The tenth anniversary of Rock the Bells was celebrated in Mountain View, California on September 14-15 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. The two-day festival was an all-out celebration of the culture’s past, present, and future. Acts from yesteryear like Slick Rick and KRS-One performed on the same stages as acts of the future like Kendrick Lamar and Joey Bada$$.
Day one of the festival saw Bone Thugs-N-Harmony take the stage with a virtual performance by the group’s late mentor, Eazy-E. The group was ecstatic about making history and sharing it with the Rock the Bells faithful.
“When we first saw Snoop do it with 2Pac the bulb went off in everybody’s head,” Krayzie Bone told Examiner.com. “We gotta do this and give Eazy-E the love that he deserves.”
“Eazy-E’s legacy is everything that came out on the whole west coast and us,” Krayzie added.
The pairing of Bay area legends Too $hort and E-40, wasn’t really a pairing at all. The much-hyped return of the Bay’s prodigal son’s was really two separate sets from each emcee. Too $hort ran threw a string of his most famous tracks for thirty minutes and exited the stage so E-40 could do the same. The two never interacted with each other leaving fans scratching their collective heads.
While the bells and whistles were going off on the main stage the real action was going on at the two smaller stages, Guerilla Union and HipHop DX. Due to poor scheduling the two stages, which were in close proximity often overlapped causing an odd juxtaposition. Additionally, Chicago rapper Chief Keef was a no-show for his performance and was replaced by Bay area group Los Rakas.
Despite a few hiccups the event’s highlight was easily the performance of Common on the HipHop DX stage. Backed by a three-piece band, female back-up singer, and longtime DJ, Twilight Tone, Common gave the most energetic performance of the festival tearing through the most up-tempo songs in his catalog. Common was followed by KRS-One who normally tears stages to shreds, but on this night he failed to outperform Chicago’s finest export.
Day two of Rock the Bells in Mountain View was heavy on energy. Artists like Danny Brown, Trinidad Jame$, IamSu, and Juicy J, provided a different element to Rock the Bells which is historically mostly boom bap rap.
Dueling stages continued to be an issue throughout the day as acts like Deltron 3030, who performed with an orchestra had to drown out the strip club music of a Juicy J.
Slick Rick performed without a previously advertised Doug E Fresh and bored Rock the Bells to sleep. A laidback performer, Ricky could not connect with the two-something crowd, not due to this 80’s era music, but his cavalier demeanor. Doug E Fresh, the self-proclaimed world’s greatest entertainer could have been of assistance to Rick on this fateful night.
The Wu-Tang Clan featuring a virtual performance by the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard capped off Rock the Bells 2013 in Mountain View. Notably absent were two of the group’s biggest stars, Raekwon and Ghostface. No explanation was given as to why the crime-rhyming duo was not on stage with their brethren. Due to their absence, Method Man had to do all the heavy lifting and was masterful in doing so.
Wu-Tang’s performance was a mix of classics and obscure solo material before the hologram of ODB became the main focus. Ol’ Dirty Bastard was resurrected by technology to perform ‘Shame on A N*gga’ and ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ at Rock the Bells 2013. The performance was surreal to say the least. Nine years after his passing, the Hip-Hop world was reminded at Rock the Bells of what a great loss a character like ODB is for the culture.
All in all, Rock the Bells delivered. There was something for everybody on the bill. Having to choose between performers on three different stages almost seems cruel, but it’s a good problem to have.
Most artists on the Rock the Bells line-up don’t typically find themselves with this large of an audience at once so they go the extra mile to give the fans a performance of a lifetime.
“For me it means to show out for people who aren’t Tech N9ne believers ” Tech N9ne said of performing Rock the Bells. “To people that might have heard my name but really don’t listen to my type of music.”
Rock the Bells allows older fans to experience new artists they may have never seen or head of before, while introducing young fans to artists from the past. Rock the Bells is what Hip-Hop should be—a look into the past and present of one of America’s greatest inventions.