Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Lindsay Gabler
San Bernardino, Calif.
The best way to describe Rock the Bells is hip-hop summer camp. The festival's lineup included hip-hop legends, veterans and newcomers alike performing across three stages, providing a nonstop trip through hip-hop history. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the festival, which kicked off a four-city tour at the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino, Calif. on September 7–8. Despite the 100-degree weather, fans enjoyed every minute of the experience.
As I arrived on day one, I headed to the HipHop DX stage to catch Earl Sweatshirt, a member of the Los Angeles-based collective Odd Future, which was clear from the fans who sported Odd Future socks, T-shirts and the group's signature bucket hat. GRAMMY-nominated rapper Pusha T delivered a high energy set at the Fools Gold stage, pleasing fans by performing some of his biggest hits, including his verse on Kanye West's "Runaway." The sun was setting as fans flocked to find a seat at the main stage in anticipation of GRAMMY winners Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. However, it was late rapper Eazy-E's virtual performance during Bone Thug's set that had everyone on their feet. Taking a page out of the 2012 Tupac Coachella hologram book, Eazy-E — or the virtual Eazy-E — performed three songs, including N.W.A. classics "Straight Outta Compton" and "Boyz-N-The-Hood." While the hologram came and went pretty quickly, for a moment, we were able to pay tribute to one of rap's biggest icons.
Next up was arguably the most talked about rapper of the moment: Kendrick Lamar and his rising Black Hippy collective. When Kendrick hit the stage, the roar of the crowd was at a high as Southern California welcomed home the new self-proclaimed King of the West Coast. GRAMMY winner Kid Cudi closed day one with a bang, emerging from a large volcano onstage.
Heading into day two, I wasn't sure if I could endure another day in the heat. As I watched local rap icons Dilated Peoples from the main stage, beads of sweat ran down my forehead. But I grabbed a strawberry lemonade and was back in business for round two. New Yorkers Joey Bada$$ and A$AP Rocky were two newcomers who proved they have the chops to continue making a name for themselves. Both artists performed to packed crowds as fans shouted along to every word. Veteran West Coast legends Too $hort and E-40 joined forces, proving that party anthems are timeless. $hort's "Gettin' It" was a welcomed treat as the sun went down.
However, fans were really buzzing to see GRAMMY-nominated rapper J. Cole. The main stage was packed as J. Cole emerged shouting, "It's a little bit darker this time around" — a nod to his evening slot on the bill, which reflected his quick rise in the hip-hop game. J. Cole's set closed with a sing-a-long to his latest hit with Miguel, "Power Trip."
Headlining hip-hop legends Wu-Tang Clan came next. Many fans were waiting all weekend to see the group, who previously served as the festival's inaugural headliners 10 years ago. Wu-Tang played fan-favorites "C.R.E.A.M." and "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit," but it was a second hologram performance — this time of the late Wu-Tang member Ol' Dirty Bastard — that incited the most interest. Similar to Eazy-E, ODB performed three songs before the group's set came to a close.
Looking around all weekend, it was incredible to see how far hip-hop culture has come since the festival launched in 2004. I couldn't help but think of the words of Notorious B.I.G.: "You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far."
To catch the Rock the Bells festival in a city near you, click here.
(Lindsay Gabler is the Social Media Specialist for The Recording Academy. In 2012 Gabler ranked in Billboard's Twitter 140, a listing of the 140 must-follow Twitter accounts in the music industry. Follow her @lndsygblr.)