Black Liquid: Minnesota’s Soundset Festival quickly becoming nation’s best hip hop fest

by | Jun 4, 2015 | MUSIC

A year ago I was invited to attend The Soundset Festival, a hip hop festival that goes down in Minnesota every year in May.

A year ago I was invited to attend The Soundset Festival, a hip hop festival that goes down in Minnesota every year in May. It’s something I honestly knew nothing about and what transpired was a series of events that left me as renewed as inspired.

The Soundset Festival is put on by Rhymesayers, an independent hip hop label based in Minnesota, and hosts independent emcees as well as artists from major labels. My invite came from Slug of hip hop group Atmosphere, who is one of the realest people I have ever encountered in this game.

He understands where I’m coming from, and more importantly where we’re trying to go.

I had the chance to go again this year, and I wanted to take Richmond with me. After all, just look at Rhymesayers, who after 20 years of hard work, are more successful than ever, and remain independent. If you do your research, or just ask anyone in Minnesota about the come up of Rhymesayers, they will tell you a story that is not so different from mine. Rhymesayers is built on the premise of turning a lifestyle, a scene, into a platform. We paid a visit to the Rhymesayers’ own very legit Fifth Element store that sells all things hip hop. It’s a hip-hop business, a standard that has been set and upheld, the right way.

Soundset itself is an extension of what they have accomplished, of what many consider to be the impossible. It started out much smaller, from what I heard on the streets of downtown Minneapolis, and now it’s a full weekend affair that draws over 30,000 attendees.

This festival weekend features not only several performers at a pre-party and after party at the legendary venue First Avenue, but at the actual festival over 40 performers between three stages from national acts to up and coming artists.

Besides artists, there’s skateboarding, a car show, merchants, sponsorships, graffiti, DJ sets, dance battles and no violence. Even Sway was there hosting the main stage. Minneapolis-based artist Manny Phesto put it best,” a million dollar event.”

Soundset is the result of relentless, back-breaking and uncompromising work. To say it has paid off would be an understatement, especially since Rhymesayers just announced that the event has grown so much that next year it will be returning to Minneapolis, but this time at the State Fair Grounds.

From the pre-party to the festival, to the after party, every show was not only audibly perfect, but the transitions between sets were seamless. I had BCMusic1st with me, camera in hand, to capture every moment as we literally stood feet away from artists you typically see only on TV or the internet. Yelawolf, Ludacris, Ice Cube, J. Cole, Hopsin, Vic Mensa, Smif N Wessun, Fashawn, the list goes on and on and I feel his photos tell the story and allow you to see what we saw better than I ever could.

What I will tell you though is this: there was a moment during Atmosphere’s set when Slug had this massive sea of people take hold of each other’s hands and raise them in the victory stance and shout “We did it!” after he explained to them that without them and their support, none of this would be happening.

As I stood there all I could think is if you are an artist, if you are a supporter of the music or arts in this city, Soundset and Rhymesayers are proof that what we dream of and work for every long, lonely day or crazy night that we can do this.

We don’t need to be the next Atlanta, New York, Chicago, or the next Minneapolis. We are Richmond, and that is more than enough. With that being said, just as Rhymesayers by stroke of luck and irrefutably by strength of effort and determination without hesitation, it is up to us.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner




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