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They credit their ability to "stay relevant" as the key to their longevity. To me nothing's changed, it's different sounds here and there, but I go with the flow. I can deal with it. The rap collective, who grilled on stage through out their set, closed the night with the release of a horseshoe made of balloons.

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard. To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement. Some people just have that thing where you're just drawn to them for some reason. I'm not from Minnesota, so when I moved here I started finding Rhymesayers, and then I saw him probably at Soundset for the first time live, and just being kind of blown away by both of them.

Andrea Swensson: In , another up-and-coming Minneapolis MC, Dessa from the Doomtree crew, made it up to the Soundset main stage as a solo artist—which she'll also do in Dessa: I remember being excited to be on a big stage, being thrilled to be opposite those acts. And also, to be frank with you, sharpening my teeth as a festival performer, because playing a fest is really different than playing a club.

It's just kind of a frenetic energy at a festival. There's food, noise, laughing friends, multiple stages, merch. Gotta get like shoes good for jumping and get your cardio in to make sure your breath control holds out. He played Soundset just five months before releasing his big hit "Black and Yellow. Andrea Swensson: Just as Soundset has consistently booked artists before they blow up, it has attracted hip-hop legends to Minnesota. In , De La Soul co-headlined the festival. J-Bird was watching another artist during their set. J-Bird: I can still see Mac Miller on the side of the stage when De La was performing — just rapping every single word.

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When he passed away that was the first image that popped in my head. Sean McPherson: I had the arrogance of a lates person where I thought my friends were the biggest thing on earth, and I remember Doomtree had a pretty healthy crowd playing some set at Soundset, and then I was like, "Up next is Mac Miller," and I was like, "I guess everybody is going to go buy hot dogs. Who the hell is Mac Miller? Psalm One: Rest in peace Mac Miller. Me and him talked for an hour. That was his first festival. He was telling me how scared he was.

I was like, "You're going to be great. There's usually a partition or whatever between the VIP area and like there's some fans on the other side, and they get glimpses of their favorite artists, and girls were going crazy for him. I'm going, "See, what were you even worried about? They're going nuts for you. Andrea Swensson: Maybe the peak of Soundset's clairvoyance came in That year's co-host was Brother Ali, who had performed each of the first four years.

When he appeared on The Morning Show on The Current that May, he was excited about a handful of artists on the cusp of blowing up. Everybody pretty much agrees that he's the future of what hip-hop can be. Kid out of Compton, lot of different ways of using his voice, and really encapsulates what his generation is about. He calls this generation the Reagan Babies, the Crack Babies, they, you know, they were born and raised during the crack era. Really, really highly artistic young dude. Man, I'm very excited that we have him. I really feel that Kendrick Lamar and Big K.

And it looks like they have a really great potential to be something enormous, really soon. Slug: We've also always been a little lucky in being able to acquire acts right before they break. We had Kendrick [Lamar] right before he broke. We had J. Cole right before he broke — Logic, Macklemore, all these artists, which showed me that this was a show people wanted to play before it was about money. Andrea Swensson: Although it takes a lot of cash to host an event like this, the Soundset team's motivations are rooted in much more than money, too. When I interviewed the trio of men behind this festival, I found it interesting that they all seemed to embody this quintessential Midwestern work ethic: They're always focusing on making that next cool thing, and from my perspective, seemed too close to the work to reflect on the magnitude of what they've built.

Siddiq: And in '97 we weren't — even that wasn't some idea like, let's do this annual thing. We were just like no, let's just do this crazy thing, and it worked and was successful, but I don't even remember us ever even contemplating doing it again. Slug: No. It was a horrible idea. It was a bad idea. But mainly, we did it to say we did it. We didn't see money in it. We didn't see any other reason other than to just put another notch on the wall, like here's another thing that we accomplished.

We'd never heard of anybody doing this, so we did it to say we did it. Siddiq: If there's anything, that's probably the ongoing blueprint that we've always had or plan that we've always carried throughout the years. We've always been about doing things that haven't been done just for the sake of doing them. Andrea Swensson: Speaking of being quintessential Minnesotans, let's talk a little more about the weather. Andrea Swensson: The near-tornados of and weren't the only intense conditions that performers and crowds have had to battle through.

Here in Minnesota, summer temperatures can skyrocket to degrees, with the intense humidity making it feel stifling. Given how many younger fans flock to the all-ages festival, I was curious how the three men behind Soundset feel about shouldering the responsibility for keeping their audiences safe. Slug had a really strong reaction to this question.

Slug: This is my least favorite question that you've ever asked me. Not because it's a bad question. It's a great question, but the reason is as Soundset has gotten larger and as I've gotten older my insecurities about safety have blossomed into these gigantic anxieties, and that is my least favorite thing about Soundset — is where my imagination can go as far as in regard to kids being unsafe.

I definitely dread the idea of anything happening to somebody's child. The problem it poses for me is when I'm on site I become the same kind of safety officer that I am when I'm at my house with my own children. I don't know how to let that go. Andrea Swensson [to Slug]: Soundset has not been without its critics, and one of the biggest criticisms you've received is that there's a lack of women on the lineups, which I have seen you be very open and receptive to and respond to publicly, but tell me more about how your approach to including women has changed over the years.

Slug: I feel like there was a lot of space where that's something that kind of went over our heads for a long time in general. I'll speak solely on behalf of myself. I needed to be reminded, or maybe reminded is the wrong word. I needed to be shook and shown that that's something I'd been overlooking. There's a bumper sticker or a tweet or something that I read one time that said, "You judge yourself on your intentions, but you judge everybody else on their actions.

