When Guerilla Union released this year’s Rock the Bells line up list it had the mouths of Hip Hop fans worldwide literally watering. Whether your thing’s underground or above ground, old skool or new skool, 80’s golden age or 90’s heat rocks, it seemed the tastes of everyone were to be catered to in this 10 hour Hip Hop marathon. A marathon that would feature main stage acts performing their most notable classic albums in their entirety! San Bernardino, Cali was chosen to get things poppin’ this year so check out more after the jump to see exactly what went down…
It was reportedly a day of sweltering heat in San Bernardino as the crowds gathered to enter this years Hip Hop extravaganza. The huge crowds and smaller-than-last-year standing room made sure temperatures were maxed out. However, water generously sprayed over the patient hoards of people kept temperatures bearable as everyone waited in anticipation for the first act.
London’s (yes we still claim him) very own Ricky D, Rick The Ruler! Slick Rick, took to the main stage first to perform tracks from classic ‘The Great Adventures of Slick Rick.’ Slick was promptly followed by the God Emcee himself Rakim. It was at this point whilst performing classic cuts from, ‘Paid in Full’ such as, ‘I know you got Soul’ that the crowd really got in to it spittin’ every single word alongside Ra. KRS-One stampeded the stage doing something I wish Nas would return to doing, which is perform his most acclaimed diss track. ‘The South Bronx’ was a no holds barred performance with no names left unnamed. That’s how it should be, this is Hip Hop, it’s all love.
DJ Premier came out and laced the airwaves with some golden-age Gangstarr as tribute to the late Keith Elam, Guru. Peep the video to see how the crowd really got in to this one.
One of the most anticipated performances to hit the Rock the Bells stage this year was of course the long awaited mainstream return of songstress Lauryn Hill. The leaked track ‘Repercussions’ wet the beaks of fans, so the pressure was on for L-Boogie to deliver the goodness we all became so accustomed to back in the day. Past issues of psychiatric problems and questions over her disappearance from music aside, Ms. Hill was here to perform the whole ‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ and some.
Hill’s set began with a fast paced version to ‘Lost Ones’ following up with a score of classics including the likes of; ‘To Zion,’ ‘Doo Wop (That Thing),’ ‘Fu-gee-la’ and “Ready or Not.’ The Queen of Hip Hop didn’t even come close to disappointing fans. The only negative comments I’ve come across were in reference to Lauryn’s low mic volume in contrast to the backing band which resulted in them overpowering her somewhat. After checking some youtube footage I can actually confirm this was the case and audience members were fairly vocal in trying to correct it (as they should be). Ultimately not the same flawless voiced youth that she once was, her voice slightly weaker and graveled (think MTV Unplugged 2.0), Hill still managed to put in a worthy performance that – with the exception of some industry insiders – left most pleased and wanting more. MTV’s Sway even ventured as far to call the set ‘the day’s defining moment.’
Phife Dawg & Q-Tip
Q-Tip headed A Tribe Called Quest as they took to the stage hoping to not be overshadowed by L-Boogie’s performane. Really though, who better to take up that task? Tip reminded the crowd of the special event, re-living history, that they were witnessing that night in stating, ‘In November 1993, A Tribe Called Quest put out Midnight Marauders and Wu-Tang put out 36 Chambers on the same day. Two weeks later, Snoop put out Doggystyle.’ Fourth member Jarobi joined Q-Tip, Phife Dawg and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on stage to form a revitalised and energetic as ever Tribe as they put in a stellar performance performing every single track from ‘Midnight Marauders.’ And as darkness began to fall over L.A, one last treat was in store for Quest fans in the form of Busta Rhymes and Spliff Starr. These guys came onstage and helped the crew perform explosive renditions of; ‘Check the Rhime,’ ‘Award Tour,’ and ‘Scenario,’ among others. The guys ripped it!
Wu-Tang hit the stage in a way that only Wu-Tang Clan can. With force! Equipped with baseball bats and the son of late great ODB (who represented his Daddy hard, even rockin’ the hair-style and flow) the Wu proceeded to get the crowd amped with hits like ‘Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit and ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ If your support for the Wu is ever wavering, please, do yourself a favour and observe these cats live.
Undisputed West Coast legend Snoop Doggy Dogg closed the show. The G-Funk vet stepped out to 25,000 home fans all demanding a nostalgic set of the days of Death Row dominated Hip Hop. A table laden with enough 40oz bottles to moisten all parched throats of the roaring crowd members set the scene for Snoop and his cronies (including Warren G and Lady of Rage) to reverse time. 1993’s Doggystyle was thoroughly revisited with tributes to Nate Dogg (in hospital after suffering a stroke), while Snoop slipped back in to that menacing persona of younger days.
Underground heads were more than satisfied with the line-up they received on the ‘Paid Dues’ stage and in between major sets on the main stage, including names such as; Immortal Technique, Murs, The Clipse, Brother Ali, Jedi Mind Tricks, 9th Wonder and more.
Comments and Goings On:
Tribe Called Quest were amazingly unified, finishing each other’s adlibs and being perfectly in time, many commented on their outstanding group cohesion. This is especially credit to the group, who have suffered questions of personal disparities over recent years.
It’s a shame to say but there has been vast comment on early acts performances going way over people’s heads. The likes of Rakim, KRS-One and Slick Rick’s classic (performed) albums were most likely released before many of the audience members were even born. Even so, it’s a shame to think peoples aren’t up on vintage joints.
Immortal Technique actually jumped off-stage mid-performance to the aid of a fan in need of some hydration and medical attention in the blistering heat of the San Bernardino sun. What’s more Tech had this to say to Rolling Stone after he hung with the crowd for a good while, signing autographs and generally socialising, ‘In a genre of music where people are known for being arrogant and self-centered, just talking to people after the show lets them know you really are who you say you are.’ Tribe, KRS, Wu-Tang and Rakim remind me of a time when skill was more important than superficial things in music.’ Damn, what a great guy.
A Lauryn Hill comment speaking on the track, ‘To Zion’ that caught me off guard: ‘My son Zion is now 13 years old. Thirteen years … Can you believe that much time has passed?’ Well no, I can’t believe it’s been that long.
Brother Ali was one of the performers of the night according to many reviewers present. His act was based on a message of love and compassion, rounded off with a disgustingly dope freestyle backed DJ snuggles on the beat-box.
This night seemed to be, without doubt, thee Hip Hop night of the year. Many who were in attendance stated that they were simply seeing the soundtrack to their lives being played out in front of them. I can only guess what that feels like, but I think we can all rest assured that it’s a pretty special feeling. Guerilla Union deserve much love for pulling together such an iconic line-up. If any of you out there reading this right now have the ability to drag your ass to DC or New York to get to either of the final two shows, do so…and embrace the nostalgia my brother, embrace it.
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