I attended the Rock the Bells festival in Miami on August 2, 2008. I give the event two thumbs way up for its performance line ups, the surprise special guests, the quality of sound and lighting, the great work the roadies conducted between sets, and the participating venues and sponsors involved. It was a grand success, and I am sure this will continue into your international tour.
As great as Rock the Bells was for me in Miami, and to others abroad, it can be a whole lot better.
There was a lot of talk about real Hip Hop from the performers which is expected because too many scrubs have tainted the music, but I was somewhat troubled when I did not see real Hip Hop as a whole. We only got real Hip Hop music as a recording artist exhibition. Sure, we got to see Immortal Technique‘s DJ, GI Joe, put on a small B-Boy show and rock the turntables, but that was it! It would be nice to see every act rhyme over a live DJ’s break beats for at least one song. Now, that is real Hip Hop in its rawest form.
I spoke to quite a few true school heads, and we want to see Guerrilla Union up the ante. We want it to be a real Hip Hop festival similar to Scribble Jam. We want all of the elements to rock the show.
I have my suggestions how to make this work.
I recommend the following ideas starting with Rock the Bells 2009. I recommend between each artist’s set there be a six minute B-Boy battle. I recommend there be four regional B-Boy crews battling it out at the first venue, and the winner moves on to the next venue to battle the next three regional crews. This should go on until the final Rock the Bells show where there will be the crowning of the tour champs. Red Bull has a strong B-Boy sponsorship history, and I would encourage them to get involved.
A classic B-Boy tournament battle is unheard of in Hip Hop concerts and tours. Rock the Bells would be the first to have a tournament battle out on tour, and it would only have three crew battles a show.
Now for the DJs, I recommend the same battle format skill for skill. Each DJ should have a three minute routine. The winner out of the four DJs will move on to the next venue. Yes, the last DJ standing at the final show is the world class RTB champion.
Like I said before this has never been done in Hip Hop concerts and tours.
My final recommendation is to bring in Graff Writers to either put on an exhibition or battle at each show on temporary murals. To see an organized Graff writing battle at work I refer you to check out Write4Gold for ideas. If Graff battling is too much, then it would be cool to have some big name writers who should go on tour like Seen, Mode 2, Lady Pink, or Cope 2. Graff art would definitely authenticate Rock the Bells as a venue for Hip Hop culture.
Why I recommend the additions is to make Rock the Bells legendary in Hip Hop culture. I am sure you guys have thought about this, but I want you to know there is an audience who will be hungry to see Hip Hop in its entirety in one venue. Most of your audience wants to know more about Hip Hop culture which is very important for Rock the Bells growth.
Imagine Guerrilla Union announcing next year in April about giving the other elements a format to demonstrate their own aesthetics. Imagine promoting Hip Hop battles in their rawest forms for B-Boying, Turntablism, and Graff writing. It will make the festival more unforgettable than it already is now.
I explained how to do it in the most simplest fashion, and that is between acts for B-Boying and Turntablism. It can be done. I know you can do it, and Hip Hop culture will be extremely grateful for it.
Rock the Bells is already on its way to be the ultimate classic festival since Woodstock and Lollapalooza, and I will be back next year for more to indulge. I am looking forward to seeing your improvements.
Thank you for your time and professionalism.
Q Ball, The 800lb Gorilla.
co-editor of Old School Scholar