By Gerrick D. Kennedy
11:00 AM EDT, September 3, 2013
Since its inception in 2004, Rock the Bells has anchored itself as the preeminent festival for hip-hop fans. For its 10th edition, the festival, which begins at San Bernardino's San Manuel Amphitheater on Saturday, once again proves why it's a hot ticket. The bill overflows with emerging rhyme-slayers, chart-toppers, rap icons — and even a couple of revered, but dead, performers.
To help festival goers sort through the more than 60 acts, we've broken down the lineup and organized it into four themes filled with can't-miss performers during the two-day festival.
1. Nostalgic reunions. Like any great festival, Rock the Bells has leaned on reuniting banner acts from yesteryear. After a lauded reunion at Coachella following a seven-year split, underground L.A. collective Jurassic 5 headlines Saturday, alongside Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, which reunited for the first time in more than 20 years at last year's festival. Wu-Tang Clan, which reunited in full to mark the 20th anniversary of its groundbreaking debut "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)," will anchor Sunday night.
2. Resurrections. Festival organizers took cues from last year's Coachella performance of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, when the pair performed with a hologram-like image of slain West Coast superstar Tupac Shakur. For Rock the Bells, Wu-Tang Clan's late member Ol' Dirty Bastard and the deceased godfather of gangsta rap, Eazy-E, will be resurrected in hologram-like form. ODB will "perform" alongside Wu-Tang and Eazy-E will "appear" during Bone Thugs' set. Festival organizers tapped the often-feuding late rappers' families to help perfect the animated avatars. Eazy-E's kids Eric Wright Jr., Derrick Wright and Erin Wright will constitute the body, voice and face, respectively, of the deceased NWA founder's projected image. And ODB's oldest son, Young Dirty Bastard, will channel his father for the digital performance. ODB and Eazy-E's images will perform original music, with dubbed dialogue.
3. Legends. Rock the Bells has a reputation for bills featuring veteran lyricists performing seminal albums in their entirety (Lauryn Hill, Nas, Cypress Hill and Slick Rick have all performed classic works), and there's no shortage of rap statesmen this year. Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh will share the stage on Sunday, as will iconic Bay Area emcees E-40 and Too Short. There's also Common, KRS One, Talib Kweli and Immortal Technique on Saturday, with Rakim and Dilated Peoples on Sunday.
4. Rap wunderkind. A new class of rap wonders is the true anchor of this year's roster. L.A.-based rap supergroup Black Hippy, whose most famous member, Kendrick Lamar, became one of the biggest breakouts in West Coast rap in recent years, will headline Saturday. The day's bill also features Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt, rowdy troublemaker Chief Keef (he was a no-show last year), Big Krit, Snow Tha Product and hitmaker-rapper Hit Boy. On Sunday, J. Cole headlines alongside New York collective ASAP Mob, whose leader ASAP Rocky also emerged into pop prominence this last year. Other can't-miss acts scheduled for Sunday include Joey Badass with Pro Era, Odd Future's the Internet and Rapsody.
Single-day tickets, two-day passes and VIP packages are available through RocktheBells.net.
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