She bought her ticket the week they went on sale and followed all the updates on Twitter. Like a lot of the young fans who planned ahead for Sunday’s Soundset festival in Shakopee, though, Britney Martin ignored one important detail: It’s a Minnesota hip-hop fest, not California.
“I’m freezing,” complained Martin, 19, of St. Paul, who arrived at the sixth annual rapathon in shorts and sandals. “I love this [event], but why can’t we get some decent weather for it?”
Shut down early by tornado warnings and lightning last year, Soundset’s festive atmosphere was tested yet again. Sunday’s cold, gray, windy weather rained on the parade of high-cropped cutoffs and low-cut tank tops — although the forecast rain actually held off for most of the 10-hour concert.
Sunday’s big chill also did not dampen ticket sales for what has consistently been one of the Twin Cities’ biggest concerts. This year’s was the largest yet, with 28,000 fans tromping around the muddy Canterbury Park Festival Field outside the Shakopee horse track.
“This music and this culture mean something,” hometown rap star Brother Ali emphatically yelled from the stage during his late-afternoon set, speaking on the power of hip-hop. He at least proved its drawing power: A sea of fans waved their hands and danced to Ali’s and other main-stage performers’ music — almost three times as many at the first Soundset outside the Metrodome in 2008.
Ali is one of the crew of rappers from Minneapolis’ Rhymesayers Entertainment, which started Soundset. The record label’s flagship rap group, Atmosphere, did not get to perform last year because of the weather and took an earlier performance slot this year — handing over the headlining duties for the first time to an outside artist.
That outsider, however, was one of hip-hop’s most iconic stars: Snoop Dogg. The Los Angeles rap vet topped out a 40-act, four-stage lineup that also included MTV reality-show star Mac Miller, Kansas City mainstay Tech N9ne, and such buzzing young rappers as Schoolboy Q and locals the Chalice and Greg Grease.
For one Twin Cities rap star, the event was a trial by fire: “Fifteen minutes ago, I didn’t even know I would be getting on stage,” said Prof, as he filled in for no-show act Busta Rhymes on the main stage.
For another local star, this year’s bash was a long time coming: “I’m having the greatest time I’ve had since probably last year’s Soundset,” P.O.S. told the crowd during his first full performance in five months, after kidney trouble.
One local rapper not performing — after taking the stage for two prior years — Mally called it “the most diverse, impressive Soundset lineup yet.” He, too, was surprised Atmosphere gave up the headlining slot. “Only for Snoop,” he guessed.
Introduced under his new Rastafarian moniker Snoop Lion, the once and forever Doggfather of rap gave the crowd a scare by opening with a song off his new reggae album. However, he gave them nothing but rap tunes after that, including “Next Episode,” “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and “What’s My Name?” The fans in this case all knew his name — his original name, that is.
See a photo gallery of Soundset 2013 at startribune.com/music.