Last Night: Rock the Bells at Shoreline Amphitheatre

Categories: Last Night

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Rock the Bells
Shoreline Amphitheatre
August 16, 2008
Review and photos by Oscar Pascual

Better Than: or as good as the Smokin' Grooves tours of yesteryear

Last night’s Rock the Bells at Shoreline Amphitheatre notched another year of ultimate hip-hop satisfaction. Legendary acts from the genre’s Golden Era of the early 90s proved their longevity through solid sets, and at the very least, no one’s time on stage could qualify as disappointing. But there was just one thing I could not get down with -- the time. Now please excuse me while I get my Andy Rooney on.

There’s just something wrong with hip-hop in the morning. 10 a.m. is too early to be throwing your hands in the air as if you just don’t care while screaming “Ho!” at the top of your lungs. That and the sound of morning construction and horns in traffic can’t possibly rattle your bleary psyche like the abrasiveness of a booming 808 kick. You really have to stretch out, maybe have a little fresh fruit, and work your way to that. Normal people subconsciously understand this, as the crowd was relatively thin and spread out until late-afternoon.

Acts like local heroes Blackalicious and emerging L.A. emcee Murs played enthusiastic sets to lethargic drones wiping sleep-crust out their eyes. The easily recognizable bass line to Dead Prez’s “Hip-Hop” would’ve made the crowd buzz to fever pitch if they had taken stage several hours later. And even though Immortal Technique feels like any time is a good time to be angry, his fiery delivery didn’t seem nearly as appealing as garlic fries for lunch.

Afternoon hip-hop is a different story altogether. By that time, you’ve got your shit together and can’t wait for a beer and some beats. De La Soul managed to inject life in the crowd around then, as the trio clearly had the most fun on stage at that point. Method Man and Redman officially got the party going, as the two main characters from “How High,” rapped about smoking, drinking, and other fun activities, while the surrounding air got replaced with weed smoke. Lots of it.

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(De La Soul)

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(Method Man & Redman)

It was nothing but good times after that. The dusk was brought in by the seminal Pharcyde, who provided a cathartic moment for hip-hop lovers as all four original members performed together for the first time in over ten years. Seeing them perform “Passin’ Me By” made the day for me, as well as all the other nostalgic heads in attendance. Hip-hop mainstays Mos Def and Nas showed off their consistent mic skills, while on the second stage Philadelphia emcees Spank Rock and Amanda Blank's sex rhymes implored the crowd to "shake it till my dick turns racist," over furiously dancy electronic beats.

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(Spank Rock)

The sun came down, the air felt cooler and now bass in your face was more than welcome. Q-Tip took the stage as night fell and kept the party going with his solo hit, “Vivrant Thing,” as Mos Def played hype man. The rest of A Tribe Called Quest then joined Tip and started the set with the bass-heavy “Buggin’ Out.” The legendary crew then conducted a rap-along with classic hits like “Scenario,” “Electric Relaxation,” and “Check the Rhime.” And then just like that, it was all over with more than enough time to go home and watch a crappy episode of SNL. They didn’t even play, “Can I Kick It.” As much as I have problem with hip-hop in the morning, I have a problem with no hip-hop in the nighttime.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I love hip-hop as much as I love sleeping in.

Random Detail: Exactly how long does it take for a girl to shake it until Spank Rock's dick turns racist?

By the Way: It's good to see more women at hip-hop shows. A show like this a few years back would be filled with nothing but angry, sweaty dudes.

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