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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! 

  

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A Picture Perfect Day in LA

Last month, my friends at Rhymesayers Entertainment invited me out to the Camp Flog Naw Carnival at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Growing up a Raiders fan, I’ve always wanted to see the legendary arena. Sure, it wasn’t an actual game & sure we’d be out in the parking lot area, but hey, it was going to be fun either way.
Camp Flog Naw has hosted this Hip Hop Carnival for the past three years. This year’s line-up was insane. With artists ranging in styles, ages & hometowns from from coast-to-coast, the event had acts for any and all hip hop heads in attendance.
I arrived in time to catch some of my favorites on stage…Step Brothers.

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After their set, I met up with Ashanti to thank him for the generous invite.

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He told me to head backstage where he’d meet me in a bit. That’s where all the magic happened..!
I walk around, greeting some of my favorite familiar faces. Some of the guys from Rhymesayers (who I met at Soundset) and, of course, some artists fall into that category. I love seeing them all behind the scenes, when they’re just “hanging out” with their peers. It’s beautiful to watch the interactions.
My heart is thrilled when I spot my friend, Evidence… Because he’s seated at a table that’s hosting pure Instagram Royalty. Sure, I want to play it cool and not show too much of my giddiness… But I can’t help but be excited when I notice WatchxWitness (13th Witness & Jason Goldwatch), Madchild, and others…
I carry on a casual conversation with Ev & Madchild. When Madchild asks me to snap a group photo of the guys…

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I see my opportunity, so, before the moment escapes me, I give in and ask for pictures, too! I start by asking Ev to pose with me. I know him, so, it’s not weird… But here’s the kicker… I ask the legendary photographer & Instagram King, Tim McGurr aka 13th Witness to take the photo. It’s seriously an honor. I love every picture that he (and his girlfriend, Monica Alcarez) posts.
Ev turns to me and asks if I know who that is… I respond with “Yes, that’s the reason I asked him to take the picture.” Ha! He laughs & trades places with Tim. Now I have another Instagram legend (and amazing “Director of Photography“) taking my picture with King Witness himself. I’m stoked!

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I decide to keep it going at this point… I’m asking one genius after another to snap my picture & to use their talent to capture my moment with each of them:
So, after 13th Witness took my picture with Ev, & Ev took my picture with 13th Witness, Ev snapped me with Madchild, Jason Goldwatch caught me with Murs, and Misha Louy shot a few fun frames of me with Jason Goldwatch!

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I got to chat with Jason for a bit and gush over how much I love his work. He captures human beings from all over the world in the most beautiful, authentic way. He captures exactly what I see when I’m traveling the world… unique, wonderful people, all different, yet all the same… He captures a true sense of unity. His work is moving.
I asked him if he ever felt weird taking candid shots of strangers… His response, “I got over that a long time ago.”
*Check out one of my all time favorite Jason Goldwatch videos here.

After my personal photo-shoot, I took some time to walk around the festival to catch some of the live musical acts.

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Locals, Grouch and Eligh made me feel right at home.

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Mac Miller gave me a chance to celebrate my (part-time) PA residency.

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Rick Ross had me & the guys dancing to his hits. Tyler, The Creator (the mastermind & founder of the carnival) made us all feel like kids when he took the stage. His set was a huge bedroom with a ginormous bed. There was definitely lots of jumping around and it felt like play time when beach balls were being tossed around in the crowd.
We stuck around to watch a huge chunk of headliner, Pharell Williams, set. He hit us with a real show. His amazing dancers and the N.E.R.D. reunion kept the crowd thoroughly entertained. It was a great festival, overall. I had a blast.

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After the festival, I made my way to Santa Monica with Ashanti, Dem Atlas & his DJ, Justin. I had great time chatting with the guys. They’re all hip hop geniuses & I love their energy.
One of my favorite moments of the night was when I was talking to Josh (Dem Atlas, 22 years old) about his success & how he deals with the guilt of being away from his family. This is something I’ve been experiencing lately… Fulfilling my dreams, and missing precious time with those you love dearly. The answer that this young man gave me was mind-blowing:
What keeps me going is that I know I’m doing all this for them. I’m not doing this for me. You know, I’m doing this for my mom, for my family, for the youth… When I realized that I could actually have whatever I want, that the power is within me, all I could think was, “Ok, what’s next?” Today, I saw so many artists that I admire & I got to talk to them & let them know that I love & appreciate their work…then, I turned around & some kid would be saying the the same thing to me. Like I’m that to them. It’s beautiful!
Well put, young sir. Well put!
We shared a moment discussing The Doors, Jim Morrison, Southern California, music, love & the power within… It was the perfect way to end a perfect day… Well, that & tacos! 😉 Thanks, Ashanti.

Thank you for taking the time to read my about my adventures. If you’re reading this, know that I appreciate you. Now, what are your dreams? What’s your story? What’s next for you?

Special thanks to my friends at Rhymesayers, Ashanti, Siddiq, and Skye, for feeding my obsession of hip hop & amazing human beings and for introducing me to people that I connect with and adore like Dem Atlas, Clint Schaff, and so many others linked to the RSE family. It’s an honor to feel so welcomed. Thank you!