Soundset 2016: Fest shines even brighter at Midway location (photos)

It was safe to rock your Js and Air Forces this year, as Soundset moved from the muddy fields of Canterbury Park in Shakopee, to the cement paved roads of the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul Sunday, May 29.

From the diverse lineup of national and local artists and open mic freestyle sessions, to the graffiti and break dancing, Soundset 2016 had everything a hip hop lover could ask for. Headlined by Future, A$AP Rocky, Common and The Roots, the Twin Cities hip hop festival conquered the hard feat of topping the 2015 Soundset festival.

Common in the crowd at Soundset 2016
Common in the crowd at Soundset 2016 Chris Juhn/MSR News

This year there was a total of five stages, plus graffiti murals, the skateboard half pipe, and the custom car show, not to mention the Ferris wheel, carnival games and thankfully, indoor plumbing.

The livest performance of the night was by far The Roots, who brought a mature swag and soulful sound to the show. “Twin Cities, y’all still rocking with the best,” declared Black Thought of the Roots, proving as much as they proceeded to play hits such as “Break You Off” and rifts of funk while the rapper scatted to the music.

Black Thought of The Roots
Black Thought of The Roots Chris Juhn/MSR News

No M.C. would dare come to the land of 10,000 lakes and perform in front of the crowd that looked to be around 10,000 people and not pay their respects to the legendary and newly departed Prince. Just about every artist showed love to the late music icon in their own way. The Roots did it twice, but most impressively towards the end of their set when they decided to create beats on the spot, ending with sampling the Minneapolis-native’s classic song “Kiss.”

Rapper/actor Common also blessed the main stage with an immaculate reception from the crowd, performing hit singles such as “Go” and “The Light,” which he dedicated to his late friend and producer J Dilla. Common pumped the crowd with energy and gave shout outs to Midwest hip hop artists such as Atmosphere and Kanye West. The Chicago native also gave a shout out to Nas, and proceeded to perform a verse from the Queens’ rapper’s classic single “The World is Yours.”

Common performing on the main stage
Common performing on the main stage Chris Juhn/MSR News

Newly signed Aftermath artist Anderson.Paak was a contender for the best performance of the day. Using his 30-minute set to connect with the crowd, Paak utilized his final five minutes to rock out on the drums and show the Twin Cities that he can do more than just rap. It’s hard to imagine anyone who truly loves music and hip hop not vibing with this young man, especially after seeing him live.

Lizzo (right) performs with backup dancer
Lizzo (right) performs with backup dancer Chris Juhn/MSR News

Blueprint also showed off his nonverbal musical talent, playing the trombone and keytar during his opening set.  Other main stage performances included Machine Gun Kelly, who also performed at Soundset in 2015, as well as Danny Brown out of Detroit, and female artist Lizzo, each drawing the crowd to rush to the stage.

“They put Anderson.Paak on too early,” said attendee Mr. Hooks of St. Paul. In his fourth year at the festival, Hooks came out to see most of the artists, and appreciated the move to the State Fairgrounds: “I think it’s a smart move, a really, really smart move… It should’ve been on the fairgrounds a long time ago — right in the heart of the city.”

The MSR was also able to catch up with veteran Soundset attendee Moses of St. Paul, who said the show was “dope” and pointed out that the location change “helps out for the people that are from St. Paul” and other locations that would require a long drive to Shakopee.

Attendees at Soundset 2016
Attendees at Soundset 2016 Chris Juhn/MSR News

While most agree that the move to Midway was a smart idea, the jury is out on if it helped increase the diversity of the attendees. While one attendee stated that “Minnesota is Minnesota,” implying that Minnesota isn’t too diverse to begin with, others, however, found Soundset to always be diverse and a medium in the Twin Cities that brought all people together.

Genesis performing on the open mic tent
Genesis performing on the open mic tent Khymyle Mims/MSR News

Local act Genesis was one of five winners chosen to perform one of their songs at the open mic tent. Speaking with the MSR, Darnell “TwistBeTheName” Overton said of the opportunity, “I thought it was everything we needed to turbo boost [the] current stage we are at right now [in their career],”

The rap duo took to the open mic stage and brought an energy that the tent was lacking as they performed their new, unreleased single “Burn up the Stage.” “It felt like the start of something bigger,” said Leshon “Lyrical Colage” Hampton, describing the chance to perform at Soundset. “It was a rush I can’t describe.”

Other notable performances took place at the Fifth Element stage by artists like Baby Shel, Reverie, A-F-R-O, TDE’s Jay Rock, Pharoahe Monch, and Minneapolis’ Doomtree.

While the main stage had the headliners, the Fifth Element stage had the energy and intimacy.
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See more photos below. All photos by Chris Juhn.