Washington Post Gives nod To Rock The Bells Tour

Sarah Godfrey Got it right, she must be a member of the golden era of hip hop club. All Ive heard and seen of this tour has been phenomenal and I only wish that a tour of this caliber would happen more often. Heres what the Post had to say:

Props to Sarah Godfrey.

By Sarah Godfrey
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 29, 2008; Page C01

Ever wish that Soulja Boy had never appeared on the rap scene with his little song and dance? Long to shut Plies's mouth with a pair of pliers? Fantasize that Flo Rida would pack up his mike and his muscles and ride off into the sunset?

All of those dreams came true, if only for a day, at Sunday's Rock the Bells festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Although it appears that "ring-tone rap" will be around for the foreseeable future, this year's installment of the annual multi-artist hip-hop concert almost managed to ignore current big commercial rap stars, instead transporting attendees back to hip-hop's golden era.

If not for a DJ briefly spinning Shawty Lo's "Dey Know" between sets, attendees could've pretended they were at a hip-hop show circa 1999 -- one with exceptionally good sound and no delays, that is.

That a tour of hip-hop artists who started so long ago can pack a 16,500-capacity venue is a testament to how that music is beloved by the 30-somethings who came of age listening to it -- and reverentially studied by 20-somethings who wish they had.

The day was a successful celebration of the past but didn't really explore the future of the genre, despite the festival's relentless "quality hip-hop still exists" message. Although acts such as the Cool Kids and Kidz in the Hall were on the bill representing the next generation of true school hip-hoppers, they performed on a second stage that didn't attract huge numbers.

Ghostface Killah, perhaps the sole '90s-era rapper on the bill whose newer material is even more acclaimed that his old, was the only performer who dared acknowledge that the brilliant moment in hip-hop where art and commerce were equally balanced seems to have passed: "A lot of [people] support that corny [expletive]," Ghost said. "It's all good, though -- I guess [things] gotta evolve."

Perhaps out of respect for the nostalgic vibe of the day -- or for his colleagues whose 21st-century recordings haven't met with much success -- Ghost, along with fellow Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon, gave a set in which tracks from 2000's "Supreme Clientele" and assorted Wu material predominated.

If the day was one big hip-hop reunion, Rakim, who emerged after short sets from MURS, Wale, Dead Prez and Immortal Technique, easily nabbed the "most popular" superlative. The crowd -- a good mix of men and women; all races and combinations thereof; old heads and youngsters who wouldn't know that the festival takes its name from an LL Cool J song if it weren't for Wikipedia -- went insane for "Paid in Full" and "Microphone Fiend." Previews of Rakim's long-awaited new album "The Seventh Seal," which may finally land this fall, were met with less enthusiasm.

Wu-Tang's Method Man and longtime collaborator Redman clowned around, crowd-surfed and won big points with the audience by bringing out D.C. legend DJ Kool to perform "Let Me Clear My Throat." The duo gave a thrilling performance of their hit track "How High," but followed it with the disturbing news that a sequel to their film "How High" is in the works.

De La Soul announced that they recently celebrated 20 years together as a trio and referenced their advancing age a few times ("Some of y'all weren't even born at this time," Posdnuos said before launching into 1989's "Potholes in My Lawn"), yet gave one of the most energetic sets of the day, rivaled only by Nas. Perhaps bolstered by the success of his new untitled disc and invigorated by his recent activist streak, the MC gave a performance befitting hip-hop royalty: engaging, nearly chatter-free and focused only on his best material -- "Illmatic" tracks, along with "Made You Look," "If I Ruled the World," "Hate Me Now" and a few other gems.

Q-Tip delayed the much-anticipated Tribe set by offering a solo performance aided only by Mos Def, who had performed his own set earlier in the night. The crowd didn't like it when Tip started performing Tribe material such as "Excursions" before his groupmates made it onstage, but was appeased once Phife and Jarobi came out. Together, the men showcased the incredible staying power not only of tracks such as "Bonita Applebum," "Electric Relaxation" and "Check the Rhime" but of '90s hip-hop as a whole.


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