Rock the Bells 2008, Columbia, MD (7/27/08)- The Epic Review.

As promised, Knobbz just let y’all know that Kid Capri > $4 & cap-less water bottles in Boston, we didn’t get a chance to experience the water situation (fortunately) or Kid Capri (unfortunately).
But read on to find out what the DMV arm of ML thought of the latest stop of Rock the Bells. Yesterday HM and I hit up the Rock The Bells stop in Columbia, MD (which most of the acts preferred to call Baltimore, DC, or even Virginia). In a nutshell the day was like many festivals, overwhelming at times yet highly memorable, esp. for a hip-hop head.

As I was getting my pass from Will Call, I heard some woman in a frantic asking to no one in particular at about 12:30 pm, “Is that Nas on?!”
When a security guard said it was “only” Jay Electronica, she was relieved, I fought back the urge to hiss/make verbal threats. Once I bypassed the crazy long line leading to the Pavilion to duck into the press entrance, I was at a loss at what to do first.. MURS was on the main stage, I stopped for a few moments to check him out, but with people just starting to trickle out it seemed like the perfect time to roam around, I stumbled across the smaller stage where a duo by the name of Ninjasonik, who were well into their set with a track about being on the internet called Internet Bitch, but once I heard Holla For a Dolla next which featured a sung part of the hook that went “HIV don’t be the death of me, I wanna fuck” over some clubby beat, I had to get them a mention and I didn’t really need to hear much more. I roamed some more to see the venue and try to find the elusive SanDisk VIP area, but in enough time to check out Wale on the main stage (home town advantage yo!), he only did a few songs including Nike Boots, but seeing a good majority of the people getting into his abbreviated set was a very welcome sight. Those that missed him this first time got lucky, he would come on later in the show to do even more songs during intermissions. After Wale wrapped up Supernatural or Supernatura if you will:

(we get it, Supernat never takes an L, right?)

went on to partake in his intermission/hosting duties that would carry on through out the day. He started freestyling about random objects throughout the concert,  people (Highlight: Saying konichiwa to a girl that looked Japanese; ethnicity couldn’t be confirmed as of press time), stage props, etc. while Scratch (of The Roots fame) did a pretty impressive beatbox and spun. When Supernatural saw that there was a section of seats in the audience on the left for the hearing impaired with a full out sign language lady (what’s that occupation called?), he bugged out in his freestyle “I’ve never seen a white girl translate my rhymes!!”. He went on to spit some more stuff directed at her which resulted her in shaking what her mama gave her (throughout the night a lot of the MC’s like Redman gave a confused/smile/wtf  look at what the epicness going in that section) . I’ve seen a few MCs do this schtick but Supernatural did it best.  I stuck around to see Dead Prez come one for a handful of songs but for some reason I decided to check out Tyga on the small stage for curiosity sake (I had a lot of energy to walk around at this point, ok?). I can’t hate on dude, he showed a lot of energy and I only caught him doing his last songs including the single Coconut Juice. One of his entourage members had 2 (!!) GED chains, for some reason that amused me. Next I stuck around to see B.O.B. to see if he was living up to all the internets hype. The verdict is yes. He has the most care-free southern drawl this side of the Outkast. He did his track with Amy Winehouse, Grip Your Body, and I can’t say there is anything out that quite compares to him.  Not only did rhyming seeming care-free his whole crew from the hypeman to the DJ were as well, I was impressed by the hypeman’s jumping jacks and told him later that he should make it into a trend.  And get this B.O.B.-plays the guitar he played a track for the ladies (who were heavily outnumbered at something of like a 90:1 ratio by the other gender):

After his set wrapped up..I  smoothly slid B.O.B. our ML card (what up!!).

