On Tuesday night at the House of Blues on Sunset Strip, Chang Weisberg, the founder and owner of Guerilla Union, the Southern California-based promoter behind Rock the Bells hip-hop festival, sat front-and-center amid the four rows of participants at a press conference to announce the line-up for the 2013 festival. Behind him were all five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and three out four members of TDE/Aftermath’s Black Hippy, including MTV’s Hottest Emcee Kendrick Lamar. Sitting next to Lamar was Def Jam-signed singer Jhene Aiko, while Strange Music’s Tech N9ne and Krizz Kaliko and Wu-Tang Clan’s Masta Killa and U-God were also on hand.
The Rock the Bells announcement and launch party have become an annual tradition and even a rite of passage of sorts for newer artists. This year marks the festival’s 10th anniversary, a long way since its first show at Cinespace in Hollywood, and many of the names on the 2013 line-up are rising stars in the genre. However, two people who flanked Weisberg on each side arguably stole the spotlight at the presser: Tomica Wright, late N.W.A. founder Eazy E’s widow who still helms Ruthless Records, and Cherry Jones, the mother of late Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard. This year, Rock the Bells will pay homage to Eazy E and ODB through what Weisberg called “virtual performances” similar to Coachella’s Tupac Shakur hologram. Recently launched Facebook music game Gig-It was announced as the technology partner making the performances possible, and Jones and Wright were on hand to show their support for the concept.
“Thanks to Dr. John Acunto and his team at Gig-It, they are going to help bring these two legendary rappers back to life,” Weisberg said. “But we will set the standard only approved by Cherry Jones and Tomica Wright. This virtual performance is especially important for the legendary New York crew. The first year of Rock the Bells in 2004 was the last major performance all Wu-Tang Clan members had together before Ol’ Dirty Bastards’ untimely passing. Now, 10 years later, they will be reunited on the same stage at Rock the Bells for their 20th anniversary.”
This year’s Rock the Bells will follow a format similar to that of last year, with two-day concerts in four markets: Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area, New York/New Jersey and Washington D.C. The festival dates are several weeks later than last year, ostensibly due to competing festivals. The New York and D.C. festivals are at new venues for Rock the Bells.
“For the first time ever, the majority of acts have or will be releasing new music,” Weisberg said. “From Tyler the Creator’s Wolf, Kid Cudi’s Indicud to Talib Kweli’s Prisoner of Conscious, Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron, and Directors of Photography by Dilated Peoples, we have curated a multi-generational line-up that includes the best and brightest artists in the genre.”
Early bird pre-sale tickets for Rock the Bells will be available to Guerilla Union mailing list subscribers before tickets will be available to the general public. To sign up for the mailing list, visit RockTheBells.net.
Rock the Bells 2013 Locations & Dates
San Manuel Amphitheater, San Bernardino, California –September 7 and 8
Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California – September 14 and 15
RFK Festival Grounds, Washington D.C. – September 28 and 29
Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford, New Jersey – October 4 and 5.
The following is alphabetically arranged list of artists set to appear at Rock the Bells X. Additional artists will be announced in June at a press conference and launch party on June 24 in New York City.
Chase & Status
E40 and Too Short
Snow That Product
Tyler, The Creator
(Featured photo credit: Daron Jackson)