Rock the Bells Day 1 Recap: Method Man, Redman, DMX, and More…
Hip hop heads made the trip out to New Jersey this past weekend for Guerilla Union’s Rock the Bells Festival, boasting a lineup headlined by DMX Saturday evening, and Nas the night after. The PNC Bank Arts Center played host to some of the best hip hop acts from the late 80’s to present, giving fans a solid history lesson on the evolution of rap.
12oz arrived in time for 2 Chainz on the main stage. Draped in Versace gold and sporting a camo-fatigue vest and cap, the G.O.O.D. Music artist performed hits including “Birthday Song”, “No Lie”, and “Spend It”.
On the 36 Chambers Stage, Salt-n-Pepa were lighting it up with their classics, from “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “My Mic Sounds Nice” to “Push It”. Keeping it retro, they even had two backup dancers rocking with them. The group took time out to talk about their past “communication problems”, and how important it was to reconcile in order to keep Salt-n-Pepa alive.
Back on the main stage, no one could deny the army march chant that preludes “Mighty D-Block”. The crowd screamed the words as Jadakiss made his entrance, donning a 40oz Van NY snapback and “So Raspy” baseball tee. Kiss rolled through his hits before bringing out Styles P for “I Get High”. The perpetual weed cloud got stronger as Jada sparks one up for a fan. Not to exclude the women in the audience, he performs his Mariah Carey-assisted single, “U Make Me Wanna”, while holding hands with a female fan.
Red and Meth were up next, putting on an electric show with songs off their two Blackout albums. They weren’t afraid to dance and run around on stage, throw water into the crowd, or rap into the event staff’s ears. Meth even exchanged some greens with a fan. Talks of a possible sequel to the How High movie got the crowd going as they performed the joint that inspired the film. Tommy “Tiny” Lister, better known as Deebo from the Friday franchise, made a surprise cameo. No doubt sponsored by Monster, he rode around the stage on a cruiser as fans cheered him on. The duo closed out their set with “Da Rockwilder”.
Next up, we made a dash back to the 36 Chambers stage to catch the first leg of the Dipset, where Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, Freekey Zekey, and Cam’ron dropped “Dipset Anthem”, “Salute”, “848”, and “We Fly High”. We returned to the main stage for Bone Thugs, who paid tribute to the late rap veterans, Notorious B.I.G. and Eazy E. The group, backed by a live band, rode out to “Notorious Thugs”.
Eve came out to “Who’s That Girl”, and kept it going with “What Ya’ll Want?”. Proving to her fans that she still has the goods, Eve freestyled over a Nicki Minaj instrumental. She went on to pay homage to her reggae influences with “Give It To You” and her hit single with Gwen Stefani, “Rich Girl”. Before the close of her set, Eve invited members of the audience onto the stage as they all danced to “Tambourine”. Yeah, she still got it.
The night’s headliner, DMX, met all expectations. X’s performance was every bit energetic as it was emotional, carrying a catalogue of songs that go as far back as 1996. He greeted the crowd with “We In Here” and continued with bangers including “Get At Me Dog”, “Stop Being Greedy”, and “Party Up in Here”. X then calmly puts his mic down, and proceeds to tighten up his Tims before scaling a large speaker on the right side of the stage. Amping up his fans, he jumps off as the “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” bumps through the speakers, and labelmate Drag-On comes out to drop his verse. Keeping with tradition, the religious DMX ended his set in prayer with words so compelling that Deebo returned to the stage in tears, giving X a hearty hug as the lights dim. Rock the Bells 2012, Day 1, had come to a close.
Text and Photo: Steven Lau