Rock the Bells Was a Beats and Rhymes Marathon and I’m Still Exhausted


I got my fill of hip hop this year at Rock the Bells, a nationwide hip hop event that graced San Francisco with its presence August 18. I heard so much hip hop that day, that I couldn’t listen to any beats and rhymes for days afterward.

With 19 hip hop groups in the lineup—split between two stages—performing from 11 a.m. past 10 p.m., Rock the Bells was a music marathon.

The lineup was phenomenal. The Coup rocked harder than any straight-ahead rock band, and Sage Francis turned a rant about portable toilets into poetry. EPMD live was much better than that beat-up cassette tape of theirs I used to listen to in junior high. Mos Def danced with the crowd, The Roots knocked it completely out of the ballpark with a full band and horn section, and Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, and Rage Against the Machine were as good now as they were 10 years ago. Three decades of hip hop were all in one place for a day in front of more than 40,000 people, and it was a damn good time.

But would I go again? Probably not. I think next time, I’ll just bring a folding chair and set up right outside the fence. The stage was maybe 50 feet away from the perimeter, and there were three huge television screens mounted on the stage. Yeah, if money’s tight, I’ll just camp out and watch it all on TV.