Atmosphere. J Cole. Ice Cube. Ludacris. To anyone with any sense, these names immediately pop off the page of the Soundset 2015 lineup, but the list does not stop after the marquee names.
Down where the font gets little resides a host of talented emcees, rap collectives, and DJs who make up the meat of the festival. They might not have the curb appeal of major-label radio stars like Big Sean or the local appeal of hometown heroes like Sean Anonymous, but these lesser-known roster slots are how you'll be filling your Sunday before the headliners take the stage.
Rather than have you waste your time wandering from stage to stage in hopes of stumbling upon a good time, Gimme Noise has decided to do the legwork for you. Here's the lowdown on Soundset's less-familiar faces.
Hometown: The Renaissance City, a.k.a Providence, R.I. Synopsis: Gritty activist understudy of Sage Francis who got his start in NYC's Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Also the steward of the Church of Love & Ruin and Knowmore.org. Style: Looks like your uncle, raps like your uncle's friend who has an MFA and a surly sense of paranoia. Is he worth my time?: You'd better be circling Dolan's set on your schedule with a goddamn permanent marker.
Hometown: Hotlanta, Ga. Synopsis: He's the dude who sings the far less popular song about wrists (see below). Style: New Atlanta drug raps soaked in steez. Is he worth my time?: If your eye isn't on Awful Records, then you're missing a rising generation of hip-hop stars. Catch Father now before he hits stratospheric heights.
Hometown: Oakland, Calif. Synopsis: 24-year-old prodigy of Soundset host Sway Calloway and daughter of Bay Area rapper Nic Nac whose name stands for, no joke, "Good Lyrics and Music." Style: Chill, gone-ass Cali raps Is she worth my time?: If you're high enough, sure.
Hometown: Minneapolis Synopsis: Local rookie who absolutely blew the doors off the scene with his debut, Southside Looking In, which was picked as a Critics' Pick for Album of the Year by 83.3 the Current. Style: Sounds like a much larger dude than he actually is. Like fellow Minneapolitan Toki Wright's voice coming out of Mac Miller. Is he worth my time?: No one reps his Twin Cities pride more openly than Manny Phesto, so it's only right you show the proud local the same love.
Hometown: St Louis, Mo., but also St. Petersburg, Fla. Synopsis: Teenage come-upper who works often with Minneapolis locals Psymun and Bobby Raps. Style: MF Doom beats with an Earl Sweatshirt delivery. Is he worth my time?: Yes. Double yes if you brought your backpack.
Hometown: San Francisco, Calif. Synopsis: Def Poetry Slam vet cum gimmick rapper with more than a passing resemblance to Michael Cera. Style: Mumble rapping about the Scholastic book fair. Is he worth my time?: Not unless you want to break your fuckin' arm.
Hometown: Los Angeles, Calif. Synopsis: Unhinged horrorcore rapper without any irises. Style: Exhaustive and vague psychotherapy sessions over frantic beats. Is he worth my time?: Depends where you fall on the Juggalo spectrum.
Hometown: Columbia, S.C., by way of Providence, R.I. Synopsis: Famous La Coka Nostra DJ known for his shows the Halftime Show and Rap Is Outta Control and generally being the life of the party. Style: What every DJ at the Pour House aspires to be. Is he worth my time?: To be frank, Eclipse is really the ONLY DJ worth seeking out (aside from DJ Babu, but you should know him already).
Hometown: Washington, D.C. Synopsis: Sometimes Saroc the MC, this metaphysical rhymer leans heavy on super-woke rap motifs. Style: Basically a female version of Vinnie Paz but with even more ancient Egyptian imagery. Is she worth my time?: Uh, no.
Hometown: Mound/Winona Synopsis: Prolific freestyle rapper who released Staring at the Sun almost a year ago. Style: A rap engine that runs on Red Bull and applause. Is he worth my time?: Sean Anon is a madman on the stage. You can walk up to his set never having heard a song and end up bopping along by the end of the first verse. Yes.
Hometown: Vancouver, B.C. (that's in Canada, kids) Synopsis: Juno-nominated MC who's perfected that super swaggy vocal fry rappers like to adopt. Style: Adam Levine doing a strangely accurate impression of Sims. Is he worth my time?: Yeah, SonReal puts a ton of energy into his performances, so he's worth a peek.