Ludacris. J. Cole. Big Sean. Ice Cube. Brother Ali. Half-naked women. Marijuana infused air. Mosh pits. Freestyle raps and dances. Tricked out rides. Graffiti. Skateboarders. St. Paul Slim. Turntables. Soundset 2015 was in full effect and there was nothing that the rain could do it about it.
Thousands of hip hop enthusiasts gathered at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN, May 24 to partake in Soundset, Minnesota’s premier hip hop festival. Headlined by J. Cole, the festival featured 30 acts in total, spread across three stage areas. While the main stage hosted the big name artists such as Ludacris, Yelawolf, Dilated People, and Atmosphere, it wasn’t the hottest stage in the festival.
The Fifth Element stage that was off to the west end of the festival was by far the livest area of the day. Host St. Paul Slim kept the energy as high as the listeners in the crowd, along with local headliners like Brother Ali, Manny Phesto, G.L.A.M. and Chester Watson, to name a few.
After his performance, Manny Phesto told the MSR: “I feel great! I think I did a great job and now I get to go watch all the people I want to watch.” He cited artists like Ice Cube, Freddy Gibbs, and Chester Watson.
Phesto has put on block parties and is no rookie to big events, but admitted to having some nerves about playing Soundset. He told the MSR he couldn’t be more excited for summer, with shows lined up in Duluth, Hawaii, Cuba, Philadelphia and Iowa, where he’ll share the stage with the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin. Phesto dropped his debut solo album Southside Looking In last summer and said he’s been about all spreading the message of survival.
In addition to the live music, attendees gathered around to hear DJs scratch records and see candy-painted, pimped-out cars with 50 inch TVs and chromed-out rims. With all the excitement, folks in the crowd expressed that they still wanted more.
A common theme from many of the attendees that the MSR spoke to were: more resting areas, more local acts, a better rotation of artists between stages, more tents and shelter, and specifically more Black artists, even though out of the 30 total artist/hosts featured, 20 were Black.
“Man I’m out here for the love of hip hop and real music — feel me?” said attendee Chris Smith of St. Paul. “I mean honestly, I wish they had more Black performers and even Hispanic rappers on the main stage, since hip hop grew out of our community” Smith said. He also stressed the importance of coming out to support the local and smaller artists, along with shock that the legendary Minnesota rapper Brother Ali wasn’t on the main stage.
Darnell Overton of Burnsville said he was okay with the ratio of entertainers. He pointed out that Black people were well represented on the main stage by big acts such as Big Sean and J. Cole, who had much longer sets than the other artists. “This year for Soundset, even though it rained it was cool” said Overton. “People knew what to expect.”
The MSR also caught up with local independent R &B singer Ashley DuBose who was in attendance to see the performance by Cole, whom she said she slipped a few CDs to. “I think a lot of local Black acts get the short end of the stick when it comes to performing at Soundset, but [for] national artists it’s not an issue. That’s how I feel,” said Dubose.
Although the festival is centered around rap, DuBose was happy to see Cole utilize backup singers in his set, which not many other acts seem to do.
DuBose also said she would like to see more local acts take the main stage “[to give them] better exposure” and added that she’d like to take the stage, herself, if given the opportunity, in addition to more Black female hip hop artists.
“It would be cool to have Lauryn Hill at Soundset,” said Dubose when asked who she’d like to see next year. In addition to Hill, DuBose also listed Nicki Minaj, MC Lyte, and Missy Elliott as women she’d like to see rock the stage.
Next year Soundset will make a return to the Twin Cities, kicking off May 29, 2016 at Minnesota State Fair Grounds.
See more photos from Chris Juhn below:
Chris Juhn is a contributing photographer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.