And if anybody out there does have a complaint, If you want to talk to me I'm super accessible. I run the Twitter. Hit me up. I respond to everybody. Andrea Swensson: Psalm One didn't have an easy experience as a woman signed to Rhymesayers, which she has addressed in interviews. Since whistleblowing the label for their lack of gender equity in , she says she has noticed more women booked at Soundset.

Psalm One: I think they have to do it now. People started to recognize that they weren't reaching out to the amazing female presence in music in the Twin Cities.

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Some of the best female artists are from here. I'm from Chicago. I'm biased — so many great female rappers just from Da Brat to Shawnna to Noname now, to moi. Me being the lone female and saying something when I did, I was out on that ledge by myself. So several years later seeing them reaching out, I feel like I had a major part in that, and I'll die on that hill.

I'm glad to see them reaching out to more women because I had a hell of a time getting them to even listen to me ever. Much respect to Rhymesayers and everything they've done and do for the community, but I had a crappy time. But it's part of my story, so I can sit here proud to say that seeing their work in the community — bravo, guys.

Keep doing it. And don't do it because you feel like you have to. Do it because you know there's some dope females out here. Some people called it career suicide, but to those people I said "bye Felicia. Andrea Swensson: One of the more recent acts to emerge on the Soundset stage is Lizzo. She started attending the festival as a fan — when I interviewed her in , she told me she literally lost her job so she could attend Soundset in Over the course of the next few years, she would go from a fan to releasing her debut album, Lizzobangers, to becoming a repeat performer on the Soundset lineup.

Lizzo: Soundset was amazing. I had so much fun, I got to share it with all my friends and my family—well, my mom.

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And you know, Grrrl Party's family, so I just had a blast. I feel like the weather was perfect. I got to run around and ask people questions in the crowd. Lizzo: Well, I got this mic and this camera, and I just ran around and started asking people questions. Like, rap questions. Why are you here? Why are you wearing that shirt? Andrea Swensson: So I mentioned previously that Soundset has been held at three different locations.

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In , the festival expanded to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. J-Bird: I think we were out at Shakopee at Canterbury for seven years, and it was first on the parking lot, and then we moved to the grass, and I believe the last three years we pretty much capped out. We couldn't grow. And then there was also talks of Canterbury doing stuff with the land. It was like a mutual decision to move out. And we wanted to get back into the Twin Cities.

It was always a challenge to get people out there. We had to do all these shuttle buses from Mall of America if they didn't have a car — a lot of that was pre-Uber and pre-Lyft, but it was always a challenge to get people from here, there. Slug: When we made the shift to the State Fairgrounds, I was excited about that because once again, here was our opportunity to reach a demographic that wasn't being reached in Shakopee, which is the I-don't-have-a-car demographic.

This was a bus ride, a bike ride for some people, and I felt like — all due respect to Highway 13 and everything out that way — Valley Fair, I see you — but this opened it up for the people that were just like, "I can't make a trip out to Shakopee to do this. J-Bird: And the State Fair — the location is such a good location because there's so many places to grow with it, but it's also — it allows us to do stuff with Metro Transit for free rides.

It allows us to shuttle people in on their bus routes, to get people in and out really easy, and you have this whole infrastructure there, and an organization in the city that's used to dealing with hundreds of thousands of people a day. So you have all this parking, all these things that we outgrew in Shakopee that we have there with this new venue, which has been really good. Andrea Swensson: The next year, , saw another major change.

For the first time, Soundset's habitual headliner wasn't on top of the bill. Sean McPherson: I just went through to see at what point did an artist actually get listed above Atmosphere in the playbill, and it looks to me like that only starts with — Travis Scott.


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What made you want to move off the mainstage and create your own little side vibe? Slug: I wasn't coming back.


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  • I had announced onstage prior to that this was the last Soundset. And what I really meant is this was my last Soundset. After ten years I felt like okay, what an accomplishment. I'm not still currently stealing 45 minutes of stage time from somebody else. Yall broads gotta pardon a nigga while I address these soft niggas one time tho.

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    Cos they the ones doin the most weepin namsayin. Yall bitch niggas go on n pour yallselves a glass of Riuniti on ice or whatever it is yall muthafuckas be drinkin n let a nigga speak yo. Jus kick ya little Reebok Easytones up turn down that Mac Miller shit yalls got squirtin outta ya yellow iPod docks n listen to what the god gotta say for a minute yo. I done gave yall niggas jewels already son.

    I let yall niggas kno the difference between bein a hater n jus bein a muthafucka who dont get his strings pulled on some Pinocchio shit nahmean. But yall niggas stay rollerbladin ya asses into the comments section n into a niggas mentions on Twitter anyways. Yalls still wake up…. Nigga go bang ya head against the toilet bowl n try to see if some dignity falls out. Ayo I hate a groupie ass nigga b. Word is bond son. I jus hate these dick ridin ass niggas wit they little saddles n cowboy hats who be lookin for the nex bullshit ass rapper to straddle n have dreams all day n night bout.

    Niggas sittin there twirlin they hair n poppin they bubble gums to some nigga whose musics softer than the flannel pajamas that Drake sews for his cats son. Ayo son you kno my shit is official when I speak it nahmean. The god be speakin armor plated words son. My shit got on gladiator armor when I say it namsayin. You niggas stay throwin leg warmers n unitards on all the words you speak tho nahmean. Ya words is fetherweight yo. I dont respect how yall be movin b. How Im gon take you niggas serious when you approachin me on some emotional shit llike that son? Ayo stay out my face wit that shit fam.

    Step yall thread counts up.

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