Rock the Bells NY Concert Review
We hit up Rock the Bells this past weekend in NY, so what’s the report? This year’s edition of the Bells was a homage to the hip hop classic albums by Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang, Tribe Called Quest, KRS-1, Slick Rick, Rakim, & Lauryn Hill. The lineup was certainly epic so after a late night we packed up the MINI Clubman and headed out of Montreal early Saturday morning. McD’s breakfast, a Rock the Bells iPod playlist, and 6 hours later we arrived at the Big Apple and headed straight for Pier 11 for the ferry ride to Governor’s Island. The crowds were already building when we reached the gate and Rakim was already on stage running the tail end of his classic ‘Paid in Full album’ with KRS-1 up next to do ‘Criminal Minded’. Both these albums were a little before my time so even though I knew them well a much needed siesta was more in the cards to be ready for my personal highlights….
6pm arrived with the much anticipated rebirth of Lauryn Hill. K-Salaam, DJing on the 1s & 2s, got the crowd hyped for L Boogie to hit the stage. Everyone was ecstatic, the vibe electric, she came out opening with a furious re-arranged rendition of ‘Lost Ones.’ Ms. Hill had mad energy but something wasn’t right…the voice wasn’t quite all there, the music arrangement was a bit all over the place, the sound un-balanced (not crisp), and she was wearing a potato sack for an outfit. All the cuts were off her ‘Miseducations…’ album but completely rearranged to obscurity with a heavy alternative feel. Half the time it would take you a good minute or two to figure out what song she was on. Very Roots-esque but this format extinguished your inner desire to sing-a-long and reminisce. Having memories of seeing her in 1999 at her peak it was definitely a let-down for me. While she performed the power celebs were sprinkled around her stage. We picked out John Legend, Mary J Blige, Alicia Keyes, Swiss Beats, Busta’ Rhymes, Estelle, Beyonce, & Jay-Z. She had the energy but I was expecting something like what I saw on Dave Chapelle’s Block Party documentary where she still commanded that god-like quality.
Tribe Called Quest was up next, their album ‘Midnight Marauders’ pretty much sparked my love for hip-hop when I was in junior high. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg came out blazin’ with their back and forth raps completely on point. We were all amazed at how crisp they were, never missing a beat, a breath, you’d swear you were listening to something from the studio. ATCQ stayed pretty true to the album format running through all the cuts. However they did wander off and hit some choice cuts from other albums; most notably, Bonita Applebum which had Q-Tip intro with a beat box acapella that had everyone going bananas! Busta Rhymes came out for ‘Oh my God’ and stayed on till the end contributing to ‘Award Tour’ & ‘Check the Rhyme’. Last time I saw ATCQ was on their Low End Theory tour and they haven’t missed a beat since. Magic!
Wu-Tang Clan’s devoted fans were in the house, everywhere you looked you’d see someone stylin’ their Wu-Wear. The Clan have been at previous Rock the Bells shows doing solo performances, so to have them all back together on stage doing ’36 Chambers’ was going to be legendary. Each of the members took turns spittin’ their rhymes fired up with energy. With O.D.B. missing, his son, Boy Jones, filled in; with the same hair, energy, and rapping style, it really felt like ODB was back from the grave. The Wu stayed true to the album concept and to everyone’s enjoyment ran through the entire album. I swear this 4’11” girl in front of me was rapping so hard I thought she was going to explode!
Snoop Dogg topped things off, coming out with so much swag he really showed off the entertainer that he is. Snoop brought the album interludes to life with video skits, a picnic table topped with O.E. 40’s, a dancing dawg mascot, plus all the album’s original guests (Daz, Tha Dogg Pound, Warren G, The Lady Rage). The combination of all this plus the infectious G-Funk bounce served up an epic performance that will leave everlasting memories in our minds. I don’t think there is any other artist that can get everyone to sing, at the top of their lungs,Â one of the most derogatory songs in history….’Ain’t no Fun,’ LOL.
Overall an amazing night, definitely not going to miss it next year.