Rock The Bells came to Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California a couple weeks ago and Guerrilla Union was kind enough to let TSS come in, take some pictures and enjoy the show. This year’s festivities were slightly different than prior years as newer artists started to take more prevalent roles alongside the older acts. Still, the greats showed up and stood out as RTB '12 was highlighted by a spazztastic set by DMX, a spectacular Bone Thugs-N-Harmony reunion and stellar performances courtesy of Nas and Ice Cube.
So feel free to browse through the pictures and some random smatterings of all the debauchery that went on over the span of 48 hours.
RZA took on host duties this time around for RTB and did an excellent job. He entertained, interacted and engaged the audience in between acts. He also remembered to plug his upcoming film, The Man With The Iron Fists whenever he got a chance.
On paper, Yela was RTB’s inaugural act but he performed like the headliner. The Alabama emcee opened the show with an energy that wouldn’t be seen again until later on in the day. It was actually my first time seeing him live and, needless to say, I walked away very impressed.
Yela also brought along one of the world’s most skilled drummers, Travis Barker (right) and the two put on a dazzling display of records from their upcoming Psycho White collaboration. After seeing Trav shine despite him playing a supporting role, I’d be willing to shell out dough to see a drum act on his own.
Prodigy opened with “The Start of Your Ending” and got my hopes up that he’d be doing more classic Mobb cuts. Unfortunately that’s not how it played out and he wound up doing some obscure H.N.I.C. 3 songs most people didn’t know. Of course by most people, I mean the random collection of confused faces that happened to be there when he was on.
Putting it bluntly, A$AP Rocky was the biggest disappointment of the festival. He didn’t come out until midway through the set, by which point most people were bored of the random smatterings of A$AP Mob. And when he did finally appear he just seemed to be yelling into the mic as hard as he could.
It was my first time seeing X and, even though I’m not all that familiar with his discography, his energy was still otherworldly. He blazed through choice Ruff Ryder cuts and solo joints and held everyone’s attention the whole set. I’m sure some of us were just waiting for him to spaz out and go Super Saiyan during “Where My Dogs At.”
At this point, he was saying one of his trademark prayers, and everyone was silent and listening while DMX delivered powerful, inspirational verses. It’s one thing to hear them on a CD, but it’s a whole different experience hearing him reciting them on stage. If I did a one-word review of his performance, the word would be ‘genuine.’
The sun was setting as we were waiting for Ice Cube to come on and I thought this was a good photo opp. Check the Cube/Raiders logo and his name showing up on the big screen. That dude in the red clearly came prepared.
And when Cube finally came on, he put on a fucking show. Easily the best act of the first day, the L.A. emcee’s set was just phenomenal. I wound up moving all the way to the back just so I could observe the way he mesmerized the crowd. And judging by how far back I was, it might not be wrong to say that there were more people at Cube than there were at J. Cole on the main stage.
Ice Cube was a showman the whole way. He took a break in the middle of the set to display his Crip-walking skills. Cube also brought along WC to play hype man, and together they rapped a number of Westside Connection cuts, none more encapsulating than “Gangsta Nation,” dedicated of course to the late, great Nate Dogg.
Salt-N-Pepa had a conflict and changed their set time at the last minute, so Supernatural filled in for them and he was, well – supernatural. At one point he asked people in the front to give him things they had in their pockets and without a single stumble, he grabbed each item and rapped about it, passed it back and went on to the next thing.
Common was the first act of the second day that I really was waiting to see and he didn’t disappoint. Despite the calmness of his music, the man’s intensity on the mic is immeasurable. It’s an oxymoron, but he has some kind of a docile ferociousness in him. Yeah, it’s hard to explain in words.
Com reached deep into his discography to couple his newer songs, and delivered messages of peace in between tracks. He also had a dance-off with a kid in the audience and serenaded a lucky lady. Common just has this sort of infectious positivity that’s calming: even moreso than his mp3s.
Hometown hero, Del the Funky Homosapien was backed by an orchestra during his Deltron 3030 set.
People say Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are irrelevant but they commanded the crowd's attention that night. It was widely speculated how well they’d be able to pull off a good show with all the friction and bullshit that they’ve been through over the last few years. Yet, at RTB, they came together and killed it.
Most of the songs they performed were older but they went through all the classics. Then they closed off the set with a four-song masterpiece that probably won’t be topped in the near future.
After doing “1st of tha Month,” they stopped the show to share some knowledge by stating that Bone was the only artists to work with Biggie and Pac while the two were alive. And with that they burst into “Thug Luv” and then “Notorious Thugs.”
Of course, that leaves one more song that’s a dedication to another fallen legend. Obviously that legend is Eazy-E and Bone went in and shut down the amphitheater with their tribute, “Tha Crossroads.”
Sidebar: Their backup singer is a hot piece of ass too.
Nas is Nas. His set was going to play out in one of two ways. Either he was going to come out too drunk and/or too high and forget his lyrics or he was going to be in the right zone of drunkenness. I’ve seen both of those versions of Nas in the past, and his sobriety level was going to determine whether I’d be caught in traffic leaving the venue or not.
I got caught in traffic. Nas was sharp almost all the way, and his set spanned over an hour long to end RTB in grandiose fashion. Equipped with a live band and all, he tossed out his in-ear monitors just a couple minutes in, claiming “I can’t hear shit with these in. They’re too Hollywood for me.”
He’s performed his old cuts hundreds of times before but it was one of his first times doing songs from the latest album. Nas proudly declared, “I went from saying ‘life’s a bitch’ to saying Life is Good” before jumping into “Loco-Motive,” “Daughters,” and “Nasty.”