The Rock the Bells Hip Hop festival is quickly becoming the premiere festival for the genre in North America. This summer’s Southern California show lineup and large crowd turnout is proof.With Hip Hop Legends EPMD and Public Enemy on hand, along with Current Superstars like Mos Def and the Roots, the show had a mix that showed the eclectic nature of the music along with the progression of the art from over the years.
The setting for the concert was the Hyundai Pavilion in San Bernardino with blazing inland empire sunshine in full force.
This is probably a testament to the dedication of the fans that rocked hard all day in the heat.
The venue was large with multiple stages, a grass area, a sitting area, an air conditioned VIP area and a concrete pit surrounding the main stage, along with stands offering fairly priced food and overly priced alcohol.
The variety of scenery and music was only out done by variety of fans in terms of ethnicity and style.
One would think that perhaps a show headlined by Rage Against the Machine would not have large fans crossover with Nas, however the day was harmonious with most people cheerfully smiling throughout the event and talking about “One Love” and “Unity.”
Whether these modern day hip hop hippies were influenced by the socially conscious lyrics and break beats of the music, the cloud of marijuana smoke, which hovered over the crowd or both, was not important.
What matters most is that the event is proof that hip-hop is not dead as some would argue. Rather, it is alive and well and has a positive influence on its practitioners and participants.
The main stage saw a number of memorable moments throughout the day.
One of the first acts to perform was Immortal Technique, who rocked the crowd with highly charged political lyrics, focusing on the War in Iraq, the current conflicts between blacks, Latinos and socialism.
The hip hop duo of Talib Kweli and Mos Def, known as Black Star, reunited on stage and performed their classic “Respiration” to the highly charged crowd.
Scott Ian of Anthrax joined Public Enemy on stage for a crowd-pleasing performance of “Bring the Noise.”
One the most disappointing moments of the concert occured when Nas showed up late and performed only two songs during the Roots set.
Further highlighting the event, MC Supernatural went into the audience during the show, asking fans to hold up whatever they had in their pockets while he free styled about the items.
At one point, a white patron held out his wallet to the African American MC, at which he quipped about the historical nature of a white man handing a black man a wallet.
A large percentage of the crowd was there to witness history, one of the last Rage Against the Machine shows ever.
The Wu-Tang Clan also hinted that this would be the last show with all the Wu-Tang members on stage in the Los Angeles area.
With the passing of the guard to these two super groups it is a mystery to what promoters will have to offer for next years Rock the Bells.
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