Sometime after this HM finally came through along with Julie (of ML Radio co-hosting fame). We quickly rushed to check out Rakim back on the main stage. We ended up catching the last half of Immortal Techniques set and incase you thought otherwise, for your physical safety you don’t want to mess with that dude or any of his crew, just a friendly FYI. Typical guerrilla style dude bounced right off the stage:

When Rakim came on there was no Kid Capri but if you closed your eyes the dude that was on the 1′s 2′s definitely sounded like him, but you wouldn’t want to close those eyes forever, the dude was wearing argyle socks! Regardless, as we nodded our heads for the whole set from the classic Ra to the new stuff from the 7th Seal, I couldn’t stop thinking of how the hell this dude hasn’t released anything in almost a decade cause of constant BS, mind boggling really. Wale helped get our minds off those thoughts by doing a few more songs after; we filmed Rising Up:

After this it was time to bring out that duo that ML would naturally be most enthused about; Raekwon & Ghostface. The chemistry between these two dudes left me near-speechless.. so I’ll just co-sign what HM said on their set. Also, since his feet were at near-eyelevel, I have to shout out the Raekwon’s pick to wear silver Asics (which looked like vintage Rae fly shit).  We watched a little of De La Soul (I kinda wish I saw more of them) but we thought this was our last chance to find the press hideout.

Then finally.. we found the elusive Sandisk VIP area. After asking a few people we finally found it, Huzzah mofos! Jody and company know how to treat people like royalty, not only was there an open bar, executives & artists chilling, catered food, a concert feed on plasmas:

but we also got a bunch of useful stuff as well, from a blinking blue LED charms (to be used to hypnotize more people into reading ML and buying SANDISK) to ultra tiny microsd cards and readers.

The we spotted Jabari of HipHopGame (and CNN fame) and his man Articulate casually hiding out near the back of the room. We hung out with the dudes for the majority of the remainder of the evening, and I don’t think there was a person in the venue that Jabari didn’t know. After we refueled, we went to catch the next act.

What you heard is true about Method Man & Redman together- they are the livest-live dudes in Hip Hop.  They really got the crowd hyped with all of their solo and duo singles. Only Meth & Red could figure out a way to get even the most thoro of dudes to sing a Toni Braxton sample like they did for I Get So High. In the later part of their set when Redman did I Get Dirty, he brought out a famed local DJ Kool to do one of my favorite one hit wonders- Let Me Clear My Throat.  Near the end of their set Method Man did some backflips, then the duo ran around like mad men on the wood barriers:

Some shaky (dog) video:

Oh yeah, I got a new term to call locals courtesy of Redman- “You crabacake motherfuckers!”. The small thing that I found odd is Rae/Ghost & Red/Meth each had their separate ODB tributes, doing one together would’ve made more sense in my opinion, oh well.

I took a little break to walk around to see what was going on the 2nd stage  and it was a bunch of confusion. Tyga’s crew (sans Tyga) were setting up (??), there was technical difficulties..then one of the dudes from Ninjasonik got on a mic.. stayed on the mic even when he got on stage.. MURS came on the stage, and asked if this was where all the druggies were, he went unanswered. I ran out of patience and left.. for all I know I missed some crazy Tyga X MURS callabo. Anyone know what went on afterwards? I heard Spank Rock didn’t make it so someone drop the 411 how the 2nd stage finished the evening, please!

We went back to the main stage after quick stop to check Mos Def, who I’ve seen before live. He hasn’t changed really much since the last time I saw him. He still loves to sing and do some rambling and play raggae, I’m not saying I don’t like the stuff but I don’t think it really fits. That’s not to say the album material he did wasn’t enjoyable, because it was. Mos gave Jabari and I a good moment reminisce about Umi Says being in a Jordan XVI commercial.

Quickly afterwards it was time for:

Nas (with Green Lantern DJing).

Dude could’ve easily headlined (or so I though till later in the night). Hip Hop Is Dead was a very efficient intro as everyone went completely nuts.  He did his new stuff like Hero & Sly Fox, before running through all of his hits from Nas Is Like to Made You Look in near chronological order. For some reason Hate Me Now was my personal highlight, I’ve always had an obsession with that cut. Nas definitely lived up to his expectations, just ask Jabari, I thought he might go into shock once One Mic came on. Nas definitely left me impressed, Jay Electronica & Ghost were spotted on the side of the stage rocking out too, they knew what was up.

Then it was time for the headliners of the entire festival- A Tribe Called Quest. First Q-Tip (with an Incase backpack on, none the less) came out to do his solo stuff, I was blown at how timeless Vivrant Thing & Breathe and Stop sounded, especially with live instruments. The rapid delivery Q-Tip had going was flawless. Mos Def came out very early to act as the hypeman for Q-Tip. When have you seen a hypeman and an MC share one mic?? The way Mos Def & Q-Tip were wylin out, you’d be tempted to think they were being possessed by the devil, the duo was that crazy into it.  Then it was time for ATCQ. I didn’t realize what a huge following the Tribe had to this day as they ran through nearly an hour worth of songs. Near the end of their set Beat Drop contributor Skillz, Redman and some other guy I couldn’t recognize bummed rushed the stage for the a song as Q-Tip went to run around while being followed by Jay Electronica and his pimp/magician stick contraption (which Q-Tip swiped for a moment as well to wave around):

I’m not going to front and say ATCQ is my most favorite act ever, they aren’t (I missed the majority of their era), but I definitely appreciate their music & history. On this night they surprised the hell out of me and showed me that they earned the headline spot without question.

After ATCQ, Jabari let me know about some after party which Dave Nada was supposed to be spinning at but.. I would most likely have a brain aneurysm if I saw one more industry person let alone hear some music, so we called it a night.

Random notes:

*B-Real let me know in the sandisk area that there is both a B-Real Solo proper album AND a new Cypress Hill album coming within the next year!

*Text your message on screen got as loud of a response as some of the acts. In Columbia, Redskins & Ravens=Loud Cheers; Cowboys & Patriots=Loud Boos.

*Jabari introduced us to Poison Pen who I told I listen to his shit.. to which he responded “I listen to my shit too!!”, Funny guy.

*Yes I know we missed some acts but as many of you know it is simply impossible to do everything and see everyone at festivals. I swear.

*Not  nearly enough people were checking out DJ Blaqstarr, hopefully his cameo during Mos Def’s set will change that in the future. Mos mentioned working on some stuff with Blaqstarr thats coming soon. Mos Def is pretty clever (1/2 of Blackstar working with Blaqstarr.).

*On the way out, there was trio of heavily vested white police men.. I heard one of them say “What about that Old Dirty Bastard”, whatever context that was in, I don’t know. But, for some reason it made me smile, I’m weird like that.

*Did anyone see one of those Alife X Q-Tip Lyrics To Go Shirts for sale? I need that in my life.

Shout outs to:

*Bari of MSO, who single-handedly made ML @ Rock The Bells possible.

*Alan of Sandisk & Juan (both of who I haven’t seen in maaany years).

*Wale’s crew who, mid-point through me being dehydrated let me mumble some stuff incoherently about the last Beat Drop .

*Andrew who came via bus from Rochester for this.. that’s hip-hop!

Check our flickr page for way more pictures; more pictures will be added to the stash mid-week.

If you are eyes aren’t bleeding yet here is Part 2 with HM’s take:

We arrived at Merriweather Post Pavillion around 30 minutes after DJ01. The lines to get in were incredibly long, but they moved pretty quickly. When we got inside the first person I noticed was Immortal Technique standing around in a bulletproof vest (I saw this dude like 10 times during the festival). We then moved down to the pit around the main stage. Down there we met a girl (I forget her name) who was interning as the press liaison. With our press passes we were allowed behind the barricades to take pictures directly in front of the stage, but only for the first 3 songs.

The first act we went to see was dead prez. We arrived in the middle of their set, but it was exciting for the most part. During the middle of the set they asked who was voting for the first time in the crowd. Then they performed “W-4″ (a song that tells why they don’t vote).

After dp we went to the Second Stage to see what was happening, but it was empty due to a scheduling error.

After getting some free shit from the company tents we went back to the main stage to see Immortal Technique. I’ve seen Technique before, and it is basically just what you would expect. He does some songs. He talks about the government. And he possibly insults your father (if your father is a cop). During his set he also gives some time to showcase his DJ, GI-Joe. This was a real treat since dude can definitely cut a record, which he demonstrated… with his nose.

After Technique we moved back to the second stage to see DJ Blaqstarr. He was live as always, and much props were given to K-Swift.

After purchasing a $3 bottle of water (Ed note: Boston people that’s $1  cheaper, we got that nice cost of living!) we went back to the main stage to see Rakim Allah. Even after many years this dude did not disappoint. He did all the classics. According to knobbz his DJ in Toronto was Kid Capri, but the dude at our show was not. However, that did not stop this dude from doing his best Kid Capri impression for the entire show. What did I care though? It wasn’t Eric B.

After Rakim, Wale came out unscheduled and rocked a few songs. He had been on earlier, but his set was very short so he had promised to come out again. He did W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E., Rising Up, and some other joint. I was happy because I had missed dude earlier and I really wanted to see him.

As expected, Raekwon and Ghostface did a fantastic set. They performed classics from 36 Chambers, OB4CL, and their solo albums. Raekwon came on stage smoking a blunt and during their set him and his hype men kept passing a blunt between each other, which I thought was some sketchy shit to do in front of 30,000 people. But hey, I’m not paid like him. At the end of the set they wanted to do an extra song, but the DJ didn’t know which one to put on. Ghost suggested something from Supreme Clientele, but when he threw on “Child’s Play” (one of my favorite songs ever) Ghostface gave him a very confused look. Ghost was shaky on the verses and missed half of the chorus so they stopped the song. Ghost apologized and said “I never do that fucking song”. Then they left.

We saw the beginning of De La Soul, but we were all getting hungry so we went looking for the press area. We met up with Jabari from Hip Hop Game and his friend Articulate. The food at the press area was good, and there was an open bar so we watched De La Soul on the monitors at the bar.

Method Man and Redman may have been the best performers at the show. Their energy was fantastic. They did some joints from Blackout and their solo albums all while jumping around the stage and making the crowd go wild. In the middle of the show they brought out DJ Kool who performed “Let Me Clear My Throat”, which was insane! Towards the end of their set they were crowd surfing and at one point they both ran out into the crowd to the back of the arena. I will definitely see those dudes again.

Afterwards, we tried to go and see Spank Rock and Amanda Blank at the second stage but apparently their performance had been canceled. So we went back to the bar and missed Pharcyde.

We arrived at Mos Def just as he was performing “Respiration” (another one of my favorite songs ever). He put on a great set full of dancing, singing, and rapping. He was having a great time, and he really got the crowd going. But Nas was about to change the whole vibe.

Nas played an incredible set. He performed all of his classics, from his illmatic stuff all the way to his new material. He was really live and even got Jay Electronica to join him on stage for one song. I was particularly happy because he played a lot of his previous work, including “Made You Look” which had the crowd going bonkers!

Before A Tribe Called Quest, the headliners of the festival, performed we were treated to a solo performance by Q-Tip. He performed some of his new and old solo material and heavily hyped his upcoming album. Weirdly enough, his hypeman on stage was Mos Def. Mos didn’t even have a mic he just occasionally used Q-Tip’s and did a lot of dancing.

Finally, after Q-Tip’s solo performance we got to see what we all had come for. A Tribe Called Quest.

It had always been a dream of mine to see Quest, so I was awestruck during most of this performance. These dudes were fucking crazy though! They did all of their classics and the crowd was jumping, rapping along, and generally hype as crap. During “Scenario” they brought out Redman on stage, and he was hyping people up like crazy. Q-Tip was going wild on stage and at one point ran into the crowd, a la Mef and Red, to the back of the arena. What made the show even wilder was the fact that Jay Electronica was watching the show right behind me the entire time. He is apparently a huge Quest fan and was dressed weird with these black gloves and a huge scepter.

All in all Rock The Bells was one of the greatest shows of my life, and I am definitely going next year.

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  1. A

    yoo went to rock the bells this year as well and it was out of control. i’ve been to a few festivals for all sorts of different music and this was by far one of the sickest line-ups that i have ever witnessed. any one of these groups could have headlined their own tour and i got to see all of them, front row, for 90$.. it was awesome. but i’m wondering what happened to spank rock as well. i rushed to the 2nd stage to see him and him and blank were a no show. i’ve been trying to figure out what happened and definitely wouldn’t mind an explanation…

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