Rhymesayers celebrated the 12th anniversary of their rap music festival, Soundset.
Headliners included Lil’ Wayne, G-Eazy, DMX, SZA, Run The Jewels, Atmosphere, Black Star, and Lil’ Uzi Vert (replaced by DaBaby and Lil’ Nas X day of event).
Minnesota-native artists had a prominent presence at the event, including Prof, Cashinova, Taylor J, deM atlaS, Psymun, Dua Saleh, and others.
Entering the Grounds
I hit the setlist board to familiarize myself with performance times. There’s no way I’ll manage to see even half the artists today due to scheduling conflicts, so I make notes of the acts I definitely won’t want to miss.
My photographer Reid and I start our day off with an interview with St. Paul rapper, Cashinova.
We tuck behind a black curtain that has a laminated sign with his name and take a seat on folding chairs. He lights up a blunt, then openly talks of his experience growing up with immigrant Cambodian parents, being a father of three children, the recent release of his new record Big Dragon and more.
He goes on in ten minutes, so we give thanks and exit the green room. Walking outside, we are greeted by the sounds of Student 1 playing on the Atmosphere & Friends stage.
Wearing tie die overalls and a backpack, Student 1 hops around the stage, warming up the crowd for Cashinova.
Cheers erupt and empty spaces on the asphalt begin to fill as the emcee announces Cashinova. Granted only a twenty-minute set, he wastes no time digging into his first song.
Repping a Kevin Garnett jersey, Cashinova paces to the left and right with a determined demeanor, using the entire space given to him. The crowd hands out cheers of approval after each performance.
Cashinova receives energetic call and responses in sections of his songs from those who know his work. His time is up before we know it and the crowd size splits in half.
Another St. Paul artist, Taylor J. is next. He puts his mouth to the microphone and says, “Who’s getting high out there?” Lungs of those who cheer empty out, creating a haze of white clouds above their heads.
Taylor J. has been rapping since he was eleven years old. He put out a music video for his track “Jumanji”, which was surprisingly retweeted by Kanye West. Keep an eye out for the release of his third album May 31st, titled Roses.
Reid gives me the signal that we need to keep moving and splits. There’s a smell of food, sunscreen, and beer in the air as I walk toward mainstage.
Hosted at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, there was plenty of space for activities like the Familia sponsored skatepark, the car show, art displays, and clothing merchants.
St Paul & Minneapolis Mainstages
I arrive at deM atlaS’s performance just as he’s finishing up. Dang. The first one that got away.
Doja Cat is next on the Saint Paul stage. She sports bright pink hair with matching bikini top, fluorescent orange bottoms, a pink fuzzy coat, and big hoop earrings.
She demands our attention as she raps seductively behind yellow sunglasses. You couldn’t miss her if you tried.
She eventually ditches the fur coat to flaunt her reputable backside. The first few rows of females support her in cheers and screams as she rocks her hips left to right. She faces the back of the stage to give Minnesota a good look at her booty.
Her song, “Juicy” is a popular one with the crowd, with lyrics like “If you could see it from the front, wait ’til you see it from the back.” She’s entertaining, but not my choice of music. We hang out to catch Prof up next.
Soon, Prof’s name is given a great announcing, and rap fanatics crawl toward the stage like moths to a flame. He pops out wearing gold steampunk sunglasses and a shiny gold chain swaying around his neck.
A floral button-up and 1970’s patterned highwater pants, topped it off with shiny orange dress shoes create the image of what is Pooky Baby himself.
Grinning from ear to hear, Prof waves his signature white towel around for his rowdy tunes. A few songs in, Prof introduces the “worlds greatest lover”, his DJ, Willy Wonka. Prof then notifies those who may be uninformed of his hometown and performance authenticity.
My name is Prof, I’m from Minneapolis and I live 10 minutes away from here. I’m rapping on a live microphone my entire set. No background vocals.
Cashinova walks on stage with another blunt behind his right ear and joins Prof for their song, “No”. The crowd knows it well and chants the chorus “No! No! It’s all the same everywhere I go!”
Prof plugs Cashinova’s new record, Big Dragon and asks for applause as Cashinova exits the stage. His next song, “Eulogy” switches up the vibe.
It’s a slower track that he doesn’t rap on, but instead he sings to. He gives his towel a home on his right shoulder while he sways to the tempo of the track.
Similarly to last year’s appearance at Soundset, Prof ends the set with a beach party. A raft is thrown on the hands of the crowd as he climbs aboard. Beachballs ping off the palms and fists of those within reach. His fans are truly satisfied.
We are confirmed for a deM atlaS interview at 3:30 pm and Taylor J. at 4:15. Time to rendezvous at the media tent to prepare.
We chat with deM atlaS about creating art from a place of honesty, the importance of cutting ties with toxic people, and his October 2018 release, Bad Actress.
I hear DMX’s “Where The Hood At” playing in the background. Looks like we’re going to miss him. Beast Coast is finishing their set as we wrap up with Taylor J.
We back our belongings and head back into the GA area to see there is a considerably larger amount of people in the grounds than there were an hour ago.
Exploring The Area
We have some time before our next ‘must see’ performance, so I took the opportunity to check out other areas of the festival. There’s commotion at the Essential Elements stage.
I peaked my head in to see a group of fifteen or so dancers showcasing their skills. Onlookers express their approval in the form of unified “Ohhh!”‘s. I keep walking.
