- J. Cole
Being a seasoned Rock The Bells hip-hop festival vet ( my 4th time) , I came into this experience with a surprising mix of uncertainty and hope I would walk away a new fan of acts I’d never seen live before. A key change this year, which admittedly took a little getting used to, was the two day format which had Day One (although not exclusively) featuring younger, new acts to the fest and Day Two, having more of the iconic groups and performers attendees know and love. As expected, with the expanded line-up came a ticket price hike to accomodate the extra day. A general or VIP two-day pass (with the extra perks of close seats, a separate lounge area and artist meet and greets) might have been someone’s car payment (there are buses and bikes, right?) or entertainment budget for an entire month for others but that did not deter thousands of hip-hop lovers from descending on Mountain View (including me, taking a 1 hr flight up from LA) to get their bells rocked.
An avid fan of artist meet and greets because you get to see the real person behind the DJ, band, smoke and lights, I went the VIP route (am still kicking myself for not going VIP the year that Tribe Called Quest headlined in ’08). Arriving on Day One later than I expected, I made my way to the VIP parking lot, only to be turned away because there were special VIP passes that I apparently didn’t have. After trekking from the general parking lot, waited in line for 45 minutes to get in. Grumpy after that, Naughty by Nature changed my mood and it was nice to hear songs I hadn’t heard in a long time like “Uptown Anthem” and “Feel My Flow” on the 36 chambers stage which was somewhat far from the main stage.
Mapping out my day, I set out to see as many acts as I could (running back and forth) and meet who I could in the VIP lounge which was a daunting task. All in all, I was able to see Tyga, Kendrick Lamar with Black Hippy (I really liked their solos and songs together), Salt-N-Pepa (which I was surprised to see added to Day One at the last minute), A$AP Rocky, DMX, Wu Block, J.Cole, Ice Cube, Kid Cudi (who brought 2 Chainz onstage) and Method Man and Redman. In between these sets, I met Naughty by Nature, Dipset (including Juelz Santana) and J.Cole. Was a very busy day of activity and looked forward to doing it all again the next day.
Learning my lesson after being late the day before, I made it just in time to see Dom Kennedy hit the stage. Dropping some songs from his mixtapes and his “Yellow Album”, he got the party started. Big Daddy Kane kept it going, came into the audience and limberly did splits onstage. Switching over to 36 chambers, I went to see Zion I, The Grouch and Eligh who really impressed and afterwards I went to the meet and greet area to tell them so. Continuing the day, I saw Slick Rick da Ruler (complete with full rope chains), The Hit Squad (who brought out Slick Rick and Method Man for a second day), Common, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Immortal Technique (who spoke and rapped in Spanish a bit) and Nas (who drew DMX on the sidelines to see his show).
In the meet and greet area, besides Zion I and crew, I met Big Daddy Kane (who warmly hugged me when we took a pic),The Hit Squad including the legendary DJ Scratch, Common (was so excited about this) and the reunited Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Nas ending the festival was the perfect way to wrap up everything and I rocked to “The Don”, “If I Ruled The World”, “Made You Look” and “One Mic”. With the annoyances of the parking situation a distance memory, I came home with lots of memories and plenty of memorabilia I will treasure forever! Check out my site, carlitasconcerts.com, for more personal deets on the shows!