Tag Archives: aesop rock

Rhymesayers 20 Year Anniversary 

Last month I got to celebrate with my Rhymesayers friends for their 20th Anniversary at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I’ll admit, in 1995 – when RSE was getting started on building what would one day become my favorite independent hip hop record label – the only hip hop I was listening to was from the West Coast, and my 12 year old self was more concerned with singing Selena songs more than anything. But, just because I was late to the party, doesn’t mean that I haven’t been having a good time… 

I was honored to be invited to this celebration. My only experiences in the city of Minneapolis all involve Rhymesayers moments… & I feel so lucky for that! 

I get to the venue a little early to pick up my ticket. I hang around and say hi to some familiar faces before doors open. When I make it inside, I’m so excited! I want to enjoy every minute of this seven-hour joyous occasion.  

 

Photo by Beth Saravo

  
I join some of my favorite Rhymesayers family members stage-side to watch the show. I’m pretty excited when Los Nativos are on. With their Spanish lyrics and Aztec dancers, I feel my culture being proudly represented. 

  

 
  
 

Photos by Cory Dewald

 
 
The show is moving on swiftly and I’m standing amongst some of the upcoming acts. I make my rounds to thank everyone for allowing me to be a part of this. It feels so good to be welcomed by the creators of the legendary label. 
I walk around the arena to watch the show from different angles. From side stage, to my assigned seat, to the engineer booth, it’s all amazing. I like to watch the entire production come together; it fascinates me to catch people (all people) in their element.  
Of course, my immediate attention goes to the performers, but watching Siddiq, J Bird & Slug enjoy the fruits of their labor is just as exciting. It’s beautiful to catch the look on the faces of some of the Rhymesayers artists, while they enjoy their label mates’ sets. I’m greatly entertained by Randy controlling & perfecting the sound. I’m in awe when I spot some of my favorite photographers capturing glorious moments that they’ll share on their websites & Instagram posts. For me, Sarah Dope, Cory Dewald, Van Styles & Beth Saravo are just as big as the stars on the mic.

 

Sarah Dope. Photo by Cory Dewald

  

Van Styles. Photo by Cory Dewald

 
I turn into a total geek when I catch these behind the scenes moments. When I make my way to the friends & family room, I notice that my dear friends have provided us with delicious snacks & plenty of libations. That’s not the best part, though. There’s a door connecting to the media room. It’s buzzing with all the social network stars, afore mentioned, who are working hard to capture moments of the big day. This is where the magic happens. These are the people documenting the night for all the world to see! With laptops, cameras, chargers, and electrical wiring all around, it’s thrilling to see these geniuses at work.   

 

A shot I got at Beth Saravo’s work station.


Around the corner, there’s an interview room. Artists are escorted to & from the exclusive area, while passing by friends & family who are taking a break from the bustling crowd. I dream of being the one behind those doors, asking all the in-depth questions on camera…someday! 

  
I spend my day bouncing around, taking in as much as I possibly can. When I make my way stageside again, I notice headliner, Slug, of Atmosphere.  I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with him casually on a few occasions. Feeling nostalgic, due to the whole “anniversary” thing, I want to share my first Atmosphere memory with Sean. When I go to greet him, he smiles, gives me a hug & for some reason, I chicken out.  
Even though he’s standing alone, and  I have his attention, something inside tells me not to bother him with my story.   I’m sure he hears stuff like this all the time... 

So, I keep the story of how 19 year-old me used to roam the streets of Modesto, CA at night, with loaded spray cans, good friends, and graffiti dreams to myself. “Star,” would be hit up on walls for all to see & I’d be bumping Atmosphere, “And this goes to those who tag and paint walls with aerosol…” 
I’ve never quite remembered what the name of the song was, but who better to ask, than Slug himself? Of course, he’d give me the answer that so many of my fellow Atmosphere fans have failed to provide. But, like I said, my self-doubt got in the way, and all I did was use my reoccurring dialogue. 

“Hi. How are you? So good to see you again!” 

Then, I walked away, hoping not bother him.  
The night goes on, acts continue to grace the stage & move the crowd. Dem Atlas blows me away.  

