This year's Soundset lineup is arguably the strongest in years. Hosted by longtime rap gatekeeper Sway Calloway (who rapped with Vita.mn last year), this year's Rhymesayers-sponsered soiree features chart-toppers like J. Cole, Ludacris and Big Sean as well as acclaimed Internet rap stalwarts such as Freddie Gibbs with Madlib, Vince Staples and Clockwork Indigo ( feat. Flatbush Zombies and the Underachievers). Even Ice Cube is dropping by, who happens to still put on a hell of a live show.
However, there's still plenty of live hip-hop to look forward to ahead of this year's festival. Here's five of them:
Earl Sweatshirt & VinceStaples with Remy Martin
March 27 • Mill City Nights • $27
Odd Future's hyper-literate prodigal son just dropped his new album "I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside" earlier today. Co-headliner Vince Staples, loosely affiliated with OF, is featured on the album and made his own mark last year with his tremendous EP "Hell Can Wait."
Highlight tracks: "Hive" (Earl feat. Vince Staples), "Hands Up" (Vince Staples), "Wool" (Earl feat. Vince Staples)
Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) feat. Muja Messiah and Sarah White
April 4 • Skyway Theater • $30-$35
Fifteen years ago, Mos Def made history with his seminal rap album "Black on Both Sides." Since then, Def's spent the majority of his time focusing on serious acting roles. His musical output on the other hand, has been inconsistent at best.
Highlight tracks: "UMI Says," "Hip Hop," "Quiet Dog Bite Hard"
ImaSu! with Rome Future
April 15 • Mill City Nights • $18
An acclaimed producer and esteemed member of hip-hop group the HBK group, ImaSu! is one of the brightest, most promising young MCs of his generation.
Highlight Tracks: "Mobbin," "Only That Real (feat. 2 Chainz, Sage the Gemini)"
Joey Fatts feat. Aston Matthews
May 2 • Fine Line • $10
A member of the Cutthroat Boyz, which features Vince Staples and co-headliner Aston Matthews, Joey Fatts has brushed shoulders with everyone from Action Bronson, Freddie Gibbs and A$AP Rocky.
Highlight Tracks: "Choppa (feat. A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown), "Sunday"
May 7 • Myth • $35
Tech N9ne may be one of five rappers in their 40s still producing quality work. Just last year the Kansas City-born veteran released a track with the reigning king of hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar, entitled "Fragile."
Highlight tracks: "Am I A Psycho," "Caribou Lou"