Four Years In The Making: The History of Soundset

As summer swiftly approaches, so does the official hip hop kickoff to summer- the legendary Soundset festival. A nine-hour outdoor nonstop hip hop concert packed with over thirty performances on two different stages, not to mention the slew of other feature events, the fourth annual Soundset festival will be put on by Minneapolis-based Rhymesayers Entertainment this Sunday, and is guaranteed not to disappoint.

The genesis of the Soundset legacy began back in 1997, only two years after RSE was first founded, with over three dozen local underground emcees, DJs, and b-boys entertaining a packed South Minneapolis warehouse. The event gained momentum and two years later became Soundset Wednesdays at First Avenue, selling out the Main Room for each event. These events helped shape and support RSE in its early years, and are partially responsible for the formation of one of the most upstanding indie hip hop record labels alive. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that the event we have come to know and love took form, when Rhymesayers put together a flooring lineup for a huge crowd in the Metrodome parking lot. Since then it has been forced to move out to Canterbury Park in Shakopee due to the huge numbers of fans, and today it is one of the most respected independent hip hop festivals in the nation. Those of you who remember a $20 parking lot concert surrounded by the towering cityscape and fellow true hip hop heads may be bitter, but take a minute to appreciate how many more people the music is reaching, and enjoy what is sure to be a nice sunny day.

Soundset Posters Year-For-Year

Despite a venue change out of the city and ticket prices almost doubling, Soundset has retained and upheld the crucial elements of hip hop over the past few years. Some of the features outside of the two music stages that will be included again this year are a custom car show with some of the finest low-riders, hydraulics, paint jobs and rims around with over 100 cars and motorcycles, Familia Skate Shop’s Soundset Showdown with performances from some of the Twin City’s best skaters, and live painting from local graffiti artists. The Red Bull BC One Cypher is sure to display some spectacular b-boy and b-girl performances and battles, and the DJ Spotlight tent and Last of the Record Buyers Production Showcase will feature some incredible scratching and mixing with sets from producers like Evidence and Brandon Allday, a TV show theme song sample challenge, and a feature set from esteemed producer Exile. This year there is also an official Soundset-sponsored afterparty hosted by Brother Ali and featuring DJs from the Twin City’s rowdiest dance party, Get Cryphy, as well as Mike Relm from the Bay and hip hop karaoke.

Though there is still bound to be a disproportionate amount of suburban teenage girls there only to catch a glimpse of Slug or Mac Miller, the lineup is rich with quality hip hop. While the reaction has not been purely favorable, Rhymesayers has made a noticeable effort this year to diversify the musical selection. From emcees and groups representing the underground like Slaughterhouse and Blueprint, to local favorites like Brother Ali and Doomtree, to hip hop veterans like De La Soul and Dilated Peoples, to new school up-and-comers like Mac Miller and Curren$y, to RSE veterans like Sab the Artist and Mr. Gene Poole, to local newcomers like Duenday and Longshot, to all-around crowd-pleasers like Big Boi and Atmosphere, the lineup this year is sure to reach hip hop fans all across the board. Make an effort to visit the Fifth Element stage to see some newcomers- you never know who is going to blow up before next year, so don’t miss your chance to see the next Doomtree or Yelawolf while they’re still at the small stage. As sad as the first Eyedea-less Soundset will be, his legacy will live on through performances by DJ Abilities and Face Candy, so be sure to catch those acts as well. Other notable performers from past years not performing this year include Aesop Rock, Little Brother, The Pharcyde, MF Doom, Freeway, Immortal Technique, El-P, Method Man and Redman, Hieroglyphics, Murs, and Wiz Khalifa among others, so make sure you stay tuned for future events to see these artists, as well as other artists on the cutting edge of hip hop. Lastly, make sure you catch the whole day of performances, not only to get your money’s worth, but to make sure you don’t miss any of these artists. This may be the only place you can see this many quality underground hip hop artists for such a low price, or any price for that matter, so if you can, be there from the minute Abilities plugs in the turntables to the minute the sun sets behind you during one of Atmosphere’s classic Southside anthems.

If you happen to be in the Twin Cities area or within reasonable driving distance on May 29, make sure you come down to Canterbury Park for some of the best hip hop around. Tickets are still available online and online and in Fifth Element, and some will be available at the door. Visit for more information.

Photograph: “Slug @ Soundset ’09” by Jules Ameel.

Category: Music

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