 

Photos by Cory Dewald

 
  Grieves has me enthralled. 

Photo by Cory Dewald


 
  Prof makes me jump to my feet & party hard with his energetic stage presence.  

 

Photos by Cory Dewald

  
 I’m amazed by DJ Abilities & touched by his tribute to Eyedea.   

Photo by Cory Dewald


 
As always, Aesop astounds me.  

Photo by Cory Dewald

   
Dilated makes me proud to be from California. 

Photo by Cory Dewald

 
I’m wrapped up in every minute. 
I enjoy the show with some of my favorite Rhymesayers (associated) ladies – the Glam Dolls, friends, family & significant others.  

  

We step outside for fresh air, after Brother Ali’s set and hurry back in for some water & to catch Atmosphere as they close the show.   

Photo by Cory Dewald

 
I’m walking through the crowd, floor level when I spot special guest, Spawn, reunited on stage with Slug, performing the song that introduced me to Atmosphere & Rhymesayers as a whole. 

Photo by Cory Dewald

I could kick myself for not telling Slug about it when I had the chance… Oh how different that interaction & the entire night could have gone…

I could picture it already.  Slug would go all Betty Wright (Tonight is the Night) & say something along the lines of

“Ladies & gentlemen, I know a lot of you have been rockin’ with us for a long time. I know you may have seen us live before, but tonight’s set will be a little different. We want to bring back some memories. Everybody, think back to your very first time… When did you first fall in love with Atmosphere? What about Rhymesayers? Well, there’s a lady here tonight that clearly recollects her first time, and she shared it with me earlier…  

And it goes a little something like this…!” 

 

Photo by Cory Dewald

 
Haha! I know, I know… I have a wild imagination. But who knows? Maybe it would’ve happened… 

   

  

    

Photos by Cory Dewald

  
After the confetti fell, gratitude was deeply expressed, and the lights went on, people made their way back to their cars, trains & other forms of transportation to take home with them the warm memories & great feelings about what took place at Target Center that night.  
I headed backstage to check in with friends. When I shared my Slug story with Van Styles, he compared it to the feeling he gets after missing a shot & he encouraged me to always go for it & never hold back… “Because you just never know.” Then, he graciously invited me to Atmosphere’s green room, to tell the story to Sean, myself. I got there in time to watch Slug make his way out, & like my moment, he had escaped. 
On my way to party the night away with some of my favorite people, I ran into Ant & shared the short version of my story with him. It was then that I was finally told the name of that song: Multiples. Boom! Life was good. 
The rest of night was a collection of stories & celebrations with my RSE friends. We partied until we could party no more. Those are the kind of nights I live for!   

 

*Special Thanks to Ashanti for always taking care of me. To Siddiq, J Bird, and the entire Rhymesayers family & extended family for always making “Minnesota Nice” such a real thing in my life. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude in words. To Skye, Jeff, Sarah, Grieves, DJ Fundo, Van Styles, Tanya, Teresa, Jasmine & friends for making my night a fun-filled experience to remember. And, of course, to Beth Saravo and Cory Dewald for collaborating with me & sharing their masterpieces to bring this post to life! 

 

Photo by Beth Saravo

 
Thank you all so much. I’ll see you at SoundSet 2016! 

Just Like Music – Soundset 2015

Well, leave it to music to get me writing again…

This past weekend I got to experience my favorite music festival for the second time.  SoundSet is the largest hip-hop festival in the nation.  When I was personally invited to return to the sold out event, I was elated.  I had invites from some of my flight attendant friends to go on some pretty amazing trips over Memorial Day Weekend, but honestly, when it comes to SoundSet, (like the song says) “there’s no place I’d rather be…”

It’s Sunday morning, May 24th, 2015, and I’m waking up, in recovery mode from the SoundSet pre-party at First Avenue the night before.  The oh-so wonderful Ashanti, welcomed me to Minneapolis like he’d done before, with drinks, live music and great people.  Despite the hangover, my adrenaline is rushing.  I am so excited because today is Soundset Sunday… my favorite day of the year! 

