They probably could have just booked Brother Ali and Doomtree to perform again and easily drawn another 20,000 fans like last year. Instead, Soundset organizers did a great job challenging their audience and keeping things fresh as their nationally recognized hip-hop festival heads into its fifth year. Along with Kendrick Lamar, the first three names on this list really are three of the most buzzing names in underground hip-hop. The other two are new standouts from the Twin Cities scene. As always, Soundset is not releasing set times until the day of show, so you'll have to show up early to see them all.


Talk about the Dirty South: K.R.I.T. hails from the deep Delta of Meridian, Miss., and made light of his muddy surroundings in his 2011 hit "Country Shit." His two mixtapes for Def Jam, including the new one, "4eva N a Day," earned comparisons to OutKast with their meaty, slow-smoked jams and whacked-out, hard-rocking cuts. We're still waiting for his first full album.


This beefy chef-turned-rapper from Queens at once sounds wise-acrely comical, permanently baked and murderously frightening on his breakthrough 2011 album, "Dr. Lecter." An obvious Wu-Tang Clan devotee, he's often compared to Ghostface Killah, with whom he recorded the track "Meteor Hammer." Perhaps we'll hear its two makers perform it live at Soundset?


Much of the praise for this electrocution-haired Detroit rapper has been from hipster outlets such as Pitchfork and Spin, which named his "XXX" best hip-hop album of 2011. However, his freaky, experimental beats and wry, hypersexual lyricism also played well to a crowd of mostly hardcore hip-hop fans at a South by Southwest showcase (filling in for a no-show Lamar).


Remember when Doomtree looked like a bunch of nerdy young punks fresh off the couch from playing video games? This beatmakers-led crew and their loose collective of mostly south Minneapolis rapper pals look even younger, greener and brattier, but their rowdy, microphone-swapping live sets are turning into quite the blowouts.


Already big names in the Twin Cities hip-hop scene, Muja Messiah and Maria Isa brought different eras and corners of the Twin Cities hip-hop scene together and came up with a unique identity as this new duo. Not only is this too rare a chance to hear songs from last year's underrated debut album, "Blue Diamond Island," but it's also one of only two chances to see a female rapper at Soundset (also: Medusa, from Los Angeles).

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