Nas, Common & The Roots Pay Homage to the Greats at Rock the Bells

As Rock the Bells hit Boston on Saturday (July 18), the star-studded line up led fans in a day dedicated to hip-hop’s past, present, and future, and honored some of the music world’s lost icons in the process. The all day affair featured two stages—a main stage, as well as the smaller Paid Dues stage—with doors opening at 1 p.m.

Early acts on the larger stage included K’Naan, who performed tracks from 2009’s Troubadour, as well as Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek in a shortened set that featured some of their past collaborations as well as a couple new tracks from their upcoming disc as Reflection Eternal, Revolutions Per Minute. Indie favorite Tech N9ne followed with an energy infused performance, bringing much of the midday crowd to its feet with his tongue-twisting rhymes, face paint, and moon walking.

Next was Common, backed by a live band, performing newer hits like “Testify” and “Universal Mind Control.” A healthy portion of the set was dedicated to some of his peers’ classic cuts, as the Chi-town MC chanted “hip-hop” in between verses from The Pharcyde’s “Passing Me By” and Dr. Dre and Snoop’s “Nothin’ But A G Thang,” among others.

Performer’s gracing the Paid Dues stage during the daytime ranged from Evidence and Alchemist, M.O.P., and Slum Village, spitting tracks from the forthcoming Villa Manifesto and crowd favorite “Selfish,” while making sure to rep the legacy of the fellow Detroit native, the late J. Dilla.

Slaughterhouse followed, rocking to a mini-mosh-pit inducing version of “Woodstock (Hood Hop).” They also paid tribute to the past, bumping snippets from Eminem, Biggie, and Dr. Dre. Wu-Tang members Raekwon and RZA were the final two acts to hit the more intimate second stage.

After a House of Pain set closed out with “Jump Around,” The Roots came on and jammed out as only they can, with Black Thought shouting out fallen greats Michael Jackson and James Brown. Big Boi followed, pleasing the nighttime crowd with a catalogue of OutKast and individual hits ranging from “Playas Ball” to “Ms. Jackson” to “The Way You Move.” The Atlanta native briefly expressed his excitement to be joining Def Jam and reuniting with L.A. Reid, hinting that his long awaited solo project, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, may no longer be in limbo.

As the marathon that was Rock the Bells came to a close, the festival’s headliners did not disappoint, with Damian Marley and Nas sharing a lengthy set. Nas’ solo performance included “The World is Yours,” for which he brought out Pete Rock, saying, “Thanks for the beat, my nigga,” as well as other hits “Nas is Like” and a Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” backed version of “One Mic.” Nas then performed Illmatic’s “One Love,” followed by Jr. Gong channeling his father Bob’s “One Love,” the first of a handful of his father’s hits. The evening came to a close with the K’Naan assisted “Africa Must Wake Up,” off of Distant Relatives.

Rock the Bells, which moved on to New York’s Jones Beach yesterday, will continue throughout the summer. Visit the official RTB website for more details. –Adam Fleischer

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  • Moving Sideways

    Hold on…was the backing track “In The Air Tonight”?

    Or was Phil Collins actually in the house to play?

  • Pierzy

    Would’ve been a great show to check out…

  • RL

    What???????? No tribute to the greatest rapper this world has ever seen, Jay-Z? HOW BLASPHEMOUS!!!!!!!!

  • Federal Ranga

    What up, P?

    I hope that was a joke, RL… even though I am far from laughing.

    On another note, Presents: The Commission’s Federal Ranga: On Yo Ass!!! New vlog later today, errrrrrrrbody.

    Man, I would’ve like to catch a Rock T he Bells show… but they aint coming to Miami, I bet.

    • Tony Grand$

      What’s good fellers!?


      Dude, the ending of the last vlog made it all official. That shit had me ROLLING!

      “Nah, just 12 hour shifts…”

      P! My dude!


      • Pierzy

        Good morning gentlemen…good to see that we were all able to make it to another week.

        What’s poppin?

      • epinz

        @federal ranga
        ngga, im in thre o. and them nggz aint ev en comin to the south! i looked at theyre tour dates cuz at best, the wwould hit tampa, but the closest i see them to the south is cali!lol! that shit is bug.

        • $ykotic

          Saving my green for the 31st! Probably only NaS & Damian will be there but I could care less. Already sold out.

          I’M dreading returning to NYC…


      Why they never come down south? Shit would be a crazy show. Wish I was there.

      I saw yo vid Fed. That was tight!

      How do I join The Commission?

      • $ykotic

        Just keep doing what you do now brethren…

  • Tony Grand$

    Damn, that sounded like it was off the charts.

    Did that say “House of Pain”? Boom-shalacklack-boom, indeed.

  • EmCDL

    Good morning my fellow Commissioners! Looks like I won’t be able to check out this year’s RTB…funds are on E right now for real. Somebody need to help a brotha out and tape some of the show for me! LOL


  • BeerGangsta

    I know Nas took the show. Common is not that good to me. Roots not my couple of Tea. I am glad I miss this one on purpose.

  • El Tico Loco

    Why isn’t LL COOL J associated with RTB seriously folks, did he even get a nod?

  • Siljaa

    Norway here….
    I need that Distant Relatives CD! Anyone who knows where one can order cd’s from the US, to Europe??

  • REAL TALK 09

    DOA…might be DOJ..for Jigga….i think who the GOAT is in Hip Hop is a matter of opinion…there r 2 many!… personal fave is 2Pac!….he is the only black artist besides MikeJac dat we will be mourning for years to come..oh and plus Biggie 2!…..LL Cool J is a Top 5 must…

  • MyGameJustRewind

    I’m locked in 4 the L.A./San Bernadino show. I can’t wait!

  • Incognitus

    The show in Maryland was ridiculous. AZ, Styles P and Pharaoh Monch showed up for surprise performances with Nas at the end of the show because Damien Marley didn’t perform. Nas, Buckshot and The Roots ripped it the most to me. The Roots did sick ass covers of “Fuck the Police” by NWA and “The Rhyme Gets Rougher” by Rakim. There was so much bud in the air that day. I musta hit like 12 blunts. Shit was crazy!

  • $ykotic

    Besides all of that…

    I just wanted to say the pic with NaS and the boom box.

    That Lasonic box was the sh*ttiest radio made! Couldn’t get the 4 speaker double cassette SHARP boomer huh?

    LL Cool J’s “Radio” was THE boom box. N*ggaz had to carry heat for that one or you wouldn’t have it for long. The other “box” was the Panasonic shoulder strap one with the two-sided face 8″ speaker.

  • realBOSTON

    Yo i was AT THIS SHIT and it was fucking incredible.

    Slaughterhouse killed it fans were chantin “SLAUGHTERHOUSE” and shit waiting for them to perform, mad energy.

    KRS and Buckshot were dope, M.O.P. was LIVE as usual.

    Nas performance was fuckin earth shattering