No Kiddie Pool for Indie Hip-Hop: Rhymesayers Make Serious Waves with Soundset ’09

Fifteen thousand hip-hop heads is a decent showing for most mainstream artists. Fifteen thousand screaming fans is an absolute success for the independent scene, and that’s how many people showed up to nod along with their favorite acts at SoundSet ’09. After the smashing success of 08’s indie hip hop festival, the inevitable outcome was a repeat occurrence; the second installment of Soundset took place in Shakopee, MN on May 24th. Both events were hosted by Rhymesayers Entertainment and headlined by independent heavyweights Slug and Ant, also known as Atmosphere.

The set list was impressive and spanned coast to coast with independent musicians from all across the country. There was a great showing for both Rhymesayers acts and the state of Minnesota as a whole; Minneapolis has come to be considered by many enthusiasts as a Mecca for independent hip hop music. Doomtree was embraced thoroughly with the signature hand wings symbol aflight during Lazerbeak-and-Paper-Tiger-produced performances by Mike Mictlan, Sims, and a packed POS show that featured an appearance by Dessa. Unknown Prophets were also at home amongst their constituents along with other hometown heroes such as I Self Devine and Eyedea & Abilities showcasing many new pieces from their upcoming album By The Throat.

Out-of-towners including Cunninglynguists, Blue Scholars, MF DOOM (or simply DOOM), and Immortal Technique helped pack both stages with beats, cuts, guts and rhymes galore. To say this was a dream come true for followers of independent acts would be a grotesque understatement—just check out the full set list. Sideshow attractions consisted of an all-day B-Boy dance-off competition with mixing from plenty of well-known spinners, a skate show and demo put on by Third Lair, and a large assortment of custom cars on display. Not only did Soundset pack ‘em in, it kept ‘em entertained all day long.
Somewhere around the time Atmosphere was performing the last song of the evening something truly amazing came to me. I stood reciting the lines of “Always Coming Back Home” along with an elbow-to-elbow crowd of thousands of fans standing all around me. No two were the same: Some wore faded Etnies and shirts emblazoned with their favorite rock group, others wore LaCosta polos and flip-flops. Females in sunglasses and spaghetti straps stood belting lyrics alongside dread-headed hippies clad in Rastafarian colored apparel. We all echoed the words of a thirty-something, self-made celebrity with our backs to a slow-fading sunset glaring red and orange across our faces. I took a moment to look around in a gaze of realization and tried to grasp the true meaning of the moment.

The very essence of independent hip-hop—by the every-man for the every-man—had come full circle and was embodied in the existence of this festival. I wonder if this is how Sean Daley feels each time he looks out at a crowd of fans that ooze enthusiasm for the words that depict his life story.

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