The annual multi-city Rock The Bells music festival came to the Big Apple, touching down on Governors Island, sporting its recently adopted style of showcasing hip hop and R&B icons performing their seminal albums in their entirety, including, notably, Raekwon (Only Built for Cuban Linx), Erykah Badu (Baduism), Black Moon (Enta Da Stage), Mobb Deep (Infamous), Mos Def and Talib Kweli as Black Star (Black Star), Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill), and capping off the night, Nas performing arguably one of the best hip hop albums ever, Illmatic.
The all day event took place over multiple stages, forcing attendees at times to strain fan royalties, with simultaneous acts performing at the same time, in different places. Others may have been more easily distracted by the perform-an-album-straight-through style, especially for strong albums that may have had less than timeless material interspersed among classics.
Highlights from across the spectrum of reviews and discussions by those in attendance seemed to be strongest around Nas’ performance, closing out the night. With veteran hip hop comrades lending assistance, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, MC Serch, Large Professor, Akinyele and Joe Fatal, it was by all accounts a sonic time warp to a moment in hip hop history that is still revered to this day.
As we often do, we have compiled a list of reviews and recaps of the event, detailing more about the 11 albums performed in their entirety. Below are a few we have selected, as well as a couple of prime videos from the festival.
Rock The Bells continues on September 10 in Boston.
New York Times: Chunks of Memory, Reassembled Onstage