Written by Melissa Faulkner
Photos taken by Chris Taylor
“Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?” – SZA performing Drew Barrymore on Soundset’s St. Paul Stage, but also the only thing I could think as I reluctantly exited the Minnesota State Fair Gates on Sunday after Soundset closed out its one day hip-hop festival with headliner Lil Wayne. One day of Soundset just simply wasn’t enough.
The first thing my eyes caught upon entering the State Fairgrounds were a group of 15 yogis twerking while in flip dog. If you aren’t sure what/how that’s possible, I suggest you get to 612 Jungle ASAP. It was irreverent, approachable, and real – all the things that seem to be lost in stuffy modern “yoga studio” culture these days. It was fun to see an activation like this – supporting lots of local studios and vibes.
I feel it’s important to make note that I walked into the women’s bathroom and immediately entered a stall. No lines, no waiting, and the place was rather pristine (granted it was still early in the day). One of the many perks of Soundset being held on the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul: plenty of bathrooms for the Great Midwest Hip-Hop Get Together.
After checking out the “Atmosphere and Friends” stage for a hot minute, it was already time to book it to Dem Atlas performing on the main Minneapolis stage at 1:30pm sharp. Dem Atlas came out in ripped jeans and a black military-esque jacket. Between his costume and his incredible performance energy, I was getting some serious Michael Jackson vibes, or at least the Michael Jackson I want to remember. Lady Midnight made a guest appearance for a duet, and every soul in the crowd had their right hand raised, diligently moving to the beat. As a local rapper originally from Eagan, Minnesota, Dem Atlas set the bar real high that afternoon.
I made my way back to the air conditioned media tent to steal some Wi-Fi, to check on how many of my scrub friends were out of bed yet, and snag a frozen booze pop from Drake’s Organic, also a local Minnesota company. This boozy freezie pop was real MVP of the 80-degree, sunny, cloudless day in Minnesota. A day that Soundset deserved after its appropriately dubbed “Tornado Year” in 2012, the year of rain and frisbees in 2015, or the heat advisory laden day of 2018
Next up was Doja Cat in all her neon glory. This was the act I was looking forward to most, and the bright orange bikini bottom paired with hot pink furry coat to match her hot pink belly-length hair did not disappoint. As she opened with “Roll With Us”, I felt like it was a personal invitation to join her elite, chill posse of friends. Her set included her most recent hit “Mooo!“, and I couldn’t help but wonder if Amala’s artistic parents were as proud of their 23 year old as I was that day. My notes consisted of one sentence: “I love her.”
While waiting for the photo pit to open up for Prof, I caught glimpses of Cashanova with his kids and my boy Slug of Atmosphere. Sadly, it would be the only time I would see Slug that day – as my hands were bound when choosing between SZA and Atmosphere’s competing set times.
Prof began his set stating “I like people who aren’t afraid to have a good time.” Prof was definitely at the right festival. His performances are notorious for being wildly fun and over the top. After an emotional and tear-filled speech, he closed his banger set by launching five blow-up yachts into the crowd. Forget crowd surfing y’all. Crowd SAILING is where it’s at now! Cue Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as the closing serenade, and you have the makings of my favorite Prof performance to date. He has solidified his place as one of Minnesota’s Hip-Hop legends, and I hope his tenure with Soundset continues to be long and fruitful. He keeps the people coming back, that’s for sure.
Next up: DMX. Who honestly hasn’t changed at all. His voice is still so raw and gritty that it’s undeniably sexy, and even when the camera picked up some gray hairs in his beard, my entire being was transported back to sneaking out of my parent’s basement to meet up with older boys circa 2000 when he performed Party Up (Up in Here).
Despite Hip-Hop’s sometimes aggressive reputation, the vibe of the festival could not have been more about mutual love, spirituality, gratitude, and freedom for all beings and creatures. Which is probably what made Beast Coast’s set the low point of the day for me. Not only did they go way over in time, delaying Run The Jewels, but their music was just so…angry? Talented, yes. But a large departure from the other acts on stage that day.
Speaking of gratitude – is there anyone on the planet more jazzed than Lil Nas X right now? An overnight viral sensation that got booked immediately upon Lil Uzi Vert’s last minute drop out. No one was surprised nor disappointed. Sure, I’ve heard Old Town Road 14 times a day for the last six weeks…but seeing it live that day was the unexpected cherry that I didn’t realize my life needed.
Run The Jewels was a clear crowd favorite, playing “Legend Has It” and their self titled “Run The Jewels” hit. Killer Mike gave multiple emotional speeches about his stance on women’s bodies, politics, and even suicide. The crowd was left in a humbling collective embrace as the St. Paul Stage transitioned to SZA.
She really is perfect and I hate it. But only because she’s so freaking cute, and there’s very little I wouldn’t do to be her best friend. In a neon pink long sleeve and denim overalls, she serenaded us with Love Galore, Supermodel, and a cover of Sixpence None The Richer “Kiss Me.” As hard as it was to miss Atmosphere performing practically a half mile away on their name stage, it was the right decision considering I’ve seen Atmosphere a half dozen times since moving to the midwest, and this was my first (hopefully not last) opportunity to see SZA and solidify that BFF status. Sadly, I don’t think she saw me waving and gripping my chest in sheer awe among the other 20,000 fangirls and boys doing the same…
It was about the time that Lil Wayne lit a blunt on stage for his headliner set that I realized how funny it is that Soundset is an all ages festival. For some like Cashanova, this was a true family affair, and there were plenty of babies with noise canceling headphones within the first few rows. But hey – as Prof said – I like people that aren’t afraid to have a good time. Exposing their children to some rich and talented culture from a young age.
After Lil Wayne’s no-show at Rolling Loud, I was genuinely surprised to see him 30 feet from me. All five foot five inches of him. Real short, real cute, blonde dreads, performing in some aggressive platform sneakers. Seeing Lil Wayne for the first time felt like a Hip-Hop rite of passage, and there were very few in the crowds that could not mouth along to every word in every song. His set ended promptly at 9:30pm, with very little fanfare, finale, or fireworks, and I fear his hands were bound due to sets running late all day and whack St. Paul city laws. Despite the anticlimactic ending to the Sunday festival, the sum of the glorious day weighed heavy on me as we headed back to the car. I found myself a little emotional and a lot grateful, which I think was the exact sentiment many of the artists hoped to instill upon the audience. We’re given this one life, summed up by lots of little moments happening right now. So you might as well sit back, relax, take in the sunshine and the tornados as they come, and roll with us.