The A-List of Bay Area Counterculture
Fusicology Bay Area in association with the Bay Area’s Z List embarked on a memorable musical journey to this year’s Rock The Bells‘ SF Bay Area Edition, held on Sunday, August 21st at The Shoreline Ampitheater in Mountain View.
We asked two of the Bay Area’s Musical Changemakers — Kev Choice and DJBackSide — to share with us their personal highlights. The day was documented by Bay Area based Photo-Journalist, Eric K. Arnold. More info about them can be found at the bottom of this article.
Kev Choice’s Favorite Moments
Overall, Rock The Bells was a classic moment for Hip-Hop and The Bay Area. To see all the dope performers, as well as all the people in the audience — I even saw Shock-G chilling — was big, and everyone was having a good time! Can’t wait for next year! In the meantime, here are my highlights.
1. Snoop Dogg’s Band
Even though they couldn’t really be seen that well, from my perspective as a musician, Snoop’s band stole the show and elevated Snoop’s perfornance to just what it was, “headliner” status. The bass player had all the funky bass lines smacking note for note with just the right amount of added touch to make any musician’s eyes raise up, as he was “killing” it on stage. The drummer played all the drums beat precise and in pocket and the keyboardist really brought out those signature synth lines created by Dr. Dre and in some cases Daz’s production. Everything sounded exactly like the original, but even better with the added live elements.
2. Wu-Tang Clan
Not often do you see the whole Wu-Tang Clan together, and it was a power performance. With all them together, the energy was crazy, highlighted by O.D.B.’s son who had all his pops’ lyrics as well as onstage antics downpacked. Method Man always lifts the crowd when he gets his moments to shine and the GZA had his time to shine and show why he’s considered one of the top lyricists in Wu during an acapella moment. Overall Wu showed lyricism, presence, and true hip-hop show rocking ability front to start.
3. A Tribe Called Quest
Q-Tip is a beast, and was probably one of the dopest individual performers the whole day at Rock The Bells. He was all over the stage, in the crowd, on the speakers, and was truly giving the crowd his all. The 5-ft Assasin, Phife Dawg, held it down lyrical and onstage as him and Q-Tip busted out dance moves and some of the “routines that they use to do on Linden”. Ali Shaheed held it down on the 1’s and 2’s and one of the biggest surprise’s and highlights of the day came when Busta Rhymes and his hype man Spliff Star jumped on the set. This had the crowd in a frenzy and their performance of “Scenerio” was on of the top moments of the day.
4. Ms. Lauryn Hill
Announcement: Lauryn Hill will NEVER play those classics songs that touched and changed peoples lives from the “MisEducation of Lauryn Hill” album the way they were on the record!! If you can get over that and understand that her voice isn’t the same as it used to be, then you may be able to appreciate her performance. I appreciate it because of the risk she takes musically and sonically, experimenting with unconventional band set-ups (i.e. two drummers, two bassists, two guitarist and a DJ), and doing a sort of live mash-up with her classic songs (i.e. flipping Lost Ones with a classic Morgan Heritage groove). Her set is a lot more reggae and rocked out then the sultry hip-hop soul we are used to from her, and vocally she even interprets her songs in a completely different manner. All in all, it was good to see one of the best female MCs/vocalists of all time still up there rocking out and pushing the envelope with her music.
5. Paid Dues Stage
The Paid Dues stage was cracking with dope performances by Murs and 9th Wonder, Street Sweeper Social Club, Immortal Technique, and Whiz Khalifa amongst others. This was the stage with a younger audience, but they were still getting down and seem to be really in tuned with all the performers. Up and coming Whiz Khalifa had a huge following and held his own amongst the other more seasoned performers. It was definitely worthwhile to dip away from the mainstage for a minute and catch some folks on the Paid Dues stage holding it down.
DJ BackSide’s Favorite Moments
Rock the Bells has been goin’ on for a few years now, but this was my first one and hopefully it won’t be my last! The weather was great, the attendance was amazing and it was a great feeling to be surrounded by other people who were looking forward to seeing the performers as much as I was. Everyone’s set had its surprises! Here are some of my highlights from the show.
1. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s set with 2 drummers and 2 bassists was kinda fly. She did her own songs as well as some of The Fugees’ which made it extra special. Athough I think since I’ve never seen her live, I would have liked to hear her perform some of her songs with just the regular track playing in the back and not just instrumentation.
2. Busta Rhymes
3. Method Man
Method Man ended off Wu-Tang’s set with his banger Rockwilder (which is still to this day a record you will hear me play in any set (99% of the time) to get the crowd hype, and even though Redman wasn’t there to do his verse, the whole crowd went crazy.
4. Wiz Khalifa
Caught a little action of Wiz Khalifa strictly to see what all the hype was about and was impressed. He definitely has a loyal following that I can respect. He has a direct connection with his fans and that made it almost like his set was an “inside secret” and exclusive. Looking forward to seeing more of him in the future.
5. Snoop Dogg
Snoop closed out the night and kiiiiiiillllled it! Such a legend, and still a major force in hip hop. He also brought out Lady of Rage. Bomb. Warren G. Bomb. And did a tribute to Nate Dogg.
There were many more, but those are my top 5
About Kev Choice
Bay Area born and bred Kev Choice — also known as the Hip-Hop Pianist — is an award-winning and genre bending MC/Pianist/Producer who currently divides his time between Oakland, California and Atlanta, Georgia. He is the front man of The Kev Choice Ensemble, . an enormously talented unit that lays down symphonic slap, furious funk, sweet soul, jumpin’ jazz, and hype hip-hop (with a conscious lyrical twist). He also holds down keyboard duties on tour for Dwele, DJ Quick, The Martin Luther Experience and Too $Short and has previously toured the world with Ms. Lauryn Hill as her keyboardist and Musical Director.