Recap: Rock The Bells 10 Year Anniversary (Day One)

By | September 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm | No comments | Featured Post, MUSIC, Recaps | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“L.L. Cool J. is hard as hell… Battle anybody I don’t care who you tell… I excel, they all fail I’m gonna crack shells, Double-L must rock the bells”

James Todd Smith didn’t know the phrase he coined would become the name of the most prestigious of Hip Hop summer concert series when he dropped that track on his “Radio” album way back in 1985. But somehow, someway… Rock The Bells always seemed hiii-powered. 18 years later, Guerilla Union adopted that phrase as their name for a summer music festival that would grow to become legendary.

That was in 2003. That was when Chang and his camp of dedicated guerilla soldiers first did the impossible and reunited the Wu Tang Clan for what was to be their final appearance altogether with a living and breathing Ol’ Dirty Bastard. (Rest In Peace)

Originally taking place in an overcrowded warehouse, “Rock The Bells” has since grown to overtake the entire San Manuel amphitheater and the open acre fields surrounding it. 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the festival and Guerilla Union has gone from booking hip hop legends to resurrecting them. And it’s only right that GU and “Rock The Bells” commemorate their 10 year anniversary by bringing the one and only ODB back to life alongside his Wu Tang bloodkin.

In true Compton fashion, GU also put Eazy-E back on stage with Bone Thugz N Harmony, but lets not get ahead of ourselves… There is a whole lot to cover with this 2 day concert series, so let me dive in at the beginning.

We pull up at the artist check in after whipping the freeways at breakneck speed attempting to get to San Manuel on time. A giant inflatable buddah from “Smoke Outs” long since gone casts the artist check in under its shadow. Agallah The Don Bishop is rushed off on a golf cart to the stage where he is supposed to make an appearance alongside the Mic Tyson of this rap shit, better known as Sean Price.

After Agallah peels out with the guerilla union staff, Sean Price rolls up in a black sedan and is hurried off with his camp to go Rock The Bells. While waiting for my credentials to be passed along, I parlayed at the artist check in and watched as the who’s who of the concert series arrived. Big K.R.I.T. came up flossing in a black escalade on the low tho. Chino XL pulled up with his entourage. DJ Mustard and YG showed up with their posse in full effect. But the most memorable of appearances was from Earl Sweartshirt. When the young lord pulled up, a dirt devil mini tornado was spinning in the field by the parking lot. Earl chased after it like the Tazmanian Devil but the wind was far too elusive and couldn’t be caught by the Wolf Gang tyrant.

At long last my credentials manifested themselves, and thanks to some help from Mandela Sean and The Don, I was royally escorted into the artist village. I missed performances from the Flatbush Zombies, Bodega Bamz, Smoke DZA and Supernatural amongst others, but fuck it. I was inside. The artist village felt like the center point of the hip hop universe. Jhene Aiko was there with her arm in a bandana’d up sling, Ras Kass was pouring Campeon Tequila for Akil from Jurassic 5, Money B from Digital Underground and Tech N9ne. Supernat was rolling backwoods up in his trailer. Immortal Technique was making his rounds. Rapsody and 9th Wonder were in the place to be. Common was chilling with some beautiful ladies. Riff Raff was rocking mad gold and had his hair freshly braided. There was even a little barbershop tent where the stars could get lined up and catch a fresh fade. There were couches out on the grass and plenty of refreshments in the trailers.

Outside of the artist village, the crowd was thick. The amphitheater was packed. The people had came out to show love for their culture. I built with the gods and came out of the artist village to check on my ILLsociety compatriots.

Jurassic 5 hit the main stage and had their routine worked out flawlessly. Pusha T was on the Fools Gold stage and turnt the crowd all the way up when he dropped his verse from “Mercy.”

All she want is some heel money
All she need is some bill money
He take his time, he counts it out
I weighs it up, that’s real money


LOL… you know hell hath no fury, turn up turn up turn up… Ballin’! I put numbers on the board. I seen the Flatbush Zombies rocking’ that Murder By Day “Au Cocaine’ $napback. Brother Ali got down on some true school rhyme sayers shit. (Make sure you study up on “Room With A View” if you are unfamiliar with his body of work, the g-oh-dee got that champion sound.) Currensy also did his thing on the HipHopDX stage. If you don’t know about that jet life you better go cop you a loud pack and roll up. PJ’s ain’t just for the projects yo… that’s a Private Jet if you know your initials.

Now for the real meat and potatoes of this shin dig. The Thuggish Ruggish Bone Bone Bone Bone! Yessir, dressed almost in all black, the Cleveland crew took to the stage with all of their original members, yes, flesh-n-bone included. I know they rocked as the headliners last year, but last year they were sounding rusty and out of practice, out of wind and like the show was rushed. This year was a different story tho… They hit all those rapid fire lyrics with gusto and never missed a beat. They didn’t miss a step. You could see the Harmony. They showed and proved why Bone Thugz is one of the greatest hip hop groups to ever grace platinum microphones.

