One of the best things about Soundset is being able to say you saw ’em when.
Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore, Wiz Khalifa, Chance the Rapper and G-Eazy all played Minnesota’s groundbreaking hip-hop festival well before they went on to major chart success. Some of today’s hottest underground rappers were also early picks in the fest, such as A$AP Ferg, Logic, Joey Bada$$, Vince Staples and Action Bronson.
Here are five newbie acts in this year’s lineup worth getting to know beforehand.
Hometown: Oxnard, Calif.
Back story: Equal parts rapper and velvety R&B singer, the real-life Brandon Paak Anderson, 30, got serious about a music career only after losing a steady job on a marijuana farm. His first album, “Venice,” caught the attention of Dr. Dre, who signed him to his Aftermath Entertainment and heavily featured him on his 2015 album, “Compton.”
This year: Anderson dropped his second LP, “Malibu,” in January. It earned widespread raves for its breezy psychedelic undertones but gritty lyricism, exemplified well in the Schoolboy Q-accompanied single “Am I Wrong.” In March, he was the toast of Texas’ South by Southwest Music Conference, touted by Spin, Paste, Fuse TV and many others among best of the fest. His festival itinerary after Soundset includes the Roots Picnic and Pitchfork.
Back story: At age 25 and 6 feet 5, Jenkins is looming large in the booming Chicago hip-hop scene. Fellow Chitown stars Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa guested on his 2013 single “Cross Roads.” That helped him land a deal with Cinematic Music Group (see: Big K.R.I.T., Joey Bada$$), which issued his buzzed-about 2015 EP, “Wave[s].” The single “P’s & Q’s” especially showcased his wow-inducing wordsmith skills (featuring mostly words that begin with P or Q).
This year: Jenkins’ full-length debut, “[T]he [H]ealing [C]omponent,” is due in August. If the title is any indication, the record should further the weedy, hazy beats he has crafted with innovators such as Canadian producer Kaytranada, as well as his philosophical and somewhat Zen-centric lyrical style.
Hometown: Grapevine, Texas.
Back story: Born Austin Post in 1995 and raised in the Dallas ’burbs, he split for Los Angeles after high school and quickly earned a buzz via SoundCloud. His single “White Iverson” — a nickname for his physical likeness to NBA great Allen Iverson — earned a staggering 25 million streams last year, landing him a record deal with Universal Republic.
This year: Another rapper not afraid to also softly croon, Post just dropped his first mixtape this month, a mishmash of Auto-Tuned R&B, downbeat electro-rap and even folky singer/songwriter fare, titled “August 26” to tout the day his debut album is set to be released. Presumably, recording sessions are on hold for the time being, though. His Soundset appearance falls between tour dates with his pal Justin Bieber, who enlisted him as his opening act for his Purpose Tour, including next month’s Target Center gig.
Hometown: St. Paul.
Back story: Before her 18th birthday, one of the Twin Cities’ most promising young MCs had already amassed 20,000 Instagram followers, 100,000-plus SoundCloud streams for several songs and one Grammy nomination. The latter came thanks to her guest appearance on California R&B singer Kehlani’s Atlantic Records debut, “You Should Be Here.” Alijai’s own 2015 album, “Joseph’s Coat,” showed off her Aaliyah-meets-Allan Kingdom, sing-songy rapper style and knack for writing about family, relationships and feminism.
This year: Alijai already stepped out strong at two high-profile gigs, starting with First Avenue’s Best New Bands showcase in January and then opening for Kehlani at the Fine Line in February. She issued the equally tender and gritty single “18” in February to mark her birthday and is working on another album.
Back story: A wunderkind who attracted attention under his former teen moniker Sweezer B, 24-year-old rapper Novyon Dix (pronounced “no-vee-yon”) made more waves with the quartet the Rotation and then teamed with producer Travis Gorman to drop last year’s adventurous mixtape, “#TheFoodNetwork.” The single “Lots” — madcap rhymes over a minimalist synth/bass track — became a viral hit thanks in part to collaborator Allan Kingdom, with whom Novyon has frequently performed over the past year.
This year: Novyon has been playing Red Bull Select tour dates around the country while working on his full-length debut, “#RespectfullySavage,” planned for a fall release. In the interim, he just dropped a Weezy-like new single, “Let’s Get Lit,” with Atlanta producer Sonny Digital.