Monday, August 30, 2010


This weekend, the Rock The Bells festival hit NYC, and it was a great time.  The story of the day was the comeback of "Ms." Lauryn Hill. I'm a huge fan of her classic album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and I was hoping for a great performance. But, like a lot of other people, I didn't know what to expect.  Would she show up?  Would there be a meltdown?  Was it going to be like her MTV Unplugged? The answer was a bit more complex.  She showed up with a very large band (most of the main stage acts were MCs and DJs, Lauryn had two drummers, guitar, keyboards, backing singers, etc.).  All the mics caused feedback and sound problems, but Lauryn powered through her set, victoriously.

She kicked off with a fast version of "Lost Ones" followed by a few more songs from Miseducation (but not "Doo-Wop" or "Everything Is Everything").  She also did her classic but not-super-well-known cover of Bob Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low." She also did three Fugees songs: "How Many Mics," "Fu-Gee-La" and "Ready Or Not." I was kind of surprised by that - but she did incredible versions, and I guess the point was that she doesn't need Wyclef to perform those songs.  Her band was super-tight and obviously well-rehearsed and Lauryn was in top form: her singing sounded great, but she was spitting rhymes with fire. She was also inspired by the crowd on the side of her stage, including her children (five or six of them!), plus celebs like Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Chris Rock. I don't know what her next move will be, but it should be interesting!

The other huge highlight of the day (for me) was A Tribe Called Quest's performance of Midnight Marauders. Last time I saw Tribe it was at Rock The Bells two years ago, and that night Q-Tip performed one solo set and then one with Tribe. This time it was all about the Tribe, and they were amazing.   They are so tight and well-rehearsed, they don't rap over their record, they rap over the beats that were used on the record. Ali Shaheed Muhammed is a great DJ, and Tip and Phife Dawg have a great bond and vibe going. Later on in the set, founding member of the group Jarobi joined them.  Also joining them for a few songs: Large Professor and Main Source for "Fakin' The Funk." Then of course towards the end of their set, Busta Rhymes for "Scenario." Incredible show and the highlight of my day.

Wu-Tang Clan: nothing to fuck wit', apparently!  Last time I saw them was at Rock The Bells a few years back, in my pre-blogging days.  They were great, it amazes me that a group with so many MCs keep it together for a tight set.  I've seen some messy Wu-Tang shows over the years, but they were great this year, sticking with material from their debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Ol' Dirty Bastard was represented by his son, Boy Jones, who sounded just like his dad.

It was great to see KRS-One and Rakim at the same show. I'd never seen Rakim before, and I heard he was boring live.  Not true.  He was supposed to be performing the Eric B. & Rakim album Paid In Full, and he played most of it, throwing in just a purfunctory 5 seconds of the instrumental "Chinese Arithmatic." It's a bummer that he and Eric B. can't get it together to reunite.  KRS-One did a cool set, but talked a bit too much.  Unfortunately, I got there too late to see Slick Rick, and I left before Snoop Dogg (there were only two ferries to take everyone to and from the island, and I didn't want to wait on an hours-long line). But it was a great show, and I have to give props to the Rock The Bells people for always putting on a great show.

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