Have I ever explained to you how amazing the Twin Cities are? I’m sure I have time and time again but let me do it one more time. The Twin Cities are so amazing that Saint Paul hosts one of the country’s biggest hip-hop/rap festivals at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and I am so spoiled that I get to go year after year after year. Even after multiple years of going to this festival, it never gets old and I always find something new to check out or someone new to watch. This year was no different. Sure, there were my tried and true favorites but I was able to catch some names I didn’t know but ended up falling in love with. With over 40 performers throughout the day, there’s no way to catch absolutely everyone but I feel like I did the rounds and got the most out of my day.
Taylor Bennett- I was a bit confused when Taylor took the stage. I felt like I had seen him before but after hearing the chatter around me, it all made sense. Taylor is Chance the Rapper’s younger brother but they may as well be twins as far as looks go. That being said, Taylor holds his own and is clearly carving a notch for himself in the scene. With energy sky high and his vocals coming through clear as day, Taylor blew me away and I can’t wait to catch him again.
Cashinova- A local favorite of mine, Cashinova played on one of the smaller stages set back a ways from the main stage and area but that didn’t stop an excited and anxious crowd from gathering to catch him play. With familiar songs and a familiar over the top sense of energy, Cashinova proved yet again why is one of the best players in the local game right now.
Buddy- Buddy literally blasted onto the stage and instantly jumped into a hell of a set. The Compton based rapper may only be 25 years old but his performance felt well put together and professional. Buddy is one of those acts that I had never heard of prior to this year’s festival but will definitely have my eye on from here on out.
B.A.G.- Female empowerment was the name of the game when it came to Blimes & Gifted Gab’s collaborative set. Splitting the set between each woman’s solo stuff and then a couple of songs of collaboration, I loved the vibe that was coming off the stage. Very “stay true to yourself” and “be yourself”, there was something so genuine and lovely about their set.
Dem Atlas- Another hometown hero, the way this guy blends punk, rock, and rap to create his unique sound is one of my favorite things. Always performing with energy as high as his impressive jumps, it’s just a matter of time before he’s closing out a festival like this one. Dem Atlas is one of the performers that I got to meet backstage and he humored my one interview question of “If you were to rob a bank, what would your getaway song be?” The answer? “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix.
Epic Beard Men- Definitely the highlight of my day. B. Dolan and Sage Francis are two of my favorite independent rappers on the planet and to see them perform together is definitely a moment I had been waiting for since I woke up. Politically charged but also full of laughs from these goofy men, every song they performed was on point and it was obvious that their short set definitely packed a punch and got people talking.
Doja Cat- I saw Doja Cat before I could hear her when walking back to the mainstages after Epic Beard Men. Looking just like an anime character, I was instantly drawn in by the pink hair, sparkly pink and bright orange outfit (or lack there of) but it was her music that made me stand there and continue watching. Sure, there’s some controversy surrounding this performer but there’s no denying her power to bring a crowd together.
Prof- Is it really Soundset if Prof doesn’t perform? (Not a complaint at all) Another hometown hero, the red carpet was literally rolled out on top of the rowdy crowd for Prof to enter the stage from. Sure, Prof is known from his quirky dance moves and his love for inflatable boats that he rides around the audience in but there’s no hiding the talent that this man has. From fast rapper to operatic styled vocals, Prof truly can do it all and there’s clearly no stopping him from going all the way to the top.
DMX- I can’t believe I finally saw DMX live but what’s more insane is the way that his voice is actually the way it is on recordings. It was obvious that DMX was a favorite of the audience and also a dream come true for them just by the way they were going insane throughout his set. From hits to b-sides, his set may have been shorter than his typical headlining slot but it was definitely mightier than many of the other sets throughout the day. Although one of the biggest names of the day, DMX found the time to take a couple of pictures with some of his youngest fans. Seeing that made me appreciate this man on a whole new level.
Beast Coast (featuring Joey Bada$$, Flatbush Zombies, The Underachievers, Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, and Powers Pleasant)- The stage was definitely full of both people and energy when it came to this set. Familiar with some of the participants on their own, the blend of everyone’s different style on stage created a very fun atmosphere that had the audience jumping to every single beat. The performers were having such a good time that they went over their set time but I don’t think there was a single complaint from the crowd.
Lil Nas X and Dababy- Honestly I wasn’t shocked when I got the notification that Lil Uzi Vert had cancelled last minute being that that’s what he did two years ago. What did surprise me was that Soundset was able to get two of the hottest rappers out there to cover for him. The audience went absolutely insane as Lil Nas X performed his hit song “Old Town Road” but after performing just that song and one other, he was replaced by another up and comer- Dababy. Dababy kept the energy high as he rounded out the abandoned set time.
G-Eazy- Love him or hate him, he’s here to stay and his Soundset performance just solidified that. The only performer to have a set that came complete with pyrotechnics, G-Eazy praised Minnesota and the Twin Cities hip-hop scene multiple times and for good reason. He clearly has a lot of love for these beautiful cities and even brought out hometown hero Mod Sun for a track. His music may lean more to the pop side of things but there’s no denying his talent when it comes to spitting lines with a sense of passion.
Sza- A performer that has taken the scene by storm, I was so excited to finally be able to catch her live and she did not disappoint. Her style can not be put into a box. Soulful, jazzy but also very rap, her set seemed to go by in the blink of an eye but I think that’s just due to how amazing it was. From her original pieces to her flawless cover of “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer everything about her set was perfection and I can’t wait to see where she goes with all of her power and talent.
Lil’ Wayne- Okay, let’s be honest, nobody thought he was going to actually show up. Having cancelled his last couple of Minneapolis appearances, I was honestly about ready to head out early when the stage was still dark ten minutes after his scheduled time but then it happened. A giant black van pulled up to the stage and, just like that, there he was in all of his facial tattoo glory. Much like G-Easy, Lil’ Wayne is one of those love him or hate him type of people but there’s no denying his influence on the scene. He’s been grinding since 1999 and although he definitely hasn’t been on the straight and narrow, it’s pretty impressive to be able to stand there and watch him do his thing.
I went through two full bottles of SPF 80 sunscreen yet still came home looking like a lobster. My feet are full of blisters and I’m still blowing dust out of my nose. I love this feeling and it’s something that I will never get sick of.
Soundset is one of those festivals where everything could go wrong but organizers would still be able to find a way to make it all okay and I can not praise everyone involved in this beautiful festival enough for that. Have I told you how amazing the Twin Cities are before? If you don’t believe me, come join me at Soundset next year and then look me in the face and tell me I’m wrong.
Saint Paul Stage