There isn’t a great deal that Rhymesayers don’t do well. Not only do they have the best hip hop label in the world [don’t argue, it’s true], they continue to excel in putting on amazing festivals with this year’s Soundset, the third of its kind, topping last year’s great day out. Helped by the overcast weather [last year’s event was unbearably hot] and the larger space which included two stages, a custom car exhibition, b-boy tent, graffiti wall, a skate ramp and fan’s VIP section, the day was set out perfectly for the untouchable line-up of hip hop.
Kicking it off, after having checked out the beginnings of the pieces by the likes of Ewok and hearing Heiroglyphics’ Domino drop some huge beats over in the b-boy tent, as well as saying hi to Minneapolis’ Familia Skateboards crew, we sidled over to the main stage where, unfortunately, we caught the tail end of Cage‘s set. Not being his biggest fan at the best of times, it was pretty hard to stand his whining so shelter away from earshot was sought. However, once he was off, the fun really kicked in with Wiz Khalifa bounding onto the stage and dropping his massive hits from the Kush & Orange Juice mixtape including the fan favourite In The Cut. So his set was exclusively tracks about smoking weed. So what? He was having a lot of fun, the crowd was having a lot of fun, and the 80s party vibes definitely got various parties started.
Moving over to the smaller Fifth Element stage, our good mates from Doomtree Cecil Otter and Paper Tiger were on the stage and drew a large crowd despite having to go up against the former ROC family member Freeway. Cecil mixed in both old and new tracks, all of which were sung back loudly by his hometown crowd and his usual off-kilter banter was definitely in full effect. Following that, main stage sets from Eyedea & Abilities and Murs carried on proceedings [whilst, admittedly, t-shirts were being bought and high fives with Minneapolis mates were being slapped] before we caught the start of P.O.S.’ set.
Backed by members of his hardcore band Building Better Bombs the cacophony of drums and guitars blasted out tracks from his latest album, 2009’s Never Better and immediately hands were thrust skyward, pounding the air. If it wasn’t already obvious how much of a hero Stef Alexander is to the locals, this was the perfect show of it. Despite wanting to see all of the set, Fashawn was up on the Fifth Element stage and so a little trip was taken over to see him drop tracks from his Boy Meets World album.
Then came one of the two highlights of the festival for me – Alabama’s Yelawolf. Having been a fan of him before the festival, it was always going to be interesting to see how he brought it live and he didn’t disappoint. Equal parts angry and hyped, he bounded out and got everyone in the crowd hollering with him rapping about cars, drinking and throwing dead bodies in a trunk [yep, awesome] and was loved by most people I spoke to after the festival.
After a quick viewing of Toki Wright’s set, including his brilliant rendition of Booka B’s Sun Is Shining remix, it was over to the bleachers for the remainder of the day, starting with the tail end of Hieroglyphics who ended their set with Del’s verse from Gorillaz’s Clint Eastwood. Following that was Brother Ali who, as he always does, brought the feelgood vibes, even going in over a Lauryn Hill instrumental, much to the delight of everyone in attendance. As hard an act as Ali is to follow, Method Man and Redman were the men to do it, jumping around on stage, dropping classics from Wu Tang albums and even stage diving the barrier between stage and fans, to huge cheers. With Dessa getting a sizable crowd on the Fifth Element stage, including all of the Doomtree MCs getting on stage to rock one track, the stage was set for the headline act.
The only act on the bill that could have followed Red and Meth was Atmosphere. As a fanboy of over ten years, it’s still exciting to see them perform and with the sun setting and a rainbow forming [am I not supposed to notice that because I’m male? What?!] they ran through classics through tracks from their When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold record and interspersed brand new tracks into the set with Slug saying “well, if you like the old stuff, maybe we could play you some brand new stuff?” to the waves of applause. As obvious as it may be, they were the highlight of the festival and if the new material is anything to go by, they’re going to be dropping some awesome new records soon.
Mention must be made of the following for the photos below: The peanut butter and jelly bagel is now officially the Soundset tradition car-ride food; Familia Skateboards have baller graphics; hip hop makes Alice be a ballerina; the weirdo in the purple looked like Ribena berry gone wrong; the woman with the bum shouldn’t be wearing that and all the rappers and DJs below are awesome, from top to bottom: Cecil Otter, Dessa, Fashawn, P.O.S., Redman and Method Man, Toki Wright, Yelawolf and Paper Tiger [with some plum next to him in a cap].