Local Current Blog

In town for Soundset? Here’s where you should go

Urban Lights in 2016 (Leah Garaas | MPR)

People from all around the world visit Minnesota every spring for Soundset, the largest hip-hop festival in the United States. But how many venture beyond the State Fairgrounds to discover where our local heroes grew up? Where they shop or eat? Here are a few hometown spots you can go to soak up the culture. Of course, many of these places are open year-round for residents or future visitors.

North Minneapolis

Breaking Bread Café

Breaking Bread Café is a superpowered restaurant. How else could they turn out homemade biscuits and gravy, roasted veggie sandwiches, and kale salads for under $10 each? Breaking Bread is a key location on the Northside, which exective chef/co-owner Lachelle Cunningham characterizes as a food swamp of chains and drive-throughs. Backed by non-profit Appetite for Change, Breaking Bread makes it possible for the community and eat local — and eat well.

New Rules

New Rules is, by design, one of the most flexible spaces in the city. It’s a gallery, with art by locals such as Bobby Rogers and Robin Hickman on display. It’s a co-working or event space. It’s a workshop site. As of this month, it’s a juice bar, slinging vegan and organic smoothies. Founder/CEO Chris Webley has designs on adding a restaurant, too. “Healthy food is something that the community asked for,” he told My North News. “We’re bringing intentional awareness about indulging in healthy living to North Minneapolis.”

Capri Theater

The Capri may be most famous for hosting Prince’s first solo show, but its story doesn’t stop there. Operated by the Plymouth Christian Youth Center for almost four decades, the Northside venue is known as an incubator for young poets and hip-hop talent; local rapper Desdamona hosts an open mic once a month during the school year. Whether or not it’s open when you arrive, it’s worth it to stop by and see the building.


Golden Thyme Coffee & Café

The coffee drinks — each one named after a jazz musician — are good. The sweet potato pie is even better. And the weekly open mic is one of the best. Youth organization TruArtSpeaks runs a spoken word session in the community room every Thursday from 6-8 p.m.; kids gather to show their stuff and learn their craft. Whether or not you can make an open mic, it’s worth your time to stop in. (Sidenote: TruArtSpeaks is holding a fundraiser, featuring performances from Brother Ali, Mally, BdotCroc, and DJ Just Nine, at Icehouse on June 2.)

Urban Lights

If you like hip-hop — and the old stuff in particular — you must visit this St. Paul record store. Owner Tim Wilson has records, mix CDs, and hundreds of stories about big-name rappers he’s met and/or befriended; Lauryn Hill and will.i.am figure prominently into some of my favorites. Shop for the newest Migos, find an old record by Erykah Badu — and make a point to check out Wilson’s photo and memorabilia case in the back corner.

Uptown/Lake Street

Fifth Element

If you’ve been to Soundset before, you may have already stopped by Fifth Element. But the Rhymesayers record store is always worth checking out, whether you’re looking for music, T-shirts, or snapbacks. Fifth Element is a hyper-local spot — “independent since day one” — and its spot on Hennepin Avenue makes it a convenient starting place for a food, shopping, and/or bubble tea expedition through Uptown or around Bde Maka Ska.

Muddy Waters

You wouldn’t know it when you walk in, but this Uptown restaurant is a popular hangout for musicians, due in part to its late hours, drink specials, and service industry nights. Well, if you walked in during Wu Tang Wednesdays, you might have a clue. Named after the blues musician, it has a long-standing connection with local hip-hop; many of the Doomtree crew have held listening parties or music videos in that space. Years ago, you could even find Doomtree’s Cecil Otter behind the bar.

El Nuevo Rodeo

Maya Santamaria owns and operates El Nuevo Rodeo, a Lake Street restaurant/nightclub with little-known hip-hop history. As the story goes, a lot of early Rhymesayers landmarks took place upstairs, including Eyedea’s first battle. These days, when you’ve finished your pozole downstairs, you can often head up for a party: for example, a banda concert or Noche de Cumpleañeros, where anyone born in the current month can celebrate and dance for free.

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen

One of the newest spots on this list, Pimento hosts Afriquency, a dancehall/Afrobeat party helmed by DJs Karuza, Miss Brit, and Mamadu — aka Toki Wright, a rapper, community figure, and three-time Soundset host. The next installment of Afriquency goes down on May 26 from 9 p.m. until bar close. The rest of the time, visitors can stop in for jerk chicken, fried plantains, and rum.


A few venues in town will host Soundset-adjacent activities, such as Icehouse (Sway in the Morning and J. Plaza on 5/25), Can Can Wonderland (Daytym on 5/25; RapTube on 5/26), and the Nomad World Pub (No Sleep Til Soundset on 5/24; Rap Night on 5/26). First Avenue hosts the official before and after parties on 5/26 and 5/27.