Check your ouija board if you don’t believe me. Guerilla Union pulled out all the stops, and as Bone decided to dedicate a moment to all the fallen soldiers in hip hop, a second stage dropped from the ceiling. Bone asked for a RIP for the late great Eazy-E and the crowd erupted. Personally I think they should have been chanting we want Eazy! But hey… not everyone remembers the 80’s that well. DJ Yella from the world’s most dangerous group took to the wheels of steel and made the crowd say “Compton’s in the house!” And like clockwork and out of a cloud of haze Eazy materialized on the stage as the beat for “Real Muthafuckin’ G’s” dropped.

Straight up and down, it was kinda ghostly. My jaw dropped just a little. It felt like a seance as the godfather of gangsta rap performed “Straight Outta Compton”, “Boyz In The Hood” and “For Tha Love Of $.” But don’t quote me boy cuz I ain’t say shit…

How do you top that moment in your performance? There was only one song Bone could drop to carry out that moment and you know it. “Crossroads.” It’s a classic. The Bay Area, Washington D.C. and NYC are all in for something special when this caravan stomps through their respective neighborhoods.

There were still more bells to rock after the Ruthless Records clique finished kicking up dust. Don’t forget that San Manuel is in southern California, home to Top Dawg Entertainment. And yeah, the Los Angeles all stars came out to wreck shop. Jay-Rock came out first and went through his catalogue. Ab-Soul was up to bat next and he got the crowd volunteering for the revolution as Detroit’s dirty soul child Danny Brown stepped on stage and turned it up a notch for his feature on “Terrorist Threats.” ScHoolboy Q put his “Hands on the Wheel” as he bum rushed the main stage next. He made his argument for his claim to the best rapper in TDE while cycling thru hits that had the crowd chanting “There he go!” He said he’d be back with that oxy and that “Yay Yay” if this rap shit didn’t work out, and then dropped Collard Greens without K. Dot. Mos Def keep your eyes peeled out for Q’s new album, OXYMORON, coming soon. Mac Miller said it was better than Good Kid M.A.A.D. city, but then again, who the fuck is he? lol

Kendrick came out with a live band after Q dropped heavy D like a chopper popping off 100 rounds. The title track from his “debut” platinum selling album had the crowd screaming “yawk yawk yawk” as K.Dot wilded the fuck out on stage. It always seems like a prayer when Kendrick performs “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and tonight was no different as the crowd put their lighters up like a candle in the wind. If Piru’s and Crips all got along, Kendrick would’ve been dead by the end of his set, but thanks to some live instrumentation from his band and the respect of everybody in the house, no violence occurred during the concert.

Rock the Bells is so crazy tho, cuz while this is going on, Talib Kweli and Common have been performing on the HipHopDX stage. You gotta pick and choose wisely at a Guerilla Union festival, cuz you’ll always see something fresh, but you might miss a legendary moment by watching another legend perform. And mos def the 10th anniversary was legendary, cuz there were still more performances after TDE got down.

Kid Cudi was on the main stage for the end of the night. And some might wonder why, but dude puts on a show. He got those sing along anthems that you didn’t even know you liked until you watched him get down. He had a spaceman moon rock like backdrop emblazoned with his insignia on the stage as he stepped out singing on his michael jackson type tip. There was smoke in the air and the former G.O.O.D. music artist showed everyone why he had to step out and stand on his own two feet.

Bug out tho, cuz while Cudi is on the main stage, the Blastmaster KRS-One is rocking on the HipHopDX stage. And the Boogie Down Productions representative still puts on one of the best shows in hip hop. You could hear that whoop whoop from “The Sound Of The Police” all the way back in the artist village.

I stepped backstage during Cudi’s performance. There was a small pavilion with some couches in the back by the staff’s cafeteria. A black and white portrait of the late great Eazy E stood in the middle the seating arrangements. Lil’ Eazy was taking pictures with people in front of the portrait of his father. I had a small moment with ODB’s mother Cheryl and some of Osiris‘ children. The community at large has nothing but love and respect for the families of our fallen legends. Cheryl was a very kind woman, and she chopped it up with me for a good couple minutes and even gave me a hug before she went off to build with Divine.

The artist village was my rendevous point to connect with the crew before sliding out. Earlier T.D.E.’s trailers looked like a family gathering, as Kendrick’s pops lounged in a couch and mad kids were running around the grassy area that was secured for them, now things had cleared out some after the performance. Some of the OG’s and legends were still parlaying around the way, enjoying the cool end of the summer evening after the excruciating heat from earlier in the day. We had some weed to twist up, I dropped a fo’ in some ocean spray and po’d up as we fought our way through the parking lot and drove off into the california night, eagerly anticipating day two of the festival in the morning.

-You know ya man’s Drop Jewelz.

All photos shot by Kacey Lynch and Eric Soul

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