Last weekend X Games returned for its second year to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I had the opportunity to check out the X Games’ action, including the music after the daily sporting events. This year’s musical performances consisted of Kaskade, Brother Ali, Ice Cube and Zedd. There was also a special pre-party event with Minnesota’s own Prof.
While many fans kicked off X Games weekend watching the Pacifico Skateboard Vert Final and Pacifico BMX Vert Final outside of U.S. Bank Stadium, I decided to check out the X-Games pre-party. The party was held at the famous First Avenue venue in downtown Minneapolis. I was impressed when I arrived by St. Paul native Cashinova, who was hyping up the crowd early. The next artist, Sa-Roc, stepped on stage and asked the crowd if they were “ready to go on a journey”, then followed up with some of the most powerful female Hip Hop vocals I’ve heard in a while.
Finally, it was time for the headliner, Rhymesayers’ own Prof. Prof is well known for his goofy style mixed with hard Hip Hop lyrics. He stayed true to his image, walking out in a bright orange jacket and thick framed glasses. He dropped “Action” when he hit the stage, triggering confetti cannons pointed at the crowd. He kept the crowd hyped and always included interactions with them between and during songs.
Friday consisted of some exciting events like The Real Cost BMX Big Air Final and Dave Mirra’s Park Best Trick Final. This day also consisted of a lot of qualifying rounds for the other events. If you’re curious about the X Games, Friday was the day to stop by the stadium because most of the different sports had events that day.
Because a lot of people were still at work during the day on Friday, it was the perfect time to check out the various booths in the plaza in front of the stadium. Some memorable booths were the Pacifico booth where you could design your own socks and have them printed, the Monster booth to try a new flavor of Monster, and the Harley booth where you could ‘drive’ a mounted Harley.
Before I knew it, it was time to walk down the street to The Armory. This year, the music was moved down the street to the renovated venue instead of the grassy commons area in front of the stadium. Kaskade was the first headliner of the weekend. Shortly before the event, I had the opportunity to interview Kaskade. We talked about everything from his days working at a record store to tacos.
The weekend’s music at the Armory started off with local artist Mike 2600 opening with a groovy Disco House set. Mike is not only an artist by way of DJing, but he also creates artwork. Much of his visuals during his set consisted of artwork that he designed himself.
Kaskade started his set off strong, instantly playing his new hit “Cold As Stone”. As soon as the first drop came in, flames shot high on stage, along with everyone’s spirits on the floor. It was hinted earlier in the day that the production would be top notch, and that rumor didn’t fall short. Besides the pyro, there were lasers, string confetti and short bursts of fireworks throughout the set. It was easily the best production I’ve witnessed since the venue opened. Kaskade brought a nice range of tracks to the table for his set. After “Cold As Stone”, he kept played the usual emotional yet party-worthy tracks like “Eyes” and “Angel On My Shoulder”. The set later progressed into harder tracks like Tiesto’s “BOOM”. Kaskade also snuck in an unreleased track titled “Tight” that had some strong House vibes. Whenever a drop from one of these would hit, the floor of the Armory was literally bouncing! The night wrapped up with “We Don’t Stop” transitioning into “Disarm You”, which triggered a huge confetti shower.
I decided to get my ‘brap’ on for the start of the third day with the LifeProof Moto X Step Up. This is moto’s version of the high jump in track and has never had a dull moment. Jarryd McNeil took Gold by being the only person to get over the 43’ bar. McNeil celebrated by hitting the throttle hard on his bike as it laid down and watching it shoot in a circle. Silver medalist Libor Podmol surprised his girlfriend by proposing shortly after his run. Bronze winner Colby Raha added some style to his jump by touching the bar with his hand during his attempt.
The Toyota Men’s Skateboard Park Final was a fitting follow-up to watch after the moto event. Here, Alex Sorgente would defend his gold medal. At the SoFi Women’s Skateboard Street Final 2016 medalist, Mariah Duran, took the gold after an incredible second run. Wrapping up the events for Saturday, I witnessed an impressive no-handed front flip from Jackson Strong in the Monster Energery Moto X Best Trick, which would win him the gold.
Walking into the Armory on Saturday night, I didn’t know what to expect. Brother Ali and Ice Cube were performing. From my experience, Hip Hop shows don’t do justice live, especially from old school artists. Would I be proven wrong?
Mike 2600 was back once again with his colorful visuals and 80s themed animations. This time, the Twin Cities DJ played a Hip Hop set that started off with 90s tracks and transitioned into more current selections.
A purple haze slowly rolled across the stage as Brother Ali walked on. Performing in front of a visual filled with brightly neon-colored shapes, The Rhymesayers legend blessed the crowd with good vibes with tracks like “Own Light” and telling them to reply with “Yes I do!” whenever they were asked if they love themselves and the ones they came with.
When the purple haze cleared, a different type of haze hit the stage; Ice Cube was about to start! The lights turned down and Ice Cube got on the mic, hyping up the crowd with a “Yeah, Ye-ah!” Cube, wearing a black ‘Westside’ Dickies button-up, then walked onto stage with his old friend WC where they broke out into “Natural Born Killaz”. The rest of Ice Cube’s set was filled with classics from “Gangsta Nation” to “Check Yo Self”. The legendary N.W.A. member then wrapped up by telling the fans in that Armory that, “The reason you a had a good time was that ‘Today Was A Good Day’”. He finished with that track as the fans responded by waving their arms side-to-side.
It didn’t take long for me to answer my own question of whether this was going to be a good show. The uplifting vibes from Brother Ali combined with a set from Ice Cube that proved he still has it made for a perfect night of rhymes.
I was excited to start the final day of X Games with one of my favorite events from last year, the Harley Davidson flat track races. The races are divided into two groups, the Hooligan racing, and the normal Harley Davidson racing. The Hooligan racers were described at the X Games as old men with beer guts, while the Harley Davidson racers were the ‘fit’ bunch. Both were equally as entertaining to watch. There were some tough races in both series, including a couple crashes. In the end, Daniel Mischler took home first in the Hooligan Racing Final, while Jared Mees took gold in the Harley Davidson Flat Track Final.
After the races I stopped by my final event of the X Games, the Women's Skateboard Park Final to see how the home state hero Nicole Hause would do. When Nicole was announced, U.S. Bank Stadium filled with cheers and signs for the Minnesota native. In the end, the competition was fierce and Brighton Zeuner walked away with the gold after beating her already first place run on her second attempt.
I took in my last sights inside the stadium, including the finishing touches on an unbelievable mural that graffiti artist Wes Winship had been working on all weekend. After saying goodbye to the X Games events, I was off to The Armory one last time.
The X Games wrapped up with a performance by Zedd. Light from the still daytime sun softly hit the stage as Zedd performed. His introduction consisted of visuals of what appeared to be glowing orbs with flower pedals, which danced to a tick-tock instrumental. The orbs slowly combined inside of a large tree. From there, Zedd walked up to his highly placed DJ booth and jumped right into “Beautiful Now”. The rest of Zedd’s set consisted of a combination of Big Room bangers and Top 40 hits, ending with his famous 8-bit “Legend Of Zelda” that transitioned into an up-tempo version of “The Middle” and ending with confetti hitting the crowd during “Clarity”.
Overall, the X Games weekend was a blast both in the stadium and on the dance floor. I'm excited to see that X Games will return to Minneapolis next year! I would like to thank X Games, ESPN, SIM Shows, The Armory and Strykerfoto for helping make this all possible.