Soundset 2014: A music and photo timeline
|Tyler and Atmosphere photos by Erik Hess; Lizzo by Anna Gulbrandsen|
Canterbury Park, Shakopee
Sunday, May 25, 2014
The seventh edition of Rhymesayers Entertainment's Soundset Festival brought clouds of dirt mixed with sweet-smelling smoke, rumbling bass, and a sold-out crowd of 30,000. Ticket-wise, this was the most-successful Soundset to date, but it still brought a lot of artistic complexity from the clean-cut G-Eazy to the riotous Flatbush Zombies. The day was represented by legends from different eras, courtesy of Nas, Cypress Hill, and Atmosphere. Wiz Khalifa is one of the game's biggest stars today, and Chance the Rapper is well on his way, and Lizzo, Toki Wright, and others showed the power of the local stage.
With three writers and two photographers, Gimme Noise soaked in as much of the day as we could. Here's a timeline of Soundset 2014.
|Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen|
Caught the tail end of Powderhorn's other big name at Soundset on the relatively intimate Essential Elements stage. With encouragement and hype from Brandon Allday and Medium Zach of Big Quarters, Dosh held it down in his hand-wired command center for the Last of the Record Buyers showcase. Focusing on the poppier, Dilla-esque side of his material, Dosh mostly left his more experimental material at home in favor of catchy horn and organ focused songs. Building off of loops made live from his crisp drum-playing, this one man band stays consistently active, swiveling from one control panel to another, dialing in a knob or adding another subtle keyboard texture. (Zach McCormick)
This year's lineup of Minnesota artists was extensive and impressive, but sadly we missed the early sets from local artists deM atlaS, Mac Irv, and Ecid. I arrived just in time to catch K. Raydio, sporting a fresh haircut and a sunny disposition, as she capped off her Fifth Element Stage set with Psymun with their stark "Sirens". The solid groove seemed to really grab the audience, and Psymun's knob-twiddling gave his glitched beats a slight improvisational jazz flavor, of a more post-modern variety. (Jack Spencer)
|Photo by Erik Hess|
Even in a collective known for flipping West Coast gangster tropes on regular, Ab-Soul is a particularly odd bird, standing out with sometimes bizarre and crass subject material and twisted, jittery flows that give a middle finger to the apple cart. Like his labelmates in Top Dawg Entertainment, Soulo has helped to renew interest in the tough but lyrically dense intersection of gritty street-conscious rap and more profound musings. Not that there was a lot of chin scratching going on, Ab-Soul knows how to bring a party, amping the crowd by doing his verses on big TDE radio singles like Schoolboy's "Druggies With Hoes."
Announcing that his new album These Days was nearly ready to drop, the rapper also performed a bit of new material, including what sounded like the heady title track, which took some of the more abstract wording from 2012's Control Systems and tightening its focus, whilst staying innovative. With his team's stock on the rise, Ab-Soul seemed confident, if a bit indifferent, except his deadly serious call-to-arms closer, "Terrorist Threats," an incisive punky scattershot of our societal ills.
His stylistic gumbo of conspiracy theories and drug-addled punchlines played really well on the main stage. He was able to show off a range of cadences as he jumped around between the uplifting harmonics of "Illuminate" and the high-as-hell sex brags of "Gone Insane." (JS + ZM)
|Photo by Erik Hess|
Fifth Element Stage host Brother Ali introduced Nacho Picasso by talking about the Seattle rap scene he stems from, sidestepping his actual material or persona which seemed more misogynist ("I been here 24 hours and I ain't got no pussy yet") than the Seattle underground Ali referred to. The anthems to cocaine and selfish sex (apparently giving girls bladder infections is something to brag about?) were not nearly clever enough to warrant the kind of brazen attitude Picasso brandished, but with tattoos that engulfed the whole of his back and torso, he was at least an interesting figure to watch. (JS)
|Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen|
Over at Fifth Element, arty ingénue Allan Kingdom was in full effect. Kingdom's disjointed, multi-part songwriting comes off on record as too self-involved to ever rock a festival, but Kingdom really rose to the occasion for his Soundset debut. Featuring his manager and DJ Kasloco on the ones and twos for the set was a great bonus, as the veteran turntablist has a few strong names on his resume, including Ghostface and Kid Cudi. Occasionally, the complex arrangements made it tough to lock into a groove with the audience, but for the most part, Kingdom's songs clicked, and the extremely young performer was pleasantly physical onstage for such heady music.
Kingdom tapped into a more aggressive stage presence that many of us hoped lived underneath his quirky persona. Playing a number of unreleased tracks -- look for Future Memoirs with Plain Pat soon -- alongside some older material, he brought the same off-kilter vibe but peppered it with a tinge of justified egotism, with really excellent results. Initially it was a worry upon hearing the Peanut Butter Prince that he sat too parallel to the work of Chance the Rapper, but watching him own the Fifth Element stage in front of a huge cast of supporters showcased the spirited originality going on in every crevice of his music. Easily one of the day's highlights. (JS + ZM)
On the main stage, the always stylishly coiffed G-Eazy was beside himself. "Minnesota, this is the greatest day of my life," he yelled at throngs assembled in front of him. The Bay Area rapper could follow in the footsteps of Macklemore as a figure who exists largely outside the core hip-hop conversation, but still commands a growing fan base. "Must Be Nice" and the rockabilly aided "Runaround Sue" are pleasant enough musically, but his rhymes were too saccharine for these ears. (Reed Fischer)
Pioneering southside Indio [ed. As in the preferred nomenclature for Latino-Native Americans] hip-hop duo Los Nativos are going to be releasing their new The Eagle and the Jaguar album this fall after several years of time off. Founding Rhymesayer Felipe Cuauhtli and his partner Xilam Balam have an easy mastery over their southside boom-bap and the well-worn chemistry of brothers, which makes for many great opportunities for old-school verse trading and tag-team crowd hyping.
They displayed the kind of classic microphone skills that used to just come standard issue with local rappers, ripping through old and new tracks with the blunt force they've been known for since 1996. "How many of you are having a good time because you're drinking? How many of you are having a good time because you're smoking?" asked Felipe to preface one of the better marijuana songs rapped that day, "Fire Weed Smell." I'm sure the actual numbers on that point would be staggering. "I'm an old school guy so I'm gonna stop there... cuz some of you be on those little pills and shit..." he continued before advising everyone to stay hydrated.
Although the two might talk self-depreciatingly about being old-fashioned, their new material shows that they've definitely been paying attention. One song's classic rock-box drum pattern was given a shot of heavy, overwhelming bass reminiscent of Lex Luger, translating into an instant crowd favorite. Balam and Cuauhtli are savvy enough to have balanced sticking to their guns as community-involved lyricists and discovered a way to captivate the passive, exceedingly young crowd. Showing tribute to their roots, the two MCs made numerous thanks to their partners on Rhymesayers and in their own neighborhoods, and invited Mario Morales onstage to help perform a reggeaton jam en espanol, naturally. (JS + ZM)