Rock the Bells 2011 – Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, CA) – 8/27 Rock the Bells 2011 – Shoreline Amphitheatre (Mountain View, CA) – 8/27

Photos by Jason Leal (see Jason on facebook / tumblr)

Words by Motecuzoma Sanchez

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Represent.Recognize. Respect. The artists of this yearʼs Rock the Bells definitely lived up to these core values of Hip Hop. Despite cancellations from a few artists, including headliner, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Hip Hop heads were not disappointed by strong performances by the likes of legends and staples of the industry such as Common, Black Star, Mobb Deep, Black Moon, and the Wu Tang Clan.

Local favorites since ʼ93 til, Souls of Mischief, got the crowd at the main stage rocking early as they represented hard for the Bay Area in the Rock the Bells concert seriesʼ visit to the region. Performing earlier in the line up than I would have expected, Common came to the stage complete with a live band and brought the audience to its feet with classics as well as a display of his freestyle flow which was on par with most other artistsʼ studio produced tracks. Perhaps the strongest overall performance of the festival.


Somewhat anti-climatic to Commonʼs raw and super hyped performance was Black Star. A notch down from the previous performance, they still held strong with hits like “Get By”. Mos Defʼs unique vocals and Talib Kweliʼs lyrical dopeness kept the crowd going and Common even made a return to the stage to join them.

With no shortage of talent, and an option of choices, Black Moon came on the Wu Tang-hosted 36 Chambers Stage and got down with perhaps the most energy-filled performance of the day. Mobb Deep kept it cracking with Alchemist on the 1ʼs and 2ʼs in Prodigyʼs first West Coast appearance since being released from incarceration with, “…we living this ʻtil the day that we die, survival of the fit, only the strong survive… ”.


On the main stage, Nas came through hard, complete with a backdrop of Queensbridge brick buildings and album cover behind metal gates on the DJ platform. Also with him were Pete Rock and AZ, who kept it live along with DJ Premiere, representing one of the pillars of Hip Hop: The DJ. Cypress Hill came through
representing West Siiiide pride as well as Chicano/Latino influence on the genre. Not to be outdone as a flag-bearer for Chicano/Latino patronage, but with a more politically conscious twist, was underground super nova Immortal Technique.

This last act of the night on the Paid Dues stage was plagued with technical difficulties, as the DJ platform seemed to have lost connection for about twenty minutes. Nevertheless, Technique kept the audience engaged with inspirational speeches and acapella flows. Once the DJ got back online he obliged the audience with underground hit “Dance with the Devil”, before the stage was literally broken down by venue staff. True to his underground fans, he turned nearby picnic tables into an autograph signing/photo-op booth.

With no shortage of Hip Hop royalty, the majority of the Wu Tang lan closed off strong with back to back performances by Genius GZA, Raekwon, and Ghostface. Also repping were Young Ol’ Dirty, Ol’ Dirty Bastardʼs son, and RZA. As they performed most of their legendary hits; one of the highlights of the night was letting two fans repping “San Francisco” (although much closer to San Jose) to fill in on 36 Chambers for Ol’ Dirty Bastardʼs and Method Manʼs verses. The night ended strong and I was reminded of RZAʼs words of advice for the audience, “ If youʼre not having a good time, youʼre wasting your time”.



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