Each year, much debate occurs from fans and festival organizers alike about who outside of the Rhymesayers roster is going to play Soundset. In an attempt to both showcase a wide spectrum of regions and definitions of independent rap, Soundset manages to bring together some surprising appearances that are often worth the ticket price themselves.
Here are this year's big name headliners:
[jump] Big Boi
At one time overshadowed by Outkast partner André 3000, Big Boi has struck out on his own in a big way in recent years, finally dropping his much anticipated solo album Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty to wide acclaim last year. The Atlanta rapper helped put not only his city but the South as a whole on the map, with plenty of indisputable classics, Top 40 hits and Grammy awards already under his belt before his individual effort was even in talks.
Big Boi manages to capture the roles of the pimp at the wheel of a Cadillac, the politically-minded everyman, the left-brained experimental artist, and the untouchable MC, all under the umbrella of impeccable skills and a seemingly down-to-earth approach to the game. Live, Big Boi is known to go above and beyond the call of duty: While many rappers at his level of notoriety seem to float on that alone, Big Boi has been known to take his material to new heights, such as his 2008 collaboration with the Atlanta Ballet for an innovative performance called simply "Big."
The Soundset performance will likely be with a with a live funk band in tow, bringing out the lush grit of the rapper's impeccably-chosen production. Outkast fans will definitely want to catch the set, but Big Boi's performance will surely solidify his stance as a legendary solo artist.
De La Soul
A common theme among many of the artists represented at Soundset is their rise to popularity through self-definition, carving a lane for themselves with a sound not necessarily confined to the norm. De La Soul are among the first and best to fit this mold of rugged individuality, and continue to be one of the most respected hip-hop groups of all time. With their groundbreaking 1989 debut 3 Feet High and Rising, rappers Posdnuos and Trugoy the Dove smoothed the hard-as-nails world of New York rap with a funky, quirky, and light-hearted album that was unlike anything else at the time. Recently added to the National Recording Registry, the album still sounds fresh today, and Prince Paul's stellar production stands as a landmark for the art of sampling. Further classic albums like De La Soul Is Dead and The Grind Date added layers to the group's sound without losing the base sense of playful inventiveness and positive vibes.
The chance to see these old school veterans, who helped set a blueprint for a good majority of independent-minded rap music from then on, is a rare treat every hip-hop fan will appreciate.
Recent Shady Records signees Slaughterhouse are a rap supergroup that combines the talents of four of the underground's hardest working rappers: Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, Royce da 5'9, and Crooked I. Each rapper has had storied solo careers already, but the four-headed beast they become in the booth and onstage is a force to be reckoned with.
Responding to a collective energy that came out of a studio session for Joe Budden's song "Slaughterhouse," the rappers decided to become a full-fledged group named after the track. Even spanning scenes from across the country (they hail from New Jersey, Brooklyn, Detroit and Long Beach), the four distinct spitters manage a cohesive sound despite a range of styles. Sharing a hard-edged honesty and fierce approach to time-honored lyrical traditions, their self-titled 2009 debut was a strong start from a group whose individual members each struggled with reaching the success their talents warranted.
The future looks bright for this powerhouse group, and the Soundset performance comes at a time when the group is at their hungriest.
The trope of the rapper leaving a major label to pursue an independent career due to lack of support can be applied to a number of the names of today's popular rappers. Curren$y has been connected to No Limit, Young Money, Roc-A-Fella, and ultimately Warner Bros. throughout his nearly decade-long time in the industry, and in that time has release a number of albums and mixtapes that have cemented him as a name worth knowing in today's rap circles. The New Orleans native's smoked-out and laid-back flows slip into beats smoothly, and he has one of the stronger lyrical abilities of the modern crop of young rappers.