From chart-toppers like A$AP Rocky and Future to veterans like Common and the Roots, even the most casual rap fans can find something to enjoy at Soundset 2016.
Freshly relocated to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, the Midwest's premier rap festival has attracted more and more A-listers since launching in 2008. But the organizers at Rhymesayers Entertainment haven't turned a blind eye to the buzzing talent that first defined their pioneering, Minnesota-based label and Soundset.
Here are four must-see up-and-comers to catch this Sunday.
Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Anderson .Paak netted high praise for his ubiquitous presence on Dr. Dre's 2015 comeback album, Compton. The spry, Cali-bred musical savant appeared on six of Compton's 16 tracks, adding some much-needed levity and falsetto on an exhaustively serious LP. Any concerns that .Paak overextended himself were quelled by his second solo album, Malibu, which contains no dearth of ideas and ambition.
The album, .Paak's first release on Dre's Aftermath label, received a low-key January release that felt largely unnoticed despite unanimous critical acclaim. Featuring guest spots from West Coast brethren the Game and Soundset alumnus Schoolboy Q, Malibu is a sprawling, spacey deluge of soul-infused hip-hop. Production-wise, it's teeming with lush arrangements as dense as its best verses. Malibu is convivial, sentimental, and something of a minor masterpiece.
Keep an eye on .Paak. He's made it clear he's not going anyway anytime soon.
Finding Novyon is at the forefront of a Midwest rap renaissance. The locally based rhymeslayer had a banner year in 2015, even scoring coverage from Pitchfork and esteemed hip-hop blog Pigeons and Planes. His much-delayed and much-buzzed-about 2015 mixtape, #TheFoodNetwork, finds Novyon in good company. Friend and Kanye-approved Grammy nominee Allan Kingdom, plus fellow locals Psymun, DJ Frank Castle, and Metasota are among his collaborators.
In 2011, Novyon caught the attention of the brass at Cash Money Records, but he maintained his autonomy. "It's so tight, I love it so much," he told City Pages last fall, expressing excitement for the new class of Twin Cities rappers. "I feel like now that we're achieving things a lot faster than a lot of other artists have before, it's jumpstarting people to pay more attention. It's gonna be interesting who comes up next. We're still young as fuck."
And given the blogosphere's reaction to #TheFoodNetwork, it sounds like Weezy was onto something. On record, Novyon showcases an impressive amount of range and lyrical maturity as he vacillates between abrasive and contemplative. The result is a varied, dynamic, and fully cohesive mixtape.
Mick Jenkins is an esteemed veteran of the Chicago underground, but he would have no problem fitting in at Rhymesayers. Much like local MCs Blueprint and the late Eyedea, Jenkins is a brooder. His 2014 album, The Water[s], is a heady mix of neurotic rambling that waxes intellectual and poetic without missing a beat — literally and figuratively.
What's most compelling about Jenkins is that he operates in this nebulous space, a potential crossover success who seems indifferent about crossing over. He's a rapper committed to his scruples, too. "I just thought [Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy] was very misogynistic. I'm big on content and I could not fuck with that content," Jenkins bluntly told Complex last year.
Jenkins' 2015 sophomore album, the aptly titled Wave[s], is less dismal content-wise, but retains the urgency and polish that made him so intriguing in the first place. While Jenkins can feel muddled and preachy at times, he more than atones for it with relentless wordplay and uniquely cerebral lyricism.
"I'm not a normal motherfucker. I don't like to get on the mic and talk at my shows," DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip told City Pages last year (yes, that's 10 I's and nine of them are silent). The producer made a name for himself as the ringleader of seemingly defunct rap crew Audio Perm, but he's been grinding on the local rap circuit since he was 17.
If you've stumbled into any local hip-hop shows in the past two years, odds are you've encountered Tiiiiiiiiiip. The young DJ is a ubiquitous and vital presence in a scene that's brimming with talent and buzz. Among Tiiiiiiiiiip's projects and roles: frequent collaborator with Bobby Raps, official DJ for rap supergroup the St4ndrd, and freewheelin' party DJ. Last month, Tiiiiiiiiiip and Bobby raps scored a viral hit with "Feed the Streets," a song they cooked up for, uh, Hamburger Helper. He'll hit Soundset fresh off touring Europe with fellow local Allan Kingdom
He's also endearingly goofy. Don't believe us? Check out Tiiiiiiiiiip's tips for Soundset here.
With: Atmosphere, A$AP Rocky, Future, the Roots, Common, Prof, Doomtree, Machine Gun Kelly, Danny Brown, Prof, Lizzo, Aesop Rock + Homeboy Sandman, and many more.
When: 11 a.m. Sunday, May 29.
Where: Minnesota State Fairgrounds, 1265 Snelling Ave., St Paul.
Tickets: $84 + fees; more info here.
Minnesota State Fairgrounds