The biggest music festival in the Twin Cities for many years and usually the biggest all-hip-hop fest in the nation, Soundset has been called off for 2020.
Its organizers at Minneapolis-based Rhymesayers Entertainment instead plan to focus on their 25th anniversary celebration later this year.
"We made the difficult decision to call this year off in order to assess what Soundset will become in the new decade," Rhymesayers representatives said in a press release Friday.
Attendance slipped from about 35,000 people to around 25,000 at last year's Soundset, with a lineup featuring Lil Wayne, Run the Jewels, G-Eazy and SZA alongside local hosts Atmosphere and dozens more rap acts and DJs.
That organizers were able to get the notoriously unreliable Lil Wayne to take the stage — and nearly on time — underlined the festival's reputation, as did the previous year's feat of reuniting all the Wu-Tang Clan members, who also performed on time.
Slug, the frontman from Atmosphere, relayed Friday's news to fans in a Twitter message that had an air of finality to it: "The sun sets on Soundset. Thanks to the community for making a dozen parties with us!"
The one-day, three-stage festival was first held in the parking lot outside the Metrodome in 2008, drawing about 12,000 fans. It grew in size nearly every year and relocated twice, first to Canterbury Park Festival Field in Shakopee — an unlikely host city that earned it a sarcastic shout-out on "Saturday Night Live" — and then to the State Fairgrounds' sprawling Midway in 2016.
Along the way, Soundset became an early booster to some of hip-hop's biggest names before they broke big, including Lizzo, Travis Scott, Macklemore, Logic, Wiz Khalifa and the late Mac Miller. Those latter four rappers all went on to draw big crowds at the State Fair thanks in part to exposure from the festival.
"Together, we created something special," said the statement from Rhymesayers.
Co-founded in 1995 by Slug and Ant of Atmosphere along with president Brent "Siddiq" Sayers, Rhymesayers hosted a big 20th anniversary celebration at Target Center in December 2015 with most of the artists from its roster. No details have been leaked yet on its silver anniversary plans.
Atmosphere's longtime tour manager, Jason "J-Bird" Cook, became the behind-the-scenes force who made Soundset go every year.
Unreachable for comment Friday, Cook told the Star Tribune before the very first Soundset how the festival was modeled after events of the same name hosted by Rhymesayers at First Avenue in the 1990s, when Minnesota indie-rap was a largely novel idea.
"It shows how far Rhymesayers has come in 10 years, and hopefully we'll keep using the name and build it up even bigger."
A Forbes article on the festival in 2016 singled out Cook for creating "ever-increasing success at a time when many other similar-sized festivals have either gone defunct or are plagued with cancellations."
Rhymesayers staged Soundset every year via a partnership with local concert vets Randy Levy and Gene Hollister of Rose Presents, who promoted many Warped Tours, Ozzfests and other big outdoor bashes over several decades.
Levy was also a co-founder of the country music camp-out We Fest in Detroit Lakes, which for decades was the biggest music festival in Minnesota. But We Fest has gone through ownership changes and slumping attendance in recent years and has also been called off for 2020.
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