Rock the Bells season is upon us with the tour kicking off in San Bernardino this weekend before making stops in San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York. Guerilla Union President Chang Weisberg surprised fans when he announced that the 2013 Rock the Bells festival would include virtual performances by deceased rappers Eazy-E and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Following what Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg did last year at Coachella with a hologram image of 2Pac performing, Weisberg and Guerilla Union wanted to up the ante at their festival.
“I was there front row, center for what Dre was doing with the 2Pac performance and people were excited about it there,” Weisberg told Examiner.com. “Some people freaked out but some people liked it. Up until that point at a live show it’s only been about the music—always. The authenticity, the musicianship, and the connection with the audience was pure. It was very entertaining. I was blown away and couldn’t really explain it.”
While Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s hologram will obviously be awarded a segment as part of the Wu-Tang Clan’s set, Cleveland rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony will feature Eazy-E’s image as part of their performance. Weisberg invited the sons of Eazy-E and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, rappers themselves, to assist in the creation of their late fathers images.
“I can say this and I’m not here to tear anything down or take away the musician’s tricks but there were no family members involved in the creation of the avatar for the 2Pac hologram,” Weisberg said, “For the ODB and Eazy-E performance the family members have been essential. They are going to be used in the creation of the avatars, which are going to be projected on our stages. It’s been an amazing and a beautiful process to be a part of.”
“What we do on these shows will never happen anywhere else ever again,” he added. “September 7, which is the first day of Rock the Bells would have been Eazy’s 50th birthday. The last time ODB performed on a stage anywhere was at Rock the Bells. To watch kids who haven’t really hung out with each other hanging out with each other to honor their father is a big deal, man.”
Another highlight of the 2013 version of Rock the Bells is the pairing of Bay Area rap legends E-40 and Too $hort. It’s especially important because both artists were previously banned from performing at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. The ban has been lifted.
“The biggest story is that E-40 and Too $hort are going to be in the Bay area after many years and struggles to get back in there,” Weisberg said. “It was really hard last year. They were on the L.A. show and it got to a point where I had a little artist coalition for E-40 and Too $hort to be on the Bay area show. Next to the hologram thing I think seeing E-40 and Too $hort rock the Shoreline Amphitheatre for the first time in 7 or 8 years is going to be good. The Bay area fan base is one of the most energetic and super-positive crowds we have.”
Much like last year, Rock the Bells 2013 will also feature some of the best young acts in Hip-Hop. While Rock the Bells began as an event paying homage to acts from the 1990’s, the festival has evolved into an event that highlights acts from Hip-Hop’s golden era to today.
Playing prominent roles in Rock the Bells 2013 are Kid Cudi, J. Cole, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar and the Black Hippy crew, Tyler, the Creator, Wale, Big K.R.I.T., A$AP Rocky and the A$AP Mob, Earl Sweatshirt, Trinidad Jame$, Chief Keef, Danny Brown, Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era, and Action Bronson to name a few.
“I think one of the more fascinating stories of the last year is A$AP representing from Harlem,” Weisberg said. “They have the knowledge of where Hip-Hop came from and they’re spinning it their way now. Kendrick has one of the best records of the last couple years. Schoolboy Q is getting ready to drop and I know they got some surprises. Wale and J. Cole have awesome records out. Between A$AP, the Black Hippy crew, and Cudi they all represent how Hip-Hop has evolved over time. Nineties era Rock the Bells fans are getting a nice glimpse at what Hip-Hop will look like in 2013, 2014, and 2015 this year.”
The promoters of Rock the Bells haven’t forgotten their foundation. Hip-Hop purists Common, Talib Kweli, Dilated Peoples, Jurassic 5, KRS-One, Rakim and Supernatural will rock the stages at Rock the Bells 2013, in addition to a little twist that’s been added to this year’s festival. Rock the Bells has ventured into the world of electronic music by booking hybrid electronic artists Pretty Lights, Girl Talk, Chase & Status, The Internet, and A-Trak for the festival. Weisberg believes that Pretty Lights and Girl Talk are just as much Hip-Hop as Common and KRS-One.
“They are so Hip-Hop that they dig deeper than a lot of beat junkies I know,” Chang Weisberg said of Rock the Bells’ electronic additions. “They’re just Hip-Hop heads caught in a dance world. A-Trak is a DMC champ, he holds down Kanye but I’m not mad at him going to EDC and crushing it in front of 15,000 kids. Pretty Lights is big fat dubby trippy beats. Having Chase & Status on the bill, they’re the biggest dub crew in England. They’ve got the number 2 record on the BBC. They’re gigantic and they’re Hip-Hop heads.”
“The electronic dance movement and Hip-Hop started together,” Weisberg added. “Deep House in Detroit has its roots in Hip-Hop. There are so many versions of Hip-Hop and we’re trying to embrace all of it. Classic 90’s era Hip-Hop is still on the bill but it’s time to open it up to something that’s going to be unique for now and the future. People are open and expanding. Good music is good music.”
Regardless of what type of Hip-Hop you’re into, on its ten year anniversary Rock the Bells has something for you. Be it gangsta rap or backpack rap, boom bap or dance music, old school or new school, Rock the Bells has it all.
“I don’t mean to be redundant but this year’s show will be a unique show unlike anything that’s happened previous to Rock the Bells or anything that will happen in the future,” said Weisberg. “You can’t recreate the ODB and Eazy-E holograms at Rock the Bells ever again.”
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