Sweltering Soundset pleases crowds with Migos, Wu-Tang Clan, and more

Soundset 2018
Jaden Smith performs at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)

I walked into Soundset greeted by Slug. "Welcome to Soundset," he told everyone over a PA. "I want you to have a really, really good time." His message played for 20 seconds or so and repeated on a loop. Interestingly enough, that was the last I heard from Atmosphere at what has shifted from an indie rap fest to a mainstream party. Slug and Ant performed in an evening slot, but they intentionally relegated themselves to the Atmosphere & Friends Stage (located appropriately on the fairgrounds' south side).

Streaming titans ruled the Main Stages. Logic, the 28-year-old rapper known for "1-800-273-8255" — which shares its name with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's number — headlined the bill, just four years after Soundset 2014 marked his first festival performance. Trap kings Migos (of "Bad and Boujee" and "Stir Fry" fame) preceded him, as did iconoclast Tyler, The Creator and modern-day Narcissus Russ.

But back to the top: Any story about Soundset 2018 has to hit on the temperature. Here in the Twin Cities, we reached the high 90s on Sunday, an extraordinary reading for Memorial Day weekend. Partying under a National Weather Service heat advisory, about 30,000 people strolled into the State Fairgrounds to sweat, queue up for water stations, and drink $9 tallboys. My packing list looked better suited to a beach day: sunscreen, sunglasses, a magazine, water, and light snacks.

I fared okay, but some folks camped out in the crowd looked sick. Security pulled kids out of the crowd every few minutes, giving them water bottles and sending them to first aid. A fog of smoke wafted above fans' heads, which probably didn't help.

One breath of fresh air: Erykah Badu, the neo-soul queen who sang us "Hello" and didn't say goodbye until her voice had blown our minds. She lost huge chunks of the crowd, but those who remained sounded like stalwarts, cheering her on with heart. "It's 3 Stacks' birthday," she said, referring to OutKast co-founder Andre 3000. To celebrate, she sang "Liberation" from Aquemini, dedicating the performance to OutKast. She also shouted out her son with Andre 3000, Seven. "Seven's on the drums!" she said before shaking her head. "I was trolling."

Before Badu, people packed in to see Wu-Tang Clan celebrate the 25th anniversary of their album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). They got through the whole album, bringing the "motherf—ing ruckus" from start until finish. "Some of these songs older than some of y'all motherf—ers out there," they said — and that included 19-year-old performer Jaden Smith, who stared up at them from the photo pit. Each emcee rapped at least one verse by Ol' Dirty Bastard, the Clan co-founder who passed away in 2004; they wrapped up their set with his 1995 hit "Shimmy Shimmy Ya."

Everyone from Jaden Smith to Rapsody had an encouraging word for the crowd. Smith offered to co-sign on our dreams: "Tell [people], 'Jaden Smith believes in me,' because that's true." Badu promised, "I believe in what you're doing." Rapsody reached out to the women, pointing as she said, "I do this for you and you and you." Of course, Migos and Russ dissuaded everyone from giving haters the time of day.

A string of acts got their mics cut as time ran out on the Main Stages. The schedule issues were nothing compared to flight-delay and no-show holes last year (looking at you, Lil Uzi Vert). But they were enough to make some artists deflate, including Migos, whose "Walk It Talk It" ended with shrugs and a few half-hearted waves. In protest, after joining Tyler, The Creator on "See You Again," Erykah Badu began to belt into the last hot mic.

Brockhampton were the sole last-minute drop-outs, having canceled the remaining dates of their U.S. tour after sexual misconduct allegations against member Ameer Vann. "Ameer is no longer in BROCKHAMPTON," they tweeted Sunday morning. "We are going to [...] go home and regroup."

The Essential Elements Stage — aka the producers' tent — sheltered a smaller group of people all day long. Doomtree's Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak performed as Sick Trim, a world-premiere group sharing a lot of old music, including beats from Doomtree's False Hopes (2007), Sims's Lights Out Paris (2005), and Lizzo's Lizzobangers (2014). Bailey "26" Cogan (of local group 26 BATS!) shared their new solo electronic album 26 BEATS!, a pack of jazzy samples, drum pads, and bright piano chords. DJ Scratch made the people dance with his mix of old and new tunes ("HUMBLE." by Kendrick Lamar, "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg, and "Rake It Up" by Yo Gotti and Nicki Minaj, to name a few).

I also saw great sets by Kamaiyah, Prof, Pell, and Jaden Smith, but what I really want to talk about is DJ Rowsheen. She kicked off the music at the Atmosphere & Friends Stage, blasting P.O.S's "Get Down" and a dozen other party-starters during her hour behind the turntables. She shared the stage with dancers, hosts Mica Grimm and Adonia, and GRRRL PRTY veterans Manchita and Sophia Eris, who hopped onstage to perform their new song "Klits To The Pit." Despite the heat, I'll remember that hour of music as one of my favorites all day. More women on the Main Stages next year, Soundset?

25 Photos

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    Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Kamaiyah performs at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Manchita (left) and Sophia Eris (right) perform new song "Klits To The Pit" during DJ Rowsheen's set at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Pell jumps into the photo pit at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    An artist spraypaints a wall at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Car show at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Sick Trim (l-r: Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger) at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Rapsody performs at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Jaden Smith performs at Soundset 2018, with fans watching from sidestage (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Fans dance in the Essential Elements stage at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    A fan holds up a Wu-Tang Clan pinata at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Wu-Tang Clan perform at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    A sweaty fan dances at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    A Sweet Martha's cookie meets the pavement at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Crowds hit the water refill station at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Ice-T performs at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Impromptu breakdancing at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Migos fire off confetti at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Logic performs at Soundset 2018 (Emmet Kowler for MPR)

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