I know the weather’s going to be wet and probably a little chilly compared to what it was like last year,  but nothing can keep the smile from my face and the excitement out of my heart for what’s about to happen today.  The entire time I’m getting ready I’m singing and dancing.  I’m looking forward to this amazing lineup

  
 

My buddy, Brandon, who I met last year, is like my personal chauffeur for the day.  We arrive at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN, a little before noon – just in time to catch the opening acts.  Last year I slept in a little and missed the early birds, so this year I want to take full advantage of the entire day.  I instantly realize that I am a little under dressed (and unprepared) for the weather, so I head over to the Rhymesayers merchandise tent to cop me one of those sick waterproof windbreakers.  I run into Alicia and Harold, who I met last year, and I know today is going to be filled with reunions and familiar faces.  

 

Riding around in style with Harold, the meet & greet king.

 
As I’m walking the grounds, peeping out each of the stages, different tents,  the skate ramp, the car show & the graffiti wall,  I notice that Peri Duo has a free charging station set up.  I’ll definitely be back.  But, for now, it’s time to head back to the main stage to catch deM atlaS.  Although I’ve met him personally, this is the first time I got to see him perform, and man, can this guy move a crowd! He’s so free on stage and his energy is huge. 

  
  
  

 

It was such an honor meeting one of my all time favorite photographers, @VanStyles. This guy is an artist. We chatted about how his mom used to work in the friendly skies, too… & I got a sneak peek at one of his upcoming projects. Be sure to check out some of his stunning shots from @Soundset on Instagram!

 
Next on my list – and on the lineup -was Aesop Rock with Rob Sonic and DJ Abilities.  These guys were so much fun to watch and I absolutely love Aesop’s voice. 

  
I walk the grounds once again to charge my phone and take a break from the main stage.  On my way, I hit the Fifth Element tent and I get to enjoy G.L.A.M. and Sean Anonymous

  
Both artists were new to me & both of them had my full attention.  Dessa took the main stage as I played in the crowd & left my phone to charge.  I got to visit with the guys from Peri & catch up with Clint, who I met at Camp Flog Gnaw

I caught a piece of Clockwork Indigo’s set from the side stage & decided I needed a little break.  I head backstage for some water & a delicious Glam Doll donut.  I know there’s a big line up still ahead & it’s going to be a busy day. 

I get my phone in time to catch Dilated Peoples.  As most of you already know, these guys are some of my all-time favorites… 

  
  
Soundset has this amazing concept for their main stage – the East Stage and the West Stage.  The stages are connected, standing side-by-side, facing the same crowd.  Each performance is alternated between the two stages, leaving no down time between acts.  Genius! 

I have now discovered the middle section between the two stages.  This is where the crew is hard at work, making sure that the stage is set & sound quality is up to par for every artist.  

   
 

  

I don’t know it yet, but my itinerary & plan to see certain artists on other stages is about to go out the window… I’m standing next to the host, Sway Calloway, and we start making friendly conversation.  

  
YelaWolf is performing “Pop the Trunk,” with a full band, and the bass has me in a trance.  I’m seduced by the vibrations and I can’t take my eyes off of him or his white pointy cowboy boots.  

 When the song ends, Sway’s voice comes from over my shoulder, bringing me back to reality with my exact thoughts, “That was hard!”  I told him he read my mind; we definitely shared a moment.

After Yelawolf’s crazy set – which included him tossing a barstool off the stage for people to crowd surf on,  and chucking his microphone into the audience – I can hear Logic testing the mic. I’m pumped.  When he rushes the stage, I see 30,000 people go crazy. 

  

Logic announces that this is his first music festival ever, and it seems that he’s just as excited as everyone else to be there. It was such a good vibe when he was on stage. Girls were up on shoulders, screaming, declaring their love & practically pulling their hair out from all the excitement.  It was so beautiful to watch.  These fans go hard. 

At this point, even I’m drenched from the rain.  I rush for a quick hot drink before Ludacris takes over.  

