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2017 Soundset Festival Review

Travis Scott proclaims in his song “Antidote” that “anything can happen at the night show.”

Photo by Benji Bloom

Call it fate, call it irony, call it anything you’d like, but this statement would prove to be 100% accurate in describing the 10th annual Soundset Music Festival.

As Travis began his headlining set, the countless fans eagerly waiting in attendance were doused with heavy rain and wind. This precipitation continued to pelt down at increasing speed through the first half of his set. As the storm intensified, so too did Travis’s set. Thousands of hip-hop fans partying and thrashing through a rainstorm to Travis Scott— Epic.

Soundset took place this year on May 28th at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St.Paul and is curated by hometown rappers Atmosphere.The love and adoration for these guys was heavily apparent, as was the wild amount of Minnesotan hip-hop fans, of which there must have been 50,000.

The entire day was filled with this kind of hectic madness that would reach its pinnacle later in the night. There were surprise schedule changes, a no-show of a huge performer, and more than anything, so much awesome music.

Sway Calloway, aka Sway, basically one of the most iconic MTV and radio personality hosted the day, and he said it best: “This is the only music festival that features all of the elements of hip-hop.”

There were the the classic rhymesayers like Talib Kweli and Kool Keith, as well as young bloods, like Denzel Curry and Playboi Carti. There were the B-Boys break dancing, and pioneer record-scratching DJ’s Pete Rock and Peanut Butter Wolf scratching the wax.

There were two notable surprises that occurred during the day: 1) Lil Uzi Vert was nowhere to be seen in the state of Minnesota, and his no-show created a wave of scheduling conflicts, and

Photo by Benji Bloom

2) Ms. Lauryn Hill, one of the most elusive artists alive, showed up and performed an entire set! I truly didn’t believe she would be there until I saw her with my own eyes.

Ms. Hill did not disappoint, in fact, she did just the opposite. She blew me away- resulting in me saying “Wow” out loud so many times that it bothered the people next to me. Her rapping ability is unparalleled to anybody I saw all day. Not only does Lauryn Hill have an unbelievably beautiful voice and genius songwriting, she can spit every word of all of her verses. 99% of the rappers in the game don’t do that. She also melted faces with her singing. Her performance was incredible and rare and truly special to see.

Another powerful performance was Gucci Mane, who is currently enjoying the greatest success of his career, and deservedly so. I remember Gucci as a fearsome murderer (although the charges were dropped) with an ice cream face tattoo and an intense, angry demeanor. #FreeGucci was one of the first hashtags I knew of because he was constantly incarcerated. Gucci was recently released from prison and emerged as an entirely new man.

It’s true. Gucci never used to smile, now the man has the sweetest smile in rap music and shows

Photo by Benji Bloom

it off in everything he does, especially performing. Gucci also is ripped now, engaged to the love of his life, and creating the most inspired and impressive music of his career.

Much respect to the classics like “Lemonade” and “Wasted,” both of which he performed, but Gucci is laser-focused and making new hits, like “Both” featuring Drake, and “Met Gala” from his latest mixtape DropTopWop. It’s just a wonderful thing to see Gucci Mane thriving like this, you know? It’s a feel good story that warms my heart.

Hit-making veteran of the game, T.I., performed one of the most captivating sets of the day to an ocean of fans. T.I. is Southern-rap embodied with every ounce of swagger in the Atlanta. And as the undisputed “King of the South,” T.I. delivered hit-after-hit-after-hit-after-hit. This man has an endless catalog of incredible songs. “Whatever You Like,” “Live Your Life,” and “What You Know” are just three examples— all of which are unstoppable jams and a pleasure to hear live and in person. T.I. will remain one of the greatest always and forever.

However, it was Travis Scott that slayed the festival ultimately, in epic fashion. Travis is known for having the most rowdy live show in rap, and in a festival setting, this rowdiness is amplified by 1,000. Travis’s screaming voice rang off like a war cry on top of powerful bass to a sea full of hungry devotees. Every song he performed resonated with the crowd like their favorite song. It would be a long list to include the most lit songs of the set, because they all were so insanely lit. At one point, I scoped out four separate moshpits raging. Travis Scott shows are like an adventure that you might not survive. It’s exciting and intense, and when it’s over, the joy and relief is sweeter than any of the pain felt while battling the elements.

The 10th annual Soundset Festival could not have been a better representation of the great scope that hip-hop has taken on. The number of genres featured on the bill was easily about 50, but they’re all living respectfully together under the giant umbrella of hip-hop. Artists and fans of all ages came together for an epic day of music, bonded through their love of hip-hop. Because that’s the power of music.