Up in the air: How Minneapolis became a flyover city for major rap artists
It was 1998, the Smokin Grooves Tour was in its second year, and a group of friends and I were geeked out about going to the show. Public Enemy, Gang Starr, Wyclef Jean, Cypress Hill and others were booked, but everyone was waiting and most excited for Busta Rhymes, known for his killer live shows full of energy and stage outfits that would make Liberace blush.
Word got around that Wyclef Jean wasn't going to make our stop on the tour, so we were already pre-prepared for that disappointment. But not this. As we entered the Target Center, ushers were handing out little red coupons that apologized for Busta's absence; he couldn't make it because he was filming a music video. So, instead of getting to experience the roar of a dungeon dragon, we get to chomp on a free pretzel via a red coupon.
Yeah, that totally makes up for it.
Jay-Z groovin out on stage 690 miles away in Detroit.
Photo by Dan Dryden
The buzz and demand is not big enough and we can't handle the major acts. We like to think we are equal to other major markets, but the truth is this city is an overpriced appetizer. Artists would rather perform two sold out shows in Chicago than risk a stop in Minneapolis.
Big Boi performing for SoundSet in 2011
Photo by Denis Jeong Platser
The worst case is local drug money being laundered by booking big-name acts and collecting the clean money on the back end. Booking agents saw this going unchecked and stopped putting Minneapolis on destination lists. Obviously, they don't want to be involved.
The city has a black eye and a bloody lip.
Slug rocks 14,000 plus at Soundset in 2011.
Photo by Rhymesayers
And in the ashes of Smokin' Groves, Minneapolis is now home to one of the biggest summer hip-hop showcases in the country, Soundset Festival. Headliners such as Big Boi, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Freeway, and Wiz Khalifa have all experienced the big love of a Minnesota audience at Soundset in the past four years. It's become a yearly destination for many young Midwesterners, bringing in much-needed dollars and tourism into the city.
To those hip-hop acts that do take risk and come to play for their Minneapolis fans, we at Gimme Noise would like to say a big "thank you". Ultimately, it's the cold shoulder from the Jay-Zs and Busta Rhymes of the rap world that we developed our own self-sustaining community. We overcame boredom and did our own thing, to the point we're now getting recognized for it. But we've still got that big stack of red coupons ready, and we baked extra pretzels for the future. Just think of that next time you see Drake flying over above.
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