I smell sage in the air. I hear an energetic woman’s voice instructing exercises. I come upon a grassy area where there’s a tent with the name The Zen Bin across the top. It’s yoga on steroids; downward dog meets twerking.
With trap music as their background, participants get a good workout and some spectators get a show they perhaps didn’t expect to see at Soundset.
I check out the car show. I’m not particularly a car guy, but I do appreciate the effort and money put into the vehicles.
Food & Drink
I’ve been living on granola bars from the media tent since 11:00 am. I discover the food and drink vendors run off of a ticket system. Ten tickets for ten dollars only sold in sheets of ten.
Of course, you’re guaranteed to end up with two or three worthless tickets at the end of the night due to cost discrepancies of items.
Cheese pizza and french fries are my only vegetarian options in the main food area. Luckily there’s a vegan food truck just up the hill. I begrudgingly order the $14 nachos and give my other six tickets to a random person in need.
Walking back to the mainstage, Run The Jewels is on now. They pay respects to Rhymesayers and the individuals responsible behind the hard work it’s taken to build the Minnesota rap community.
Run The Jewels flawlessly perform their hits “Legend Has It”, “Close Your Eyes”, “Early”, “Stay Gold” and others.
Killer Mike and EI-P make a statement regarding current debates on abortion as they get a swelling cheer.
Your temple is your body and no government should tell you what you can and can not do with it.
G-Eazy is up; Slicked back hair wearing a leopard button-up and black pants. He says, “I wrote this song with a Minnesota artist, who was the first person to take me on tour. The ten-year-old song “Stay High” begins to play.
Suddenly Minnesota native, MOD SUN hits the stage in a purple suit and unkempt bleach blonde hair. He finishes off the song with G-Eazy and disappears as quickly as he appeared.
G-Eazy panders to the crowd, “I’ve been in love with you for over ten years now, and you never break my heart.”
By 7:00 pm, the sun is making its way down, but the mainstage is set up to where the crowd is looking directly into its powerful beam. Those who have hats lower them. Others squint with their hand up to their foreheads.
Sunburnt and exhausted, many find solace in any shade they can. Hardcore festival-goers are still rocking it hard in the few front rows.
Unwilling to give up their prime real estate, they rely on the courtesy of security for their inconsistent water supply
SZA is up next on the Saint Paul stage. She greets the crowd in a pink long-sleeve, blue jean overalls and timberlands. She serenades the crowd with her smooth R&B vocals.
Her music is considerably mellow compared to the energy from previous mainstage acts, and to be completely honest, I’m bored.
Her fanbase is predominantly women as affirmed by the higher pitched screams from the crowd at the conclusion of each song. She performs a well-sung cover of Sixpence None The Richer’s 1997 hit song, “Kiss Me”.
The sun has finally tucked back behind the trees as temperatures begin to drop. I’m sure a few people are thinking of purchasing a sweatshirt at this time, but everyone holds their ground for Lil’ Wayne’s headlining performance coming up.
Mr. Carter Makes His Appearance
A blacked-out Mercedes Benz limo van pulls up. Photographers line up side stage against the chain link fence with their lenses fixed on the metal staircase leading to the back of the stage, waiting for any sign of Weezy.
Four or five men wearing all black step out and walk up the stairs. Emcee, Sway Calloway loudly asks the crowd if they’re ready for the worlds greatest.
They erupt up in anticipation. Lil’ Wayne soon creeps out of the van accompanied by his DJ, TL Lewis.
He’s is wearing a bright blue crew Gucci sweatshirt, floral backward hat, blue and red joggers. Blinged out from his fingers to his neck, I’d guess he’s easily flaunting half a million dollars worth of diamonds.
Something’s different. He’s standing about four inches taller than usual today, thanks to his thick, white platform sneakers.
Large, tinted squared-off glasses complete the look with bleach blonde dreads dangle on either side of his head. His fingers, wrist and neck shimmer as the stage lights bounce off his diamonds and gold.
Lil’ Wayne has a full live band supporting him, giving his songs a different twist and sometimes making them hard to recognize. This is the first and last performance of the night that was able to utilize stage lights since it wasn’t dark enough outside until recently.
Lil’ Wayne pages through his long list of hit songs with an effortless mumble. The band takes a break and leaves Lil’ Wayne and DJ TL Lewis to fend for themselves.
Mid-song, Lil’ Wayne stops singing and steps toward the DJ platform as if he was trying to hear. He has lost his place in the song and needs a reminder.
Right on cue, DJ TL Lewis activates the backing vocal as a refresher. Lil’ Wayne listens for a few seconds, catches the groove and jumps back on the mic to finish up the rest of the song.
Chance The Rapper’s song, “No Problems”, which features Lil’ Wayne starts up. The crowd gets off their feet for this one. He sheds his shirt showing his tats and six-pack. He’s surprisingly fit.
Fans are at one-hundred percent energy for “Amili” as they chant lyrics back at Lil’ Wayne. “Uproar” is next. The crowd is lit. It’s only 10:30 pm, but it’s time to call it a night.
As a sign-off, Lil’ Wayne says, “Three things before I go. Number one, we all ain’t shit without the love above. Number two, I know I ain’t shit without you. Number three, “I know I ain’t shit without you”.
A ripping solo by his guitarist is the soundtrack to his departure and ours as attendees zombie-walk their way to the exit.
Hats off to Rhymesayers and everyone involved in the making of Soundset 2019. If you missed this year’s festival, we hope to see you at the next one.