Rock the Bells is a hip hop festival that got its start in Southern California. However, it has grown legs and traveled all around the world since its first event in 2004. It really is the Lollapalooza (an alternative rock event) festival of rap music. The first 2004 show reunited Wu-Tang Clan, which featured Ol’ Dirty Bastard four months before he died. They even mad a documentary about this first event, titled “Rock the Bells,” of course.
With Rock the Bells 2007, the festival expanded to three major regions. These cities included New York, San Francisco and San Bernardino, CA, ranging from July 28th, to August 18th. Wu-Tang Clan returned, whereas a reunited Rage Against the Machine also appeared on certain dates. Each festival was held over two day weekends. There was even a second stage nameed Paid Dues Independent Hip Hop Stage. Although Rag Agaisnt the Machine was the festival’s first non hip hop act, the group certainly owes a lot to rap music for its success. When Rock the Bells arrived in New York City, it sold out the huge Randall’s Island — and fast. Originally a one-day event, it was doubled to two days. Scott Ian even made a surpise appearance, performing “Bring the Noise” with Public Enemy. Mos Def and Talib Kweli performed “Black Star” together in New York, while Pimp C made one of his last ever performances.
Rock the Bells went global in 2008. It was held in four European cities, and made its first trip to Japan. It was also the first time Canada experienced a Rock the Bells, specifically Tornonto, Ontario. In California, the festival returned to its roots, as it was once again held at Glen Helen Pavilion in San Bernardino, CA.
2010’s Rock the Bells was notable for its Launch Party at the Key Club in Hollywood, CA on May 24th. The festival itself was also quite different, in that it featured artists performing some of their classic albums in full. Highlights included A Tribe Called Quest performing “Midnight Marauders,” Snoop Dogg, along with Warren G, Tha Dogg Pound, Ldy of Page and RBX, doing “Doggystyle” from start to finish, Wu-Tang Clan doing “Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and Rakim taking the audience through “Paid in Full.” Suprise guests during the concert included Busta Rhymes and Nas. Lauryn Hill also made a rare concert appearance.
If nothing else, Rock the Bells has proven that rap music is, indeed, too legit to quit. It’s great to see such a successful festival, which celebrates much of the great art the hip hop community has given the world.