is the work of someone who has mastered the art of being a hype man. Fresh off the release of his Pookie Baby, Prof has been touring around the Midwest and appeared at Soundset for his biggest show of the year. The energy was electric, and the music lines were always funny. He featured songs like his hit “Bar Breaker” and “No” from Pookie Baby, which is probably one of the funniest tracks in a long while. After the three-song limit for photography was over, I went back to chill in the shade. On the little media TV a few minutes later, I saw those giant swans that have been appearing all over your dumb Facebook feed. You know, people sharing garbage from BoredPanda and EliteDaily. I ran back out and was greeted by this scene: Security was so preoccupied that they didn’t even notice me back in the pit taking photos. I mean how could they pay attention when Prof and his crew are crowd surfing on two giant swans and a unicorn, and throwing money into the crowd.

Prof - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Prof – Photo by Chris Taylor
Prof - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Prof – Photo by Chris Taylor
Prof - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Prof – Photo by Chris Taylor
Prof - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Prof – Photo by Chris Taylor
Prof - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Prof – Photo by Chris Taylor
Prof - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Prof – Photo by Chris Taylor
Prof - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Prof – Photo by Chris Taylor

Next up was A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, who came out with — you guessed it — a hoodie. Before Soundset his name was not on my radar at all. I guess his music never really ended up in my circles. Then I opened up his Spotify page and saw 250 million streams on “Drowning” – um what? I had a legit out-of-touch moment. Am I out of touch with my music taste? No, it’s the children who are wrong. Anyways, I was definitely a fan of his music, but his set didn’t do a ton for me. It was pretty run of the mill, and when you have to follow a giant beach ball party, you’re not going to get the crowd super hyped. Plus, I had to run, I had an interview with Prof.

A Boogie wit da Hoodie - Photo by Chris Taylor
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A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Photo by Chris Taylor
A Boogie wit da Hoodie - Photo by Chris Taylor
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A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Photo by Chris Taylor
A Boogie wit da Hoodie - Photo by Chris Taylor
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A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Photo by Chris Taylor
A Boogie wit da Hoodie - Photo by Chris Taylor
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A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Photo by Chris Taylor
A Boogie wit da Hoodie - Photo by Chris Taylor
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A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Photo by Chris Taylor

Yes, we booked an interview with Prof, and 40 minutes prior I had no idea what I would ask such an eccentric man. Then I thought about his song “No.” Does he want to hear about some generic garbage about working on his albums and music? NNNNNO. We’re going all out. Parties, his hypeman Razhwell puking, being the starting gun for every show, doing a show bottomless, the gamut. And that’s only the stuff he is legally able to tell me on camera. Let’s just say he’s doing great, I asked him to describe playing at a Soundset, a festival that is no longer an underground rap fest, and he asked me to transcribe a hand movement as best I could. So, how does Prof feel about his last performance? [Slowly closes hand into a fist and shakes triumphantly in Gampo.] Not too shabby for my first artist interview ever. This interview did mean I had to miss Russ in his entirety, but, hey, it happens. I’m sure he just talked about how great he is, per usual, and how the haters can fall of a chairlift and die or something like that.

Now, we’re getting into some legend territory. 36 Chambers. 25th Anniversary. Who else than the rap legends the Wu-Tang Clan. We’re not talking just some old rappers, even though they’re getting up there, no we’re talking OG territory, cultural phenomenon. Jaden Smith even join the photographers in the pit to watch up close and upfront with his girlfriend Odessa Aldon. Like, he was literally right next to me, that was pretty neat. No, I did not ask for a picture, that’s just rude when he’s in the moment. One by one, the Wu-Tang members trickled out onto the stage, lead, of course, by RZA. They started with “Bring Da Ruckus” and it was only more and more hype from there. The set got hype enough for two girls in the front row to get into a full-blown fist fight with each other, guess they really did bring the ruckus. RZA had to get security to break it up. Every remaining member made it on stage while I was still in the pit except for Method Man, who showed up after we were well out of there. However, I still caught most of the set which included all the big hits from 36 Chambers like “C.R.E.A.M,” “Shame” & “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin ta Fuck Wit.”

