Tag Archives: DJ Babu

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! 

  

Dilated Peoples -Directors of Photography

It’s no secret that I love music. I’ve always dreamed of being in the studio with my favorite artists, witnessing and celebrating those magical moments of genius. Well, my friends…that’s another dream that has finally come true for me!
I first met Evidence in November 2011, after one of his solo shows in San Diego. He’s such a cool, humble guy & anyone who’s ever been in his presence can tell you that he instantly makes you feel like you’re life-long friends. Over the years, I’ve seen him perform in different cities (& countries) as a solo artist, as one half of Step Brothers, & of course, as one third of the legendary Dilated Peoples.
I found myself in Los Angeles earlier this year… & was in communication with Ev. He was in the studio working on some finishing touches for the highly anticipated Directors of Photography with DJ Babu. I was elated when he extended an invitation to let me watch the masters at work.
Babu is on his way out when I arrive, so, I only get to chat with him briefly. Ev is sitting in his chair, at the controls, going over some mixes. I’m so excited to hear the tiny previews of the tracks! People have been waiting a long time for this album, and here I am, experiencing it behind the scenes, with one of the creators!
Ev turns to me & welcomes me warmly…then, he asks if I’d be willing to get on the mic to say a few things… Um, Yes, please! I’d be honored.
I step into the booth, put the headphones on, pick up the mic & take direction. He has me play around with accents & I say some stuff (faintly) in the background. I take on my latest character, a South Philly girl. He laughs. I’m having fun with it… and even though you really won’t hear it when you play the introduction, I know it’s there.
Next, Ev plays a snippet for me and he directs me to “just talk,” the whole time. Since I’m a professional at making onboard announcements, and I know that the guys always reference flying, I say what comes to mind…
“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Los Angeles, where the local time is 10:25 (*side note: my birthday is October 25th). For your safety, please remain seated with your seat belt fastened and keep the aisle clear until we are parked at the gate. The captain will turn off the fasten seat belt sign when it is safe to stand…”
I think Ev is amused. He looks up at me through the glass & says, “That’s perfect. You killed it!”
This is definitely a moment in time I’ll never forget… I’m in the studio, with one of my favorite artists, hearing that he likes what I just did in the mic. *Insert fireworks.* 😉
You can hear the finished product for yourself at the end of number 14, “Trouble.” It’s a perfect segway into “L.A. River Drive,” a song produced by Alchemist, featuring another Los Angeles native, Sick Jacken (who I wrote about here). There is a reoccurring line on the track. “From the time I ride out, ’til the time I’m home… I pray for a safe travel, God, while I’m gone.” This is something I can totally relate to.
In my effort to fully support the album, I caught a couple shows while the guys were on tour recently. First, when I had the opportunity to work “Paris, first class international.” (Who caught that movie reference)? Lol. Anyway, I caught the guys Live on Stage at La Plage de Glazart‘s pop-up beach during my Layover.
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The venue was set up for a total Sunday Funday… sand, lawn chairs & open air. I mingled with the fans and got hear about how much the guys are loved & respected in France. I felt so at home with my fellow hip hop heads. We laughed, we drank, we discussed our love for Dilated Peoples, we enjoyed the music together… And, of course, we took pictures…
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The crowd was live & the guys put on a great show. They started with some of their new work, went through some classics, & even took turns doing some solo stuff. It was supposed to be a rainy day in Paris, but when Ev performed his happy hit, “Chase the Clouds Away,” the climate adhered the commands of The Weatherman & the drizzle stopped. It ended up being a sunny day, after all.
I had the opportunity to chat with both, Ev & Rakaa, individually, for a bit after the show. I remember Rakaa telling me to keep doing what I’m doing & to always go for things outside of my comfort zone. It meant a lot, coming from him. He’s definitely someone who knows something about chasing your dreams & creating a life you love.
We talked travel, we talked family, we talked music. We even talked about some young, up & coming female rappers that we both respect… (I mentioned the ladies in previous posts here & here).
My interaction with Ev definitely kept the same themes. Travel, music… Oh, & of course, photography.
His outlook on music & the industry is refreshing, because he never really has anything negative to say. He respects that artists do what they do & that fans like what they like. Of course, he has his opinions, but he’s great about not bad-mouthing anybody. As for his personal style, when it comes to his music, and even his photos, it’s quite obvious that he’s meticulous about everything he puts out.
Later, I caught the guys in Philadelphia for their Word of Mouth tour with Jurassic 5 at Penn’s Landing. I was lucky enough to chat with guys for a bit after catching a dope show with a great view, on a beautiful day in the city I now call home.

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The guys (and the team at Rhymesayers Entertainment) teamed up with Pandora and did their fans a huge favor by letting everyone preview the entire album a week before it dropped. I listened to it over and over as I anxiously awaited my pre-ordered (autographed) physical copy to arrive from Fifth Element.
Directors of Photography is a masterpiece, in my opinion. The creative packaging amazed me.

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Rather than finding the traditional booklet inside the album, you open an envelope that includes individual Polaroid-like photos. The first one is a group photo – Dilated Peoples (Directors of Photography).

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You’ll find a recap of the project, including credits when you flip it over. Next, are a few photos of each of the guys where they share stories about each other on the back, along with their “Thank Yous.” (I gotta draw special attention to Ev’s… don’t forget about the rest of crew next time). 😉

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Each song also has it’s own photo with full lyrics and credits on the reverse side. Nice touch, guys.
The album definitely takes you on a journey. I’d compare it to catching a flight…
The Intro is similar to the boarding process. You’re excited as you enter the aircraft. You’re greeted by the crew. You’re not sure what to expect, but you know something great is up ahead. Ladies and gentleman, welcome aboard flight 812, with service to Los Angeles.
Once you’ve settled into your seat and you’re ready for departure, the crew gives their demonstration and sets the tone with Directors. The opening line is actually about taking flight. The track is perfect for wheels up, as you begin your ascent. You’re on your way now, starting this adventure with the Dilated Crew.
As you reach the sky during your climb, Cut My Teeth (produced by The Alchemist), and the Defari Interlude (featuring Defari) give you endless snapshots and vivid images of the guys’ lives & the city they’re from, from their individual points of view. The Dark Room (featuring Vince Staples, with production by Twiz The Beat Pro) has metaphors and lyrical content that will keep you guessing, like looking out the window, down to little squares & shapes on the land below.
Once you’ve leveled off with Good As Gone (produced by DJ Premier), the onboard service is about to begin. Choose your favorite beverage & be prepared to select your meal as the guys serve up stories of their journey. “The more that I roam, the more that I’m free.” (Ev) “Sat in coach and studied business before my first class.” (Rakaa)
Now you’re approaching cruising altitude, where it should be a smooth ride, but, for your safety, the captain keeps the seat belt sign on…and it’s a good thing he does, because songs like Show Me the Way (featuring Aloe Blacc, produced by Jake One) & Figure It Out will hit you like unexpected turbulence and may knock you out of your seat!
Things smooth out with Let Your Thoughts Fly Away (produced by Diamond D.), but you’ll notice that you can’t keep your head from bobbing due to the light chop of Century of the Self (featuring Catero, produced by Oh No).
The captain makes an announcement that makes you laugh a little with the @MrEvidence Interlude. You are now free to move about the cabin. Enjoy The Reversal like you enjoy a nice stretch.
It’s been a great flight thus far & the crew presents you with & Opinions May Vary (featuring Gangrene) & Trouble to keep you satisfied, just like the arrival service when you begin your initial descent. (*Here’s where you get to hear me in action).
You’re landing now, but “you must remain seated until we are parked at the gate.” The crew welcomes you with L.A. River Drive and when the aircraft doors open, you catch a breath of fresh air with The Bigger Picture, the final track on the album (featuring Krondon, produced by 9th Wonder).
You have arrived. Thank you for joining along on this journey… I hope you enjoy your stay here, or wherever your final destination may be. 😉

I’ll be catching the guys this weekend in Munich for the Streetlife Blockparty. You can catch them in a city near you (or you can catch a flight and catch them in a city far away), by checking tour dates here.

Purchase your copy of Directors of Photography here, on Google Play, through Fifth Element, on Amazon, or purchase it on iTunes to download bonus tracks Times Squared and Hallelujah (featuring Fashawn, Rapsody, Domo Genesis, Vinnie Paz & Action Bronson).

*Special Thanks to Dilated Peoples, Evidence, Rakaa, and DJ Babu for all the love they showed me at their shows and in the studio. Also, thank you to the team at Rhymesayers Entertainment. Shout out to Eddie Sancho, Federico “C Sik” Lopez, and everyone else I’ve met through this project. Great work, everyone. I’m truly honored to be a part of this!