Pics by Landon A.
It’s that time of the year again, folks. Hip-Hop Christmas season is upon us as Rock The Bells is hitting a town near you soon. The first stop was Chicago where Pat M. and I were on hand to soak in the Hip-Hop in the air. Enjoy as TSS doles out some rewards for the best and worst moments of the event.
The Performance That Most Slept On
Pat M. — M.O.P. Brownsville’s own took advantage of the more intimate second stage to tear up the concrete with a slate of their best tracks. The energy of the crowd was crucial—although smaller in size than most it was filled with fans who knew M.O.P.’s M.O. and were ready for some hardcore. And “Ante Up,” is such a terrorizing, crowd-pumping anthem Busta Rhymes brought Fame and Danze out to liven up HIS set. That’s respect.
David D. — The man Tech N9ne had choreography, a dance crew and facepaint that made him look a little like Kamala. He went on to spit rapid-fire non-stop for seemingly 30 minutes straight. It was a high-octane performance deserving of a higher spot in the show. Here’s the crazy part: Tech and crew rocked their costumes after their set was over. Just walking around face paint and all. That’s dedication, holmes.
The We Hardly Knew Ye (AKA Jimmy Fallon’s Taping in 20 Minutes) Performance
Pat M. — Not surprisingly, a multi-act concert with tight transition times requiring rappers to be punctual…didn’t run on time. So when The Roots came out, they were an hour plus behind schedule and unlikely to play their allotted 60 minutes. But I didn’t expect such a straight-up boring show from supposedly the best live show in Hip-hop. Yes they were incredibly tight, but they lacked the innovation or interaction with the crowd that I’ve seen from them in the past. And no Michael Jackson tribute? Come on I would have guaranteed beforehand that ?uestlove would have broken into Thriller while Black Thought moonwalked. Very disappointing.
The MC Means Move the Crowd Award
Pat M. — Joell Ortiz at the Slaughterhouse show. In a group with four Alpha dogs who aren’t necessarily used to working together with other big egos, he took it upon himself to move the show along and keep both the crowd and his rhyming cohorts involved. Plus his live performance was on point as he dopely showcased the fast-spitting lyricism that got everyone excited about him in the first place.
David D. — I’m actually going to have to go with Crooked I. While it’s so hard to tell who murked the Slaughterhouse set the most, Crooked seemed to maintain his breath control and always ill lyrics. He stood out amongst the pit bulls drawing “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd like we were watching a Slam-Dunk competition. And I think a part of my brain exploded when he said something along the lines of pushing buttons (Buddens) “like Jay shoulda did Joe.”
The Performance That Makes Me Excited For An Album
Pat M. — The aforementioned Slaughterhouse. We know all four of these guys can rhyme, but there are two big questions lurking about this project: will they have chemistry and can they get good production? The chemistry looked right on stage at least, and the tracks they previewed had the some flavorful production. I’m optimistic.
David D. — Agreed. While I was avoiding the hype over the Slaughterhouse album before, I am now riding shotty on the bandwagon. These guys had an ill show that had the crowd buzzing hours after the foursome left the stage. And worry not, the beats were stellar as well.
The Performance That Makes Me Wonder If An Album Will Or Should Ever Get Done
Pat M. — Big Boi had a nice set, but it was an Outkast’s greatest hits, with nary a bar from the delayed Sir Luscious Leftfoot. Then he promised us a 3000 solo joint, and Outkast album to go with his new album. I must ask Mr. Patton, where is the Beef? You gotta have at least one single you can tease the crowd with right? I’m skeptical.
David D. — Same thing can be said for Raekwon. While a few songs have been hitting the net, I didn’t really hear that much new stuff from Rae. I know the artists had a short amount of time to crank out the hits, but we should get some indication that OBCLII is coming out. Plus, the Chef’s constant promising reminded me of my cousin guaranteeing I’d seen the last of him selling the toaster for gambling money.
The “Take it Easy Champ, Why Don’t You Stop Talking For A While” Award
Pat M. — I’d have to say KRS-One. Yes, this just sent me to Hip-Hop hell. Yes, I know you were trying to fill dead air time while the show coordinators tried to lodge Big Boi from the stripper’s pole in his RV. But you could at least rap a few bars from “Poetry” rather than endlessly droning about the needs for us to be educated about the electoral college and the importance of Kool Herc. I know you’re the teacher, but school’s out.
David D. — Seeing Big Boi is one thing I can now cross off my bucket list. While it would have been nice to see Outkast, I know that there is a good chance that may never happen. But Big Boi was good enough. He was incredible rocking the Kast classics for his abbreviated set. I was in the photo pit faking taking pics and rocking out to “Rosa Parks” like a madman.
The Needs To Release His Own 808’s Style Break-up Album So He Can Stop Drinking Away The Pain Award
Pat M. — Nasir Jones. He sullied what should have been a solid headlining performance with Damian Marley by forgetting (or at least, not performing) entire segments of songs, including the last two verses of “One Mic.” Maybe Damian’s Jamaican stash was too much to handle, or maybe he was just shitfaced, but that shit should not be happening, especially at a festival you have a financial stake in and are headlining. Your fans deserve better.
David D. — I know we’re going to get flack for our continued “Nas bashing” over here at TSS, but homie forgot more lyrics than he recited. For “If I Ruled the World,” he stopped to ask the crowd how things were going when he was clearly at a loss. And at “One Mic,” I even thought he might pull a Jojo @ 1:50 as he just stood there silent for the last verse. It was hard to watch. Even Damian Marley looked at Mr. Jones like “I think this guy is high.”
The Michael Jackson Award For Best Performance
David D. — Oh. My. God. Oh my God. Busta Rhymes put on a hell of a show. Even a little “Arab Money” couldn’t stop the momentum from Busta and Spliff as they tore the house down with classic single after classic single. They jumped and screamed with a show that was so energetic that I think I somehow pulled a hamstring.
Pat M. — Busta Rhymes demonstrated how you give a show. Interact with the crowd to get them pumped up. Have a decent sidekick you can play off of. Have an immense catalog of songs that everyone knows, so that you can keep the momentum going. Awe people with your inimitable rhyme style. Busta could have rocked the bells for two hours, but we got him for a scant 30 minutes because of…
The “We Got To Do Better” Award
David D. — While it was frustrating to see the shows so short, I actually was more bothered by the lack of young cats on the bill. I understand this is 90’s Hip-Hop but I wish that there were younger acts on the cards to kind of bridge the gap. We could have used a few more guys like Mickey Factz on stage throughout the day.
Pat M. — Some really lackluster organization by Guerilla Union. Yes they were trying to do the impossible in keeping rappers on a schedule, but the bottom line was all of the main acts on the primary stage gave truncated shows, which only ends up with fans feeling like they didn’t get their money’s worth. Add to this the fact that the show was under-promoted and 40 miles outside of Chicago and it’s no wonder the crowd was a little light.
All in all this doesn’t bode well for the future of Rock The Bells, but for fans of Hip-Hop, especially those looking for a little 90’s nostalgia, you aren’t going to find better.