don’t believe the hype

ROCK THE BELLS 2008 REVIEW by caseyly16

So the Rock the Bells tour graced the Bay Area yesterday.

For those who don’t know…the Rock the Bells tour is the biggest and baddest hip hop festival in the world. Since it’s debut in 2004, a plethora of underground and golden age hip hop artists have gathered to bring real hip hop to the masses.

First off, I’d like to say the entire Rock the Bells tour is built on hype. Don’t get me wrong, I love the music and the performances, but the main draw of the show for many people is the fact that people who know and love hip hop make such a huge deal out of it. I’m sure a good 50-60% of the audience did not know much about the music before attending.

Therefore, the performances can be sub-par and the audiences would still act as if they were blown away. Luckily for us, however, the majority of the festival is very well done.


On to the real review:

This year’s Rock the Bells was in an actual THEATER and not a PARKING LOT (!!!!). As soon as I strolled in through the entrance, I noticed the venue was definitely a gigantic step up from last year. The Shoreline Amphitheater has a seating area that covers about 75 yards, and then a lawn area for those who are too broke to get seats. The seats I got were about 60 yards away from the stage. Not too shabby, although I would have preferred being right up against the stage like last year.

Here is a breakdown of the performances:

Jay Electronica: The theater was mostly empty at this point, but that didn’t discourage Jay as he spit his fire. I didn’t really know much about Jay (other than Mos Def & Nas hailing him as the future of hip hop…hype?) but I really didn’t see anything special. He seems to be another lyrical underground emcee without any special oomph to affirm his title as the future of hip hop. Still, a solid performance for the early bird crowd, and maybe he will go on and prove me wrong.

Wale: Another new artist who I didn’t know anything about. He came out to Rising Up by the Roots, a song which he was featured on. Good introduction, as it got the handful of people who were paying attention up and moving. Wale had an energetic performance and I enjoyed it very much. Anyways, I’ll be on the lookout for more Wale in the feature. Oh and it’s pronounced Wall-eh, not wallee or whale. Be sure to check this:

MURS: This was one of the performances that I was very excited for, and it did not disappoint. He performed many of his hits (LA & Bad Man! were great) while skipping around the stage. Murs had a good vibe with the audience, which is always very important. He ended his set with a brand new song off of his upcoming Murs for President album called Lookin’ Fly? The beat banged like crazy and Murs did his thing. My only gripe with his performance was that he was put too early in the line up and not many people got to see him do this thing.

Blackalicious: EHHhhhhhhhhhh. I enjoy Blackalicious music very much, but I was just not feelin’ it in concert. Gift of Gab rhymes way too fast and the beats are way too different to vibe well with a live audience. Great in the studio, not so good live. Next.

Dead Prez: Oh these motherfuckers. They crazy. I mean, they take that revolutionary music to a whole nother level. When they came onto stage, they came out with lots of energy. However, I did not feel like the crowd was very into it but DP obviously didn’t notice as they played almost nonstop through their set. One song that did get the people on their feet was “Hip Hop,” a song about fake hip hop artists that had the whole audience chanting along. Overall, Dead Prez had a decent performance, but after seeing the way they wrecked it on Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, I expected much more.

Immortal Technique: This foo is fucking angry. I thought DP was crazy but when Immortal came out it was as if something had exploded. However, his performance was pretty spotty. It had moments of brilliance with his energetic and politically charged songs but it was detracted by the long pauses of angry talking between songs. Honestly, I don’t really think of Immortal as a rapper, but more of a political revolutionary trying to pose as a rapper. I respect his passion for his cause but he needs to remember that this is a hip hop festival, and that he should stick to the music. Anyways, pretty lively performance, not too bad but not too great either.

Supernatural & DJ Scratch: I really didn’t catch much of their performance, but if it was like anything from last year than I can safely say that Supernatural’s freestyles are ridiculously sick and I know DJ Scratch has that no wax thing down.

Raekwon & Ghostface: Ahhhhh. What’s Rock the Bells without a little Wu Tang flavor? Raekwon and Ghost came on and straight spit right through their set, barely pausing. They performed many of their solo songs, including Incarcerated Scarfaces & Mighty Healthy before going into the classic Wu material. CREAM instantly got everyone up who didn’t know their other songs, and then they did ODB’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya which had everyone singing. Pretty solid performance.

Rakim: It’s been a looong time, I shouldn’t have left you, without a strong rhyme to step to. shiiiettt the God! When Rakim stepped on stage I was straight trippin’. No joke, I could barely gather my thoughts. There is no one there more respected than Rakim. Every artist who came on stage threw this man some props cuz they know wsup. Too bad the crowd (again, hypebeasts!) didn’t really know who Rakim was and didn’t give him the props that I thought he deserved. It’s all good though cuz Scotty2Hotty wilded out for him. Pretty good performance, not the greatest, but more or less what I expected from the God.

De La Soul: De La was great. I expected them to come out and play through their set but they really kicked it up a notch and vibed with the crowd. Everyone was boppin’ with Me, Myself & I and bangin’ to the Grind Date. One of the best performances of the night.

Method Man & Redman: By this time, the entire theater was covered in weed smoke, with a good majority probably coming from the backstage. Perfect timing for a Meth & Red entrance. Their trademark energy got everybody up and going crazy. Even if you don’t know any of their music you would have been goin’ nuts cuz the atmosphere was just that electric. Highlight of the day: Da Rockwilder.

Actual video from the performance. Check out that cute Asian guy on the left!

Mos Def: Same ol Mos. He’s a great guy but that man has the most broken performances of all time. Half the time he’s singing, half the time he’s talking, and 10% of the time he’s actually rapping. Luckily, Ms. Fat Booty was dope and Umi Says is always fun. By far one of the worst performances of the night.

Nas: FINALLY. After waiting a whole year, I FINALLY get to see God’s Son himself. and boy he did not disappoint. High in energy all the way through, Nas performed song after song, covering each period of his lengthy career. My only gripe with this performance was that he did not perform his hit single “Hero,” even though he had time to do so. But other than that, I thought Nas did a great job with the bay area crowd, especially since he didn’t show last year.

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST: Can I kick it? (YES YOU CAN!!) yeaaaah boyy..Even though they didn’t play that particular song, Tribe still rocked the stage. Even though I felt the chemistry was a little funky (Tip was kinda playin’ hype man, which is a strange role for the usually chill ass dude) they still bumped. Not one person in the crowd was sitting for their performance (except that loser in front of us…what a fucking douche). Overall, very entertaining performance. Only real criticism I can say about it is that they didn’t play CAN I KICK IT!!!!!!!!!

Conclusion: There’s really no festival quite like Rock the Bells. Every year they manage to find bigger and better acts. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and definitely recommend anyone and everyone to attend next year’s.

Favorite Performances (Ranked, best to worst):

1. A Tribe Called Quest
2. Nas
3. Method Man & Redman
4. Murs
5. De La Soul
6. Rakim
7. Wale
8. Rae & Ghost
9. Dead Prez
10. Jay Electronica
11. Immortal Technique
12. Blackalicious
13. Mos Def
Oh, and as an added bonus…Q-Tip just talking during an intermission in the Tribe performance. Classic moment:

He’s firm for the double entrance!


1 Comment so far
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Yo! I was There as also, The Hip-Hop Spot had the privilege to cover “Rock The Bells Shoreline” I agree with some points in your article. Well, If you want to view some nice photo galleries of different artists sets, Check us out here:
Refresh the memories……

Comment by The Hip-Hop Spot

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