Wu-Tang Clan - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan – Photo by Chris Taylor
Wu-Tang Clan - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan – Photo by Chris Taylor
Wu-Tang Clan - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan – Photo by Chris Taylor
Wu-Tang Clan - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan – Photo by Chris Taylor
Wu-Tang Clan - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan – Photo by Chris Taylor
Wu-Tang Clan - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan – Photo by Chris Taylor
Wu-Tang Clan - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan – Photo by Chris Taylor
Wu-Tang Clan - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan – Photo by Chris Taylor
Jaden Smith & Odessa Aldon - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Jaden Smith & Odessa Aldon – Photo by Chris Taylor
Wu-Tang Clan Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Wu-Tang Clan Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor

Next I witnessed Erykah Badu, another living legend, maybe not in as a mainstream cultural phenomenon like Wu-Tang Clan, but more in a musical sense. She’s been putting out absolute quality since the late 90’s with hits like “You Got Me” with the Roots and “On & On,” and she’s been a feature in countless albums. Seriously, go to her Spotify page and look at that discography. When I stepped in to shoot, I got a very different look than I was expecting. All of her pictures I’ve seen to date featured very short hair and a rather clean look. She had long flowy hair, elaborate jewelry, and a Puma tracksuit. She played a relatively calm set compared to the rest of the sets throughout the day, definitely calm considering the previous act. She was backed by a smooth jazz band and singers and kept her set going well into her allotted time. I’m pretty sure she got her mic cut, or it was sound problems. I was wandering in the crowd at this time, so I’m not entirely sure what happened.

Erykah Badu - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Erykah Badu – Photo by Chris Taylor
Erykah Badu - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Erykah Badu – Photo by Chris Taylor
Erykah Badu - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Erykah Badu – Photo by Chris Taylor
Erykah Badu - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Erykah Badu – Photo by Chris Taylor
Erykah Badu - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Erykah Badu – Photo by Chris Taylor

The act I was the most excited to see was next, and I got totally screwed on it. Tyler, The Creator was up and he limited the pit to just 25 photographers— and I was number 27. It was a huge bummer, but I still got relatively close and used my zoom to get the best shots I could, but I guess I’m going to have to figure out another chance to catch his show, and I’m sure there will be a chance. I’m a huge Tyler and Odd Future fan. I love his absolutely vile lyrics and themes. I love the strange music videos and I love the GOLF brand. He isn’t corny at all. His most recent effort Flower Boy has been a smash success and has really pushed him out of the sort of niche he was in— if it was even a niche at all. Let’s just say it’s a ton less vile and dark than his previous albums. He played his set in a bright-as-bright-could-be outfit: neon green shorts and construction vest with a blond turtle pattern in his hair. He stuck mostly to Flower Boy music like “911 / Mr. Lonely,” “Who Dat Boy” and, a personal favorite, “I Ain’t Got Time.” He did also play an old favorite of mine: “IFHY.”  I had the song on loop for years. It was a great show and was definitely the one that engaged the crowd the most.

Tyler, The Creator - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Tyler, The Creator – Photo by Chris Taylor
Tyler, The Creator - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Tyler, The Creator – Photo by Chris Taylor

Up next was Migos, we weren’t allowed in the pit because there were going to be pyrotechnics, oh boy. There were rumors that Migos wouldn’t be in attendance because of Offset’s recent car crash, and with the pit restriction, a lot of photographers thought they weren’t coming. However, that was put to rest when they did, in fact, take the stage. The set stuck to the basics like “Bad & Boujee”, “Stir Fry” and “Slippery.” Nothing too remarkable happened, though I was able to get close to the side stage and get some up close shots of them until I was promptly told to get out. I also was backstage as Migos was getting into their Escalades, I was threatened to not take a single picture, while another photographer chose not to listen. He was promptly manhandled by Migos’ personal security. Glad I didn’t raise the lens there.

Migos - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Migos – Photo by Chris Taylor
Migos - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Migos – Photo by Chris Taylor
Migos - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Migos – Photo by Chris Taylor
Migos - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Migos – Photo by Chris Taylor

Logic was the final act of the night, it was kind of weird experience for me. When I was at Soundset 3 years ago, Logic was on fairly early in the day, and back when they had artist meet and greets he was still considered relatively obscure. I loved “Under Pressure” and especially “Buried Alive.” To see him as the headliner was different, but I was excited. He stuck mostly to his new work, but brought in old hits like “Fade Away.” He also featured “1-800-273-8255,” his breakout hit that thrust him into true prominence. He played the crowd well, got everyone to sing happy birthday to a girl after she was ID’d. He collaborated with a girl named Shae Shae to start “Everyday” and gave a big shout out to all us people working the concert, including Ed, the cameraman on stage, which was genuinely funny. He definitely had control of a very exhausted crowd and got them to get hyped one last time after standing in the 90+ degree heat all day.

Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor
Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor
Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor
Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor
Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor
Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor
Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor
Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor
Logic - Photo by Chris Taylor
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Logic – Photo by Chris Taylor

And after all that, we said goodbye to another Soundset. It was my first time as media, and I had a blast being up close and personal with some of my favorite artists. I loved the experience, and everything was great, minus the heat, but hey, you can’t win em all. Let’s keep our good thing going here Minnesota. Next year, now that I have my bearings, I’m gonna mix it up in my coverage a little, maybe hit the other stages too. Peace out folks, I’ll see you at my next Festival, Electric Forest.

Written by Chris Taylor

Fan of emotional space movies. HMU on Myspace.

or at @fifthlegend on Instagram

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