For 2012, Rock the Bells continues its tradition of highlighting new talent in Hip Hop while honoring revered artists of the past. Last night, the official 2012 lineup was announced, as it usually is, by Supernatural who freestyled the bill. However, this time, Supernat was accompanied by DJ Quik’s impromptu beat boxing [pictured].
The lineup includes an array of Hip Hop acts from various regions and eras. Nas, 2 Chainz, Atmosphere, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Naughty By Nature and Missy Elliot and Timabaland have been added to this year’s roster, joining the likes of Kid Cudi, Salt-N-Pepa, Wiz Khalifa and Murs and Fashawn.
For the first time in its nine years, Rock the Bells will be a two-day festival. Dates are set for August 19 and 20 in San Bernardino, California. The event will then go through Mountain View, California on August 25 and 26 before heading to Holmdel, New Jersey on the 1st and 2nd of September.
Initial reports included Lupe Fiasco as a scheduled performer on the bill. However, since the announcement, Fiasco has said he will not be at Rock the Bells. According to his Twitter account, Fiasco said that his inclusion on the bill was a “typo.” The full lineup is included at the end of this article.
At the announcement event, Chang Weisberg, head of Guerilla Union and Rock the Bells, spoke with HipHopDX about how this year’s festival will continue the tradition that has been integral to the franchise for nearly a decade. He explained how Rock the Bells has been able to create many connections between emcees, from notable reunions between Rage Against the Machine and A Tribe Called Quest to collaborations like Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa. He also shared much more about hologram rumors, unity within Hip Hop and discussed why he feels Rock the Bells has become similar to a church.
HipHopDX: Each year, artistic camaraderie seems to be the greatest theme with Rock the Bells. What have been some of the best connections that you’ve seen made, some of the greatest collaborations that you’ve seen made because of Rock the Bells?
Chang Weisberg: Wow. Just off the top, when you ask that, I think about when I was sitting down, having a discussion with Snoop Dogg’s camp. They had never met Wiz Khalifa. I said, “You guys have to get down with this kid, Wiz Khalifa.” They were like, “Yo, we’ve had other people tell us that.” I was like, “No, for real. At Rock the Bells, I’m gonna walk Snoop overand introduce you guys because I think it would be an amazing combination. I think they’ve got like the number one hit in the country this year. That’s kind of cool. Things like that, when I see that happen, it’s pretty awesome.
DX: Now you’ve also got Murs and Fashawn making a connection on this year’s lineup.
Chang Weisberg: Oh yeah, yeah, Murs and Fashawn. I mean, there’s so much. That was just one example. I think Nas wanting to bring out Lauryn [Hill] for “If I Ruled the World” was a crazy combination on stage. That was a personal dream come true, to see that happen for them. I just know how much it means to them and to do it on that stage. That’s always special, to see stuff like that.
DX: For people to look past personal issues, it almost feels they’re doing it for something that’s bigger than them…
Chang Weisberg: Yup. That’s the number one theme there, brother.
DX: What do you think it is about Rock the Bells that makes it big enