Underground Spotlight: Rock The Bells Review

by MCavanaugh ·

While I was not lucky enough to catch both shows at Rock The Bells in New York, [the June 29] performance is guaranteed to be remembered as the wettest and nastiest day in Hip-Hop history.

The status of the Rock The Bells festival has raised drastically since its single show in 2004 in Boston. That concert will always be historically remembered by Wu-Tang fans as the last performance of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Four months later, ODB overdosed from pain killers and cocaine in the Clan’s studio. R.I.P. Russell Tyrone Jones.

The touring Rock The Bells festival had some big shoes to fill. With a roster of Hip-Hop heavyweights Cypress Hill, Rakim, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, and Boot Camp Click RTB was guaranteed to rock the home of many of these rap stars. Public Enemy, who recently celebrated their 20th anniversary together, Wu-Tang, and Rage Against The Machine headlined the show. While newer artists Living Legends, Sage Francis, Brother Ali, Mr. Lif, and Blue Print jammed out on the Paid Dues stage. With so many great musicians, playing either back-to-back or side-by-side, it was hard to let the rain ruin the feel-good vibes.

The rain poured, creating a muddy and dreary atmosphere for the first part of the day. The Main Stage was always packed with artists such as Jedi Mind Tricks and Boot Camp Click who brought their whole posse to keep-up with the momentum. All artists played their hardest and loudest to seduce listeners closer to the stage. The beat machine mastermind Rahzel made a guest appearance and performed the infamous “If Your Mother Only Knew.” The majority of the audience could not comprehend what was going on, until Rahzel said, “Here we go, the beat and the lyrics, at the same time.” Everyone who was moving in the crowd, stopped dead in their tracks as they heard the unbelievable music coming out of a single man’s mouth. Black Star’s Mos Def and Talib Kweli reunited and got a kick out of people mud wrestling in the fields.

“So this is what white people do when it’s raining outside. I can dig that,” screamed Mos Def.

To much disappointment Erykah Badu seemed to be missing in action. Her mysterious disappearance was never addressed; instead RTB went along as planned. As soon as the great gold Buddha was raised on stage with a marijuana leaf on its belly, the rain ceased. Cypress Hill played every song from the classic album, Black Sunday. With dark circles under his eyes from partying too hard the day before, B-Real lit up a joint on stage the size of my forearm. Just then, the sun made its debut appearance that day and broke through the clouds.

The Shaolin Temple stood behind Wu-Tang in the background, as they swarmed the stage. Flashes of yellow, red, and purple created an intense aura while they performed classic hits. Some landmarks include “Shame On A N***a,” “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Triumph,” and “Protect Ya Neck.” They wrapped up their performance in memory of ODB with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” The crowd sang along and held up lighters and cell phones to memorialize ODB.

Rage Against The Machine closed out the show with mounds of anticipation. The weather had, literally, dampened some of the sound equipment, so there was quite a delay between Wu and Rage. However, when Zack de la Rocha finally hit the stage, it was well worth the wait. Playing their greatest hits right away; “Bulls On Parade,” “Renegades Of Funk,” “Testify,” and “Guerilla Radio.” Never had such head-banging music seem so relevant to Hip-Hop, as Zack rapped about rebelling against the American government in “Killing In the Name.”

Let us not forget the original intentions of Rock The Bells; to act as the Hip-Hop revolutionary movement. With political artists, like Immortal Technique, every word is a statement and every intense motion is meant to move mountains. Public Enemy gained so much recognition in the 80’s because they were one of the first rap groups to deliver politics to the ears of the ghetto. History has proven to repeat itself and Public Enemy’s lyrics ring more true today, than they did 20 years ago. The importance of RTB is to enlighten and inspire change in today’s youth. The power of music is immeasurable and as Rock The Bells tours the nation, it brings a whole lot of baggage with it for under 100 bucks. Rock On!

4 Responses to “Underground Spotlight: Rock The Bells Review”

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    According to a bulletin on Badu’s MySpace page, she had plane delays…

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