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Soundset 2017

May 31, 2017

The 10th anniversary of Rhymesayers’ Soundset Festival took place Sunday May 28th at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. There were 3 stages, a tent with a breakdance floor, a skate park, a graffiti artist mural area, and a car show. Not to mention the many merchandise, food, and beverage vendors. The weather could not have been more perfect with partly sunny skies and a high of 71. Metro Transit offered free rides to and from the event, making it easy for festival goers to be green and economical.

The gates opened at 11:00am and DJ sets began right away. I headed for DJ Keezy at the 5th Element stage, hosted by Heather B, where Keezy was spinning with local artist Lady Midnight dancing, singing, and supporting. Next, I kept it local and headed to the main stage for ZuluZuluu, who killed it and even did a track from their Cover Up Mixtape, De La Soul’s “Stakes is High.” Then it was lunchtime so I headed for food truck row and got some sliders from West Indies Soul Food.

I returned to the 5th Element stage for Sophia Eris, BFF and partner-in-crime to Lizzo. Her fellow member of the now-disbanded group GRRRL PRTY Manchita joined her on stage as well as a special guest appearance from Ness Nite. After that flaming set, back to the main stage I went for POS followed by Brother Ali, who brought out Slug and dem Atlas during his set, as well as having his twin nieces dancing. Then I waited around for Pusha T, but he was very late so I left the main area  in favor of some Sweet Martha’s cookies, but not before hearing some freestyling by host Sway Calloway and up-and-coming rapper Oswin Benjamin.

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Then the 5th Element stage had Harlem native Dave East, followed by the legendary Talib Kweli, one of the artists I was most looking forward to seeing. He did not disappoint. Pete Rock’s set followed at the b-boy/b-girl Essential Elements tent and I watched that, mesmerized by the moves of many young dancers as well as by Pete’s beats. Next, Atmosphere played the main stage. I couldn’t help but hear some T.I. preceding Atmosphere. By this time of day, every stage was running behind. Atmosphere did a lot of throwbacks, especially since 2017 is the 20th anniversary of their album Overcast. Slug did a song off that album which he had never performed before! Ever. And his uncle came out and did some verses! My favorite part was their performance of “Sunshine.”

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Gucci Mane was next, performing on the main stage between Atmosphere and Ms. Lauryn Hill. I tried not to let Gucci’s misogynist lyrics get to me while I waited for one of my heroines, Lauryn Hill (formerly of the Fugees). Lauryn Hill’s band consisted of many “real” instruments such as a tenor sax and a trumpet. The band did some jams by themselves to get the audience properly pumped up for Lauryn. When she finally came on stage, she was absolutely amazing, almost as if her magnificent voice didn’t even need a microphone. One of my favorite moments of her set was when she was done singing “Killing Me Softly,” the audience kept going by themselves with one more chorus and it was very beautiful.

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After Ms. Lauryn Hill, I went back to have a look at the finished graffiti murals then ended my day with local group the Stand4rd back at 5th Element stage, half of whom went to my high school. Soundset 2017, my first, was all in all a fabulous experience and I had so much fun. There was an app for iPhone and Android this year, with set times, FAQs, maps, and vendor info. I only got one notification from the app all day, which surprised me, but it was helpful to have nonetheless. Already looking forward to Soundset 2018!

written by Lydia Sadoff
photos by David Zeimer