   

It’s Evidence (behind) the scene…

I rush back to my spot between the two main stages, sipping my green tea.  Sway turns to me and says, “What’s up with the tea, tho?”  And ladies & gentlemen, I shared my tea with Sway!  This is when I’m certain that I’m not going to make it to any of the other tents for the rest of the day. I had found my home for day, backstage, between the East and West main stages, near the soundboards, here at SoundSet… 

The way Yelawolf had me in a trance, Ludacris had me absolutely mesmerized.  The moment I heard Blueberry Yum Yum, I lost myself.  I was standng in the rain, dancing & reciting every lyric. It was so nostalgic for me.  I flashed back to when I first purchased that CD, listening to it with my ex in Los Angeles, in his beat up Honda Civic – and now, I was standing backstage, watching Ludacris perform it up close and personal.  It was insane! 

  
The show went on, as did the rain, and Big Sean didn’t let technical difficulties stand in the way of his performance

  

  
Hometown heroes, Atmosphere, never fail to impress. They always have so much fun on stage and they always bring a sense of unity.   

 Slug reminds everyone that we all look a mess, after a day out in the rain, and he asks everyone to join hands.  I’m in awe… 

Watching Atmosphere move the crowd with @SarahDope and @VanStyles . Photo by @corydewaldphotography

And then, my phone dies… 

Now it’s time for Ice Cube to take the stage.  I’m excited!  I turn to Sway and say, “Oh man, my phone died.”  To which Sway replies, “Oh darn.  Now I guess you’re going to just have to watch it with your own eyes & enjoy it the way it was meant to be.”  Ha! Touché, Mr. Calloway, touché. 

It’s surreal.  I have this pretty exclusive view and I’m dancing & rapping lyrics with Sway.  Talk about “Today was good day!” 😉 

I’m surrounded by a pretty elite crowd and at one point, I remember turning to Rhymesayers Co-founder, Siddiq, to hug him, to thank him & to tell him that I love him & this festival. 

 

@SiddiqRSE. Excuse the blur. Photo by Sway, before my phone died…

 
Ice Cube’s set was full of nostalgic moments for me.  Growing up in California, N.W.A. was definitely one of my first introductions to hip hop.  I was remembering some of my cousins (Vero & Victor, you already know), my dad (his Lowrider days and the famous green Impala), & my sister (the Up In Smoke Tour). I remembered dancing to Bop Gun on repeat in my room as a kid… & it was as if pieces of entire life, my family, and friends were all there with me in that moment.  It was beautiful. 

After all that excitement, my special spot on stage got shut down as J.Cole prepared to close the show.  I played in the crowd for a bit, before nightfall.  I wanted to feel all that energy up close & personal.  I applaud each and every one of those soaking wet fans

I dance around all the people as I make my way to the side stage just in time for J.Cole’s  final few songs.  He’s so charismatic and funny.  The rain still hasn’t let up, the sun’s gone down and everyone is still having a blast.  

When it’s time to say good night, I stick around for a bit, to wait for Brandon.  I didn’t see him much throughout the day, and because of this, my GoPro stayed in the car. Oh well.  Here’s to living in the moment, Sway! 

We close the night at the after party at First Avenue with more amazing performances and wonderful people.  This is when you can sense the team’s relief and everyone is celebrating a job well done. 

 
   

Bravo to the hardworking crew.  Bravo to alll the performers.  Bravo to all those die-hard fans in the audience who stood out there in the rain.  Bravo to Rhymesayers Entertainment for another epic SoundSet

*Special thanks to everyone at Rhymesayers for teaching me all about “Minnesota Nice,” and for always making me feel like part of the family.  This was such an amazing experience.  I love hip hop, I love all of you and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year! 

  
Catch SoundSet 2016 on Sunday, May 29th, at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. 

Here’s some more fun SoundSet coverage (and amazing photos) from a couple cool guys that I got to hang with… Andres Tardio – MTV News and Van StylesThe Hundreds.  Also,  shout out the the social media queen and super star, Sarah Dope, for all her amazing work. 

For all the latest news, download the SoundSet app here.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope this post left a good song in your heart!