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