Rock The Bells- Crowd’s Eye View

There was no way I was going to miss this show.  I had met Chang, head of Guerilla Union.  I tried him nearly a month before to see how I could get in as press.  No luck hearing from him.  Before I knew it, it was time for the show.  I tried my luck here and there.  Nothing.  The very day of the show I had some computer issues and I had to try to get it fixed.  Of course that would happen right when my friend calls me to tell me he had an extra ticket.  I had to spend money for the computer which wouldn’t allow me to get the $175 VIP ticket.  If you’ve ever been to a show like Rock the Bells, you know how tiring it is to stand for hours on concrete amongst thousands of people.  Hardly any air.  Hot.  Close quarters. People pushing past you.  I wanted a VIP ticket because at least then I could sit down somewhere.

But as it turned out, being amongst the crowd was actually the most interesting part of the show.

Once I finally got there, I could hear Lauryn Hill singing.  I was disappointed that the legends like KRS, Slick Rick, and Rakim went on so early.  I feel like their voices and songs should be put in front of the largest audience possible.  But hey, who knows what the reasoning was.  From what I could hear Lauryn was singing “Ready or Not”.  From afar she sounded great.  But once I talked to others they seemed very disappointed.  There were some mixed reviews.  Some said, “If you know Lauryn, you know what to expect.”  Lauryn is a free spirit, somewhat all over the place.  She’s going to do her songs the way she wants.  The question might be, is she doing it in a way that’s most effective for others to enjoy? I know enough people who saw her in LA and in the Bay Area that just wasn’t feeling her.  On top of that, apparently she started nearly half an hour late in both shows.  There were a few who felt that she must be on drugs or something.  Many were looking so forward to seeing her but didn’t get what they wanted.  I remember in 2006 I saw her at my last Rock The Bells experience where Wu Tang was the headliner.  She came out as a surprise, but the crowd was so restless and annoyed that when Lauryn’s band started doing a “Free Jazz” intro, they started throwing things at her and the band.  I wonder if maybe Lauryn doesn’t have all the rights to the songs she did.  Some of you may know that you have to still have certain rights and permission to perform certain songs live.  Maybe that’s why she had to change them.  But I do hope she has someone advising her for a proper comeback.  Many people seemed to be heartbroken at not seeing the Lauryn they once knew and loved.  I am sorta happy that I didn’t have to witness that if it really was that disappointing.

Once I got there, Tribe Called Quest was the next act.  Man, I had never seen them live before.  Low End Theory changed my life.  So did Midnight Marauders.  The thing is that there are some songs on Midnight Marauders that I like, but aren’t my favorites.  You could kinda feel that amongst the audience.  Sometimes performing an entire album isn’t such a great idea in execution.  Luckily they changed it up and did some of the other tracks from Low End, Instinctive Travels, etc.  I had never heard those jazzy basslines of theirs on a large system before.  You could feel the bass vibrate your whole body.  Busta came out and you could hear the whole crowd react in shock.   During the set, Q-tip noted to the crowd that in 1993 Midnight Marauders and 36 Chambers by Wu-Tang dropped on the same day.  A week later, Snoop dropped Doggystyle.  It made me reminisce on how so much great music was dropped between 93-94 that formed my love for Hip Hop.  I miss times like that.

Next up was Wu-Tang Clan.  Yep.  ALL of them.  ODBs parts were done by his son.  He sure did look and sound like him.  Again, doin an entire album, full songs like that can be a bit tiring to hear all at once.  I saw Wu-Tang in ’06 at Rock the Bells.  Heard all the songs.  It was still hype of course.  It seemed like part of the largest group of people in the audience came to see them.  I feel like Wu-Tang is Hip Hop’s version of KISS, or some kind of heavy metal group.  There was a girl behind me who knew every verse to Tribe and Wu Tang.  It was great.

Finally it was time for Snoop.  A lot of people started to file out because they wanted to avoid the traffic exiting, but many stayed.  I tell you.  Snoop knows how to put on a show.  He had filmed vignettes of every skit from the Doggystyle album. He was smart by having a small live band played along with the recorded tracks so that the songs weren’t too monotonous.  His performance of Murder Was the Case was excellent.  I never really paid attention to how great his lyrics were on that album.  At the time I was in 7th grade and it was the raunchiest, most graphic album out.  But the songs where Snoop really shows his writing and rapping skills…please revisit that album.

I was actually happy to be amongst the crowd.  It felt good to sings songs with a large group of people.  To look around me, and see people staring at the stage just to see their favorite acts.  Times where the beats would drop out, and Raekwon would rap acapella, and thousands of people were rapping along with him, word for word.  But this is the kind of energy and feeling that can only happen when people really believe in the music.  I hope future artists were inspired by it.  I surely was.



  • Man! I wish I was there with you. Thanks for this great recap of the evening. I’m sad that folks were disappointed with Lauryn Hill but I hope it doesn’t mean that her comeback will disappoint.. we shall see.

  • Man, I’ve never seen Tribe live, despite being my favorite hip hop group of all time. I share Clarence’s sentiments, I wish I was there also.

    Excellent mention of Murder Was The Case, a forgotten album. Some of the dopest westcoast shit was featured on that soundtrack. My mission now is to find, download, and reminisce on simpler times….sigh.

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