Rock the Bells 2012 taps Missy Elliott, A$AP Rocky, J. Cole, more
Traveling hip-hop festival Rock the Bells is taking a cue from Coachella’s recent experiment with déjà vu and has announced that this year's event will be held on two consecutive days in each of its three host cities.
Guerilla Union, the promoters of the annual hip-hop festival, announced the change when it unveiled the lineup of its upcoming ninth edition late Tuesday.
The big news is that this year's festival will see Missy Elliott, who is making a much-anticipated comeback after a few years away from the scene, at least partly due to health concerns.
After a couple years in which the festival devoted headlining slots to veteran lyricists performing seminal albums in their entirety (Lauryn Hill, Nas, Cypress Hill, Slick Rick and Wu-Tang Clan have all performed classic works), this year's Rock the Bells leans heavily toward more agile voices and a slew of buzzy upstarts and current chart-toppers.
A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller, Tyga, 2 Chainz and Yelawolf, Dom Kennedy –- virtually a who’s-who of the freshman class of buzzed-about MCs -- are all slated to perform at the festival, which kicks off in San Bernardino on Aug. 18 and Aug. 19.
Though the festival is feeling young with this year's lineup, organizers left plenty of space for veterans on their roster. Method Man and Redman are expected to perform their iconic joint disc, “Blackout,” and all five members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony will reunite for the first time in more than 20 years to perform a tribute to Eazy E and tackle their breakout album, “E. 1999 Eternal.”
Nas, Ice Cube, E-40 and Too $hort, DJ Quik, Naughty by Nature, Big Daddy Kane, Salt-N-Pepa, Slick Rick, Prodigy and the reunion of 1990’s East Coast collective Hit Squad round out the elder statesmen and women of hip-hop.
Promoters came up with a coup, however, when Elliott came on board.
Fans of the platinum-selling rapper-producer have waited patiently for her return. Since 2005’s “The Cookbook,” she has largely worked behind the scenes, producing for other artists and dropping the occasional single or guest verse. She also revealed she's battling Graves disease, an autoimmune illness that affects the thyroid. Elliott will be joined onstage by longtime collaborator Timbaland for the performances.
Last year, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Cypress Hill, Erykah Badu, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Mobb Deep, Raekwon and Ghostface and the GZA headlined the festival.
Founded in 2004, the festival has developed a solid reputation as the go-to showcase for hip-hop heads to see their favorite veteran MCs hit the stage alongside buzzy up-and-comers. After the concert industry was rocked by growing pains and declining ticket sales in the last few years, promoters decided to downsize the show by limiting it to a small cluster of markets. The festival will visit three cities this year, down from the four played in 2011.
Guerilla Union partnered with House of Blues and Live Nation last year for an extended club tour featuring select artists called "Rock the Bell Presents." The lineup for this years series is expected to be announced shortly.
After San Bernardino's NOS Events Center show, the festival moves to Mountain View, Calif., on Aug. 25 and 26 before it wraps Sept. 1 and 2 in Holmdel, N.J.
A pre-sale is set for Friday at 10 a.m., with tickets going on sale to the general public Saturday. More info can be found at RockTheBells.net.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: Missy Elliott performs at the Hollywood Pallidium on Oct. 30, 2003. Credit: Los Angeles Times.