“If you came here to have a good time, say yes, I did,” Brother Ali shouted to the packed crowd at the Target Center December 4. “Yes I did!” was the thunderous response of roughly 10,000 hip hop enthusiasts, summing up the celebratory mood of those gathered for the Rhymesayers 20th anniversary.
Emceed by Ali, the mega concert featured over 30 acts that addressed three elements of hip hop — break dancing, DJing, and of course, emceeing. Ali set the tone of love and peace throughout the concert, and established early on that the night was one of celebration and reflection of just how far the label has come.
The night wasn’t all about partying however, as the artists of Rhymesayers, the independent Minneapolis-based label, also addressed social inequities and injustices residing within the Twin Cities.
The mega show kicked off with performances by P.O.S, Toki Wright, Boom Bap Project, and Grayskul, with each set lasting between five to 10 minutes and each artist building off the preceding performance. Other performances included Los Nativos, Dilated Peoples, and Grieves, whose outstanding performance raised the level of excitement and adrenaline in the audience.
“Grieves just killed it, can’t wait for Atmosphere,” said attendee Jordan Haug immediately following Grieves performance. “Thanks for all the music Rhymesayers!” he added.
The MSR was able to catch up with other attendees, many of whom traveled from all over the Midwest — and some as far as Ohio and California. Music lovers expressed gratitude to the Rhymesayers brand for “keeping hip hop alive,” with one attendee, who asked to remain anonymous, exclaiming, “I wouldn’t be the man I am today if it weren’t for the messages of Brother Ali and Prof.”
Aside from serving as the show’s host, Ali graced the stage with his presence for what may have been the most interactive performance, aside from Atmosphere. The first half of Ali’s set included a breakdance show before he cut the music and delivered a heartfelt acapella performance of unreleased material. The name of the song was uncertain, but Ali’s artistic expression came in the form of a letter to his son and other young men. It also highlighted the value of self-worth and the power that young Black men hold within themselves.
Ali’s performance acknowledged the epidemic of Black boys losing their lives by the hands of White police officers and the social system of racism and White supremacy that is ever-present in American society.
He not only spoke to corruption within the police department, but also spoke of his support for justice for Jamar Clark and the Black Lives Matter Minneapolis movement.
Ali wasn’t the only artist to tackle social issues that most of the crowd cheered on, in fact, artists P.O.S. and Toki Wright both addressed them early on in the show, with Wright showing his support when performing a bit of his song with B. Dolan entitled “Film the Police.”
The acknowledgement of the 4th Precinct and #Justice4Jamar protests continued throughout the concert, from almost every artist. However, per social media Tweets and Facebook posts, not everyone in the audience appreciated the mention of #BlackLivesMatter or the Jamar Clark shooting at the concert.
While following the hashtag #Rhymesayers20, there were a few complaints and statements of disbelief that the rappers would address such issues during a “hip hop concert,” even though many of the performers have been showing their support via their social media accounts, as well as in song lyrics.
Aside from the vast amount of rap performances, DJ Abilities also showed up to show out. Abilities utilized his time to highlight the craftsmanship of scratching and mixing records.
For those who purchased the general admission floor seats for $20, you got a steal. For those who thought $20 was too much for this show, well, you missed out. Overall, Rhymesayers20 delivered what Derick of Woodbury said was “the best [darn] rap concert” he’s ever seen at the Target Center.
Perhaps Wright summed up the Rhymesayers’ enduring legacy best when he told the MSR after the show, “The night shows you the possibilities of what Minnesotan artists can do when there is a collective mission, clear goals, a willingness to do the work, and [an]understanding that everyone can’t be in front of the camera to get that work done. The playing field is wide open.”
Khymyle Mims welcomes reader comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Chris Juhn
Khymyle Mims is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.