This weekend's Soundset bash in the Metrodome parking lot is the first time Rhymesayers Entertainment has put on its own festival, but it's not the first time the Minneapolis hip-hop crew has used that name for an event.
"I vividly remember that I was scared to death at the original Soundset," Atmosphere rapper and Rhymesayers co-founder Slug said.
It was a party, held the summer of 1997 in a warehouse space on E. Lake Street in Minneapolis, where El Nuevo Rodeo nightclub is now. Back then, Rhymesayers was a little-known promotions operation and fledgling label that rented out the space for a day.
"We basically lined up every act we knew in the city to perform," recalled Slug, who was afraid nobody would show up and/or the music wouldn't be well received. Instead, the event's success set up Rhymesayers' weekly showcases at First Avenue, also named Soundset, which was more or less where Atmosphere and the label became kingpins of the local hip-hop scene.
"It was one of the first times we really made a big splash," Slug said. "It was like, 'We really think we own this [expletive], don't we?' And now, I'm thinking the same thing."
Soundset '08 will be Atmosphere's first public hometown gig to promote its new album, "When Life Gives You Lemons." It will also be one of Brother Ali's last local shows in support of his triumphant 2007 release, "The Undisputed Truth," and one of Eyedea & Abilities' first gigs in town since reuniting last year. The rest of the Rhymesayers will be there, too, and so will some of their favorite out-of-town rap acts, including '90s stars Dilated Peoples, New York indie-rock stalwart Aesop Rock and North Carolina's Little Brother.
"I think it's cool to use the Soundset name again," said behind-the-scenes Rhymesayers vet Jason (J-Bird) Cook, who's helming the event. "It shows how far Rhymesayers has come in 10 years, and hopefully we'll keep using the name and build it up even bigger."