Blazing performances lift Soundset 2017 (photos)

No-shows and rain couldn’t dampen 10th anniversary  

(Chris Juhn/MSR News)

Over 35,000 people and hip hop joined together on Memorial Day weekend for the 10th anniversary of Soundset, billed as the largest independent one-day hip hop festival in the world. All four elements of hip hop were on display at the festival on Sunday, May 28, from DJing and emceeing to graffiti and B-boy and B-girls.

Admittedly, the day got off to a rough start for this writer, with confusion over the VIP shuttle procedures that seemed a bit unorganized. But upon entering the festival, held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, I was delighted to see a very diverse crowd with people from all walks of life.

Graffiti artists painted murals throughout the festival (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

While conversing with a vendor at the Purple City Deals booth, I heard the energetic music of T.I. aka Tip and the raucous crowd response to “Whatever You Like,” one of the many hit songs in his catalog. I frantically made my way to the main stage, but along the way, I couldn’t help but take notice of the live painting exhibit where artists created colorful graffiti murals.

The fest also included a custom car show, a skate course, food trucks and plenty of other food and beverage vendors. The pit in front of the main stage was packed wall to wall with hip hop enthusiasts. I was allowed into the VIP area, which consisted of bleachers, a bandstand with a wonderful view of the main stage, and a lounge area with monitors that covered the entire show.

I took my place on the bandstand and watched as T.I. ripped through hit after hit with help from his live band. Songs such as “Bankroll Mafia,” “What You Know About That,” and “Shoulder Lean” with Young Dro — who also performed “F.D.B.” — drew a big response from the crowd.

T.I. rocking the Soundset stage (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

Then, when we thought Hustle Gang’s performance was over, T.I. brought up Tee Grizzley, one of the hottest up-and-coming artists of his entourage. He performed his single “First Day Out,” which seemed well-known by concertgoers.

Once Tip’s performance concluded, the stage was graced by Minnesota’s own Atmosphere. At the end of their set, Slug surprised the crowd with an announcement that this will be the last Soundset. Was he trolling the audience? When I asked a number of attendees about it, they simply said they didn’t believe it.

Next up, the mighty Guwop, better known as Gucci Mane, took the stage after Atmosphere. He had on so much jewelry you needed shades to see him clearly. Gucci told the crowd he was “happy to be at Soundset for the third time.” He didn’t disappoint. The crowd seemed to know every word of his current and classic hit songs, and they went crazy when none other than Travis Scott joined Gucci on stage briefly to perform “Last Time” for the final song of Gucci’s set.

Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill Chris Juhn/MSR News

Then we all waited patiently for the arrival of hip hop’s “Benevolent Miss Lauryn Hill,” as introduced by host Sway Calloway. She did a number of her hits in double time — it was like a Bad Boy remix CD.

It took about four songs before I felt L-Boogie really hit her stride, and apparently I wasn’t alone because it was around that time that people around me began two-stepping to her music. I didn’t think that she sang enough, but when she did, it was angelic.

Hill had a live band complete with background singers, and their performance was tight. I was pleasantly surprised at the length of her performance, which ran a little over an hour.

We waited about 30 minutes before the “hip-rock god” Travis Scott hit the stage with new music from his CD Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. He immediately let security know that crowd surfing would be allowed, which drove the audience to a fever pitch. When rain came down during his moody set, Scott declared, “This is perfect!”

Travis Scott
Travis Scott’s set was a real crowd-pleaser Chris Juhn/MSR News

Scott performed hits like “Antidote,” “Sweet Sweet,” and “Goosebumps,” which he said was his favorite of the album. His performance included pyrotechnics, a lot of smoke, thunderclaps, and a gigantic robotic bird…and did I mention lots of smoke? He was a ball of raw energy, and when he said put your hands up, the crowd did just that.

A number of artists didn’t show up, such as Kevin Gates, who is currently dealing with legal issues. Mac Miller was a last minute no-show (E-40 filled in for him), as was Lil Uzi Vert. But the no-shows didn’t seem to dampen the already high spirits.

There were quite a few local stars on tap, such as Toki Wright, who hosted the first two Soundset’s and had a similar event that pre-dated Soundset called the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop. Tomorrow’s Genius, who performed at Soundset 2012, was also in the house.

All in all, even with the delays, no-shows and temperamental weather, Soundset delivered and was a wonderful concert experience. Rain or shine, the festival’s future is bright.

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See more photos by Chris Juhn below: