Soundset 2012 – A Day For Celebration of Hip Hop

Read how Myself & friend, Devon got to Soundset on our journey from Canada
‘From Sunrise to Soundset’ 

In what probably was the single-handed greatest day of my life (well, one of them), Soundset (presented by Rhymesayers) managed to capture what is the TRUE essence of the Hip Hop culture. Hip hop is not just about the genre of music – It’s a lifestyle and a universal language that stretches beyond the North American borders. In this case, it remained in the United States, but the key word – united – is what people were. They came in from states near and far to see some of their favourite artists perform, and also discover some new acts in the process. I wish there were more of me to cover so much ground that Soundset provided, but with what I was able to experience, I don’t regret the 17 hour drive, the hassle of getting around Minnesota, the sweltering heat, or Mother Nature, who ended Soundset early (foreshadowing). It was all worth it, and I’m glad that I got to experience the time with my friend, Devon. Where to start…?

In The Beginning…

Let me just say this to start; Midwesterners are probably the friendliest people I’ve ever met. They showed us hospitality, they were polite when we needed directions, and were generally welcoming. People were complimentary as well, and it really felt good. Everyone also seemed to be amazed that we drove 17 hours from Toronto to get here, but hey, life calls for long journeys sometimes; like I said, I don’t regret one mile traveled – period.

After getting parking, checking into VIP, and walking into the main entrance, now was the time to browse around and get familiar with the venue. Since it had been raining a lot during the weekend, there were a lot of muddy areas but also a lot of straw patches for additional surfacing. That was fine, because I wore Chucks, Devon on the other hand…wore flip flops. Eek. Let’s just say that it would pay costly at the end of the day.

So official

After scouting the stages and their locations, we were off to see vendors, because there were a lot of them: Clothes, food & beverage, accessories, and of course – mixtapes & albums being given away by many of the artists that were performing (Grieves & Budo was a popular sighting for the majority of the day). Walking around, I saw some Amalgam Digital T-Shirts, and wouldn’t you know, one of the main rappers I came to see all the way in Minnesota, Chuuwee, was sitting inside the tent. We exchanged pleasantries, got a couple of pictures & autographs, and we just hung out and talked for a bit.

Me & Chez

He’s a great guy. Humble as ever, very opinionated, and just an overall cool guy to talk to. I’m glad that I got the opportunity to meet him, but that wouldn’t be the last time of the day that we’d bump into each other. He’s a great storyteller, which reflects on his music, and he’s pretty damn funny too.

We arrived at Soundset early (as we preferred, because let’s be real, it was going to get crazy) so there weren’t a lot of people there yet, it was essentially just people who were in VIP that were roaming around. We stopped by a graffiti wall and a car show as DJ Stage One was setting up and the crew were testing mics; you can just tell that it was going to be a great day. The forecast called for clear skies all day and hot weather – perfect *Frank Ocean voice*.

We went to the VIP area and chilled under the tent that was provided for us and we met a couple from Chicago. It was really cool to see different races of people all coming together for a hip hop fest. So many people with hip hop knowledge travelling far and wide for all different artists; it was great to see, and it was also great to meet new people (word to Wiz Khalifa).

11:00am hit, and no joking, music started playing; everything was going: vendors, acts, and the day was off. DJ Stage One was doing a memorial tribute mix featuring the likes of The Beastie Boys, Big Pun, Tupac & even threw in some Pete Rock & C.L Smooth. It was a great mix. For a majority of the day (like 95%) I was roaming around freely while Devon chilled and did her own thing too. I wanted to see what else was going on and get the full experience.

DJ Stage One

I walked around the vendors to see some of the local merchandise. I picked myself up some t-shirts, a snapback, and a couple of wooden chain pieces. All of them are dope and I shout out to all of the vendors that supplied me with the gear, even the ones that I didn’t get a chance to get to.

Beats By Dre wooden pendant & a Hand & Mic piece. So dope

Afterwards, I walked over to the B-boy/DJ tent where some DJs were doing live mixes. I heard some of the craziest beats I’ve ever heard in my entire life. The energy that the beats brought, gave life to the crowd. The MC was being interactive, encouraging the crowd to hype up the DJ and show love; he deserved it, because my face was TWISTED for a good 20 minutes.

I left the tent because I wanted to head over to see Action Bronson perform. Even though I had only heard about him only about a month ago (see the Artist Profile), I was still anticipating his performance because he’s a great rapper. He came on stage performing some cuts from his Blue Chips mixtape. He was adamant about not being one to talk through his time, because he was here to rap. Great mentality, because sometimes we reallllllly don’t care what you have to say – just rap. He joked about wanting to stage dive into the audience, but take in this picture

Action Bronson

He’s a 340-pound guy (he also said that he would have broken necks), so he’s like Rick Ross (but white) with a similar voice to Ghostface, but as one of his lines goes, “don’t ever say my shit sounds like Ghost’s shit.” Only half-an-hour-long, but he still did his thing, so salute to him, and hopefully more people will start to take him in.

I Self Devine

I Self Devine was up next (a lot of Minnesota based rappers were performing) and I didn’t know a lot about him, but I stuck around for a couple of songs before I left the VIP seating and ventured back out.

Female rapper Rapsody

I went over to the 5th Element Stage and a female rapper that I was introduced to about a month ago as well, Rapsody, was performing with another singer. She’s really good. I heard her music before, but I’m going to have to go back and take her in some more, because I liked what I heard.

Walked back over to the Amalgam Digital tent, chilled with Chuuwee a bit, then headed back to the DJ/B-Boy tent, where there was now break dancers tearing up the stage. A bunch of B-boys and ONE B-Girl (who was pretty as hell) collectively demonstrated their skills and got the crowd hyped up in the process.

To be honest, this tent was a great time every time I was there; I even got some recognition because of the snapback I bought. That was pretty cool. Hip Hop is amazing. I love it and the unity it brings among people of all walks of life.

At 1:20, I started to head over to the Main Stages because Danny Brown was about to perform at 1:30 (a lot of walking was involved today). I’d been wanting to see him perform since I saw his name on the lineup for Soundset. He brings such energy in his music, I couldn’t IMAGINE what his performance would have been like. When he came out, he went right into songs from his most recent mixtape ‘XXX’ (Lie4, XXX, Radio Song) and alternating between that and his other mixtape ‘The Hybrid.’ I wasn’t disappointed at all. He brought his eccentric self, passion and energy to the stage and did his thing; I was thoroughly impressed.

He’s weird, but he’s dope

2 o’clock rolled around and earlier, we (Devon and I, if you haven’t caught on yet) noticed the meet and greet schedule in the VIP section. Big K.R.I.T was scheduled to show up for a bit to sign autographs, chat with fans and take pictures – simple enough.

Devon was already waiting in line for about 15 minutes, but once he came out, the line was moving nicely. This would be the 2nd time in less than a year that I would be seeing Big K.R.I.T perform, but the first time meeting him. It’s crazy that just last year, he was in Toronto performing in front of a few hundred people, and fast forward one year, he’s in Minnesota rocking THOUSANDS! I’m glad I was there for the transition of K.R.I.T’s popularity. He’s a great guy; gave Devon and I some pictures and autographs (signed a poster and a Soundset shirt for me) and showed a little extra love because of our long trek to get to Minnesota.

Dope photo. Taken from my phone

His performance was about an hour away, so we proceeded back to the stands and watched Mackelmore’s performance. He was featured on the XXL Freshmen 2012 list (that’s how I found out about him) and he also hails from Seattle (I had no idea that they had a big hip hop scene). He’s a very energetic performer (common trait for all of the acts I saw) and he had the crowd hype the whole time (even had on a ‘Legalize GAY Marriage’ shirt, which showed some political activism.

He makes tracks with messages and empowerment for the youth, but can still keep it fresh and funky. He also made a wardrobe change to have some fun with it (Blonde wig, Gold cape). I’m still not COMPLETELY sold on him; his flow is alright, but he goes off beat too much. He’s authentic, but I haven’t caught on to the hype as of yet. I’ll give it another try.

In between 3:30 and 4:40 was probably the greatest time of day for me, because of the acts that happened back to back to back: K.R.I.T (DJ Premier was happening in the tent; I was so torn), Chuuwee, and Kendrick Lamar. The thing is that, they all overlapped each other.

I had to watch K.R.I.T for 20 minutes; he performed tracks from 4Eva N A Day plus some joints from Return of 4Eva (I was one of a few people going crazy the whole time). I was glad to see him go hard on stage with so much energy and passion like I’d see him deliver last year at the Return of 4Eva Tour (Shout out to Shawntz & Shane; I met them there for the first time).

I had to run over to the 5th Element Stage because Chuuwee was about to perform at 3:50; Devon stayed for the rest of K.R.I.T’s performance before coming front stage for Chuuwee – he was finishing a blunt before he started. I was excited to see him perform and it was kind of surreal too, because I listened to him since December (or late November), and to see him in person perform the songs that I’d been listening to for months now, it was crazy. I was happy for his success thus far.

Chez Charlie Shreem

He started with ‘Post Mortem’ (first song I heard from him), then performed his first single from Wildstyle (Rock The Party – produced by Jonathon Lowell), then performed a new track as well which sounded crazy. He went into Crown Me King tracks: Your Highness, Pére Du Le Péuple, Murder Over Jordans and one of the best songs from the project, Chariot. What surprised me was that he went back and performed ‘Six Feet Deep’ from his older project ‘Hot N Ready’ and I was excited as hell, I won’t lie. Afterwards, he ended it with a verse from my favourite song of his – Reign. He announced that he had a sinus infection and he was really feeling shitty (he seemed fine when we saw him beforehand), but he was still dancing and rapping and encouraging the crowd to join in (we even did some start-finish rhyming which was dope). His set was great, got to say a couple of words to him before he was swarmed with people who wanted to take pictures and get autographs.

It was so sick to see because it’s like watching one of your boys make their rise to fame; I’m proud of him still.

Off to see Kendrick Lamar – pretty much my favourite rapper right now aside from Chuuwee (and Blu). Like K.R.I.T, I saw him last year as well (where Devon and I met in person), and there wasn’t a massive crowd – now he’s rocking over 20,000; that’s insane.

Kendrick Lamar

He performed tracks from Section.80, which I was excited for anyways. Those included: A.D.H.D, F*ck Your Ethnicity, Rigamortis, HiiiPoWeR, Chapter 10 & Hol Up. He also performed songs from O.verly D.edicated: She Needs Me & Micheal Jordan, which is always a song that gets the crowd hyper. He also pulled back into his catalogue and performed Look Out For Detox. Kendrick is an overall great performer – his music reflects his stage presence, what you hear is what you get on stage, and as an artist, you want that.

After that whole segment of back and forth between 3 stages, it was time for more walking around. I went back to see if Chuuwee was alright, and he was still recovering, but people came up as we were talking and asked for autographs and whatnot – the man’s like a celebrity, but all praises are justly deserved.

Hollywood

I left to go back to the DJ tent and I also stopped by a skateboarding competition that was going on – there were a lot of things happening.

I killed some time, by watching some of P.O.S while in the VIP area, and afterwards, Aesop Rock came out. I gave Aesop a chance, but his style did not grab me at all. He makes good songs, I don’t doubt that, but I’ll take A$AP Rocky > Aesop Rock. Besides, the main event was happening afterwards, so I just saw it as filler.

I have to add in (because I forgot at the beginning), Brother Ali (who I had no idea was a rapper until a few days before Soundset) was a great host.

After every performance at the main stages he had three statements: “If you’re having a good time, say ‘Yes I am,'” “If you love Hip Hop, say yes I do,'” and “If you came to have a good time, say ‘Yes I did'” (that may have been rearranged, but you get the idea). He did a great job keeping the audience intact through all of the acts, despite the heat of the day. I have to give it up to the live band too, they held it down. I’m going to check out some of his music; he also has an album coming out in August.

“ALL MY PEOPLE LET ME HEAR YOU GO SUUUUUUUUUUU” – The Late Great Ol’ Dirty Bastard

That should give you a hint as to what was coming next – the legendary Wu Tang Clan members Ghostface & Raekwon were poised to grace the stage. Their DJ started their set by playing the sample of C.R.E.A.M followed by the instrumental. Never in my LIFE have I seen so many W’s go up in the air.

A Sea of Wu

I was standing in the crowd, and what I noticed right off the bat was a family (Mother, Father & children) that were joined together in unison by throwing up the W, it was great. Ghostface & Raekwon were really close with each other, and that brotherly love that they displayed on records was brought to light when they performed. Performing tracks from OB4CL (Ice Cream, Verbal Intercourse, Knowledge God, Criminology, Incarcerated Scarfaces, Ice Water, Wisdom Body), 36 Chambers (Triumph, Ain’t Nothin’ Ta Fuck Wit, and they even brought an audience member up to perform ODB & Method Man’s verse to ‘Protect Ya Neck’), and an assortment of songs in Ghost’s catalogue from Ironman to Supreme Clientele.

Legends doing what Legends do

The energy of the crowd and the duo themselves was the highlight of the day. Hip Hop at its purest form was being enjoyed the way that it should have been.

“…Cause to me, MC means to move the crowd” – Rakim.

It was still hot at 6:40 when Lupe Fiasco came on the stage. He was the other big name on the bill for Soundset (that I knew; I didn’t know who Atmosphere was, I’d only heard about him when I saw him on the lineup).

He came out with his live band and went right into it by performing songs from his latest album (which I hated), Lasers. I won’t lie, I think Lasers was made to be a live concert album, because the energy, the explosiveness, and it overall just SOUNDED better than on a CD, in my opinion – I may have to go back and listen to it again with a broader perspective. He performed: Words I Never Said (without Skylar Grey), The Show Goes On (he brought up 2 audience members that had verses to the song tattooed on them, which was crazy), Out of My Head (without Trey Songz), Go Gadget Flow, his verse to the Everyone Nose Remix, the classic Kick Push, Hip Hop Saved My Life, only a part of The Coolest (which I was upset that he didn’t do the whole thing), and then Beautiful Lasers – that’s where everything changed.

Before he performed that, like about 15 minutes prior, he said to everyone, “I’m gonna need everyone to pray to God – pray to whoever you believe in: Jehovah, Budda, Jesus, Allah – that it rains, because it is hotter than a muthafucka.”

Before – bright, sunny, few clouds, hot

Let’s fast forward now; as he was performing, dark (and I mean DARK) clouds were rolling in, and at first I was like “oh snap, it’s really gonna rain and cool us down.

As ‘Beautiful Lasers’ happens in the background…

” WELL, what had happened was, after he performed Beautiful Lasers, he came back to the microphone and said “YO, I think we prayed a little bit too hard to the rain gods – this is REAL SHIT! There’s a tornado warning in effect right now. Everyone needs to leave in a calm fashion. Soundset, I love you.”

After – DARK clouds, gusty wind, hail, rain, madness

Now, in Canada (okay, I’ll just say Toronto), we don’t GET a lot of Tornado warnings, so at first I was like, “nah, this has to be bullshit,” but then this elderly Caucasian gentleman came to the microphone and said, “He’s right; it’s about 20 minutes away. Atmosphere may try to perform a couple of songs -” but at that point, people were already starting to file out because there was a lot of wind, rain, and hail was starting to come down too I rushed back to the VIP area so I could find Devon, and coincidentally enough, she was looking for me as well (we got our backs). It was crazy to see like 25,000+ people all scattered trying to get to safety and whatnot. There were people (including us) climbing under fences, hopping over school buses and cars, and ducking and dodging to avoid hail and other people blowing in our direction. There was a big mix between people panicking , and others just casually strolling along. I felt bad for Atmosphere because he couldn’t perform, but at the same time, it was an EPIC way to end off the day, and a great weekend at that.

Watch the Tornado PSA video I made while in the car

Travelling 17 hours from Toronto was definitely a mission. It was tiresome & it was something that I might not do again, but the experience was memorable and I’ll cherish it for the rest of my life. I was glad to share this experience with Devon the whole weekend. It’s one of those things that brings people together; plus all of the people I met from states all over, it could be the start of bigger things to come. I want to thank Fifth Element & Rhymesayers for putting this together and exposing me to much more than just East & West coast music, and for also putting together an amazing event touching on all aspects of hip hop, because that’s TRULY what it’s all about. I can’t imagine what this will be like next year. Can’t wait – but, for now

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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