Monday, August 4, 2008

The Experience of a Lifetime..

[More Pics coming soon!]

.. I ain't no joke, so I ain't joking here - Last Sunday at Jones Beach was something special to me as a long-time fan of real, entertaining hip-hop. Every expectation I had of the New York stop of the Rock the Bells tour was met and exceeded, from the countless special guests to the crowd's energy to the venue itself. I can't possibly expect to do the artists and DJ's justice with this short write-up, but I have to give an honest attempt at conveying the event in words. So, without further ado, here's how NYC Rocked the Bells on a beautiful Sunday afternoon on Long Island..

After a tedious journey through Jersey to Staten Island to Brooklyn to Long Island not to mention waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic before the drawbridge on Ocean Parkway, DJ $ickroc and I finally arrived at our destination around 2:30 p.m.

In typical hip-hop fashion, the show started about 2-hours late so I was pumped when we caught the end of the Kidz in the Hall's set as they ripped through "Drivin' Down The Block" to a sun-soaked audience. Glad to see Double O is recovering from his assault the other week.

We decided to keep our attention on the main stage, unfortunately foregoing Wale and the Cool Kids among others in the process. Next up was and M1 a.k.a. Dead Prez, who battled through technical difficulties for a concise set full of rebelious rants and unadulterated rawness including the chest-thumping "It's Bigger Than Hip Hop."

Activist-rapper Immortal Technique ran through a charged set as $ick and I explored the various booths. Grabbed me two shirts pictured here and got back in time to snap a paparazzi photo of Technique dipping through the crowd.

Coming all the way from the Left coast, The Pharcyde found out just how hard it is to please a New York crowd. They started tepidly but got love flowing through "Runnin'" then "Passin' Me By" to end strong.

Veteran crew De La Soul brought the heat next with a high-quality performance, rocking classics like "Stakes Is High" and surprising with special guests Dres from Black Sheep for a hyped rendition of "The Choice Is Yours Remix" and Biz Markie for a memorable "Just A Friend."

Jersey producer Just Blaze appeared to introduce Wu lyricists Raekwon & Ghostface who kept it real throughout their verses from "C.R.E.A.M.," "Be Easy," "Incarcerated Scarfaces," "Reunited" and "Ice Cream" but failed to generate the energy I expected from previous shows. No hate here at all, just an observation.

Here's where I made a mistake I'll regret for a long time. Not having eaten since Dunkin' Donuts at 9 A.M. (it was now 6ish), we made a quick dash for the food stand for a bite before Mos Def. Little did I know, we hopped in the slowest line in the whole place and ended up missing the majority of his set. To add insult to injury, I watched a TV behind the counter in agony as mighty Mos summoned Talib Kweli for a Blackstarr reunion! I was HEATED! Luckily, I ran with my 7-dollar cheeseburger to get back to my seat with enough time to catch "Get By Remix," "Miss Fat Booty" and "Travellin' Man" before the Brooklyn MC's wrapped things up.

The energy level elevated instantly when Method Man and Redman hit the stage in a cloud of smoke. These two amped MC's have phenomenal on-stage chemistry, engaging the crowd in a rapid-fire onslaught of jams like "Da Goodness," "How High," "All I Need," "I Bee Dat," and "Da Rocwilder." As the sun set and dusk engulfed the arena, Meth and Red surprised everyone by calling out EPMD and Keith Murray for an impromtu performance. revealed their intentions for a new How High movie and an upcoming sequel to Blackout.. Can't Wait!

Backed by a full band, Queensbridge vet Nas took the stage in a fury of electric guitars and revved up drums. Much to my content, my top 5 favorite MC ran through banger after banger from his entire catalog, from Illmatic's "Represent" and "The World Is Yours" to I Am's "Hate Me Now" and "Nas Is Like" to his brand new untitled LP's "Hero" and "Breathe." Talk about entertainment!

Then, just as the crowd thought it couldn't get any better, DJ Green Lantern qeued up "Success" from Jay-Z's American Gangster - and the Jigga man himself appeared! I had to hop on my seat to get a better view amidst an eruption of screams from the crowd - Nasir Jones & Shawn Carter sharing the stage for "Success" and "Black Republicans" - definitely got our money's worth! After Jay said peace, Nas finished with an emotional "One Mic," captivating everyone in attendence for all three verses.

Headliners A Tribe Called Quest had a lot to live up to, but I was certain the fathers of conscious feel-good hip-hop were more than capable. Q-Tip accompanied by Mos Def hopped on first, performing Tip solos like "Vivrant Thang" and "Breathe & Stop." Feeling it was time to really pop things off, Tip summoned Phife Dog Blogger: dom corleone's Hits from the Blog - Edit Post "The Experience of a Lifetime.."and Jarobi.

Tribe really showed why they are pioneers, sporting tracks from their 20-year catalog including "Check The Rhime," Award Tour," and "Electric Relaxation." The fellas started slow and built to a climax on "Scenario" with the final guest appearance of the night - a super-amped Busta Rhymes! Busta's presence brought the house down as he rocked his verse then into "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See." I wish I remembered which song Tribe finished with, at that point I was beyond exhausted and my brain could no longer function. As the lights came on and everyone said peace, $ickroc and I let the masses clear out first and basked in the moment - the end of a long, successful hip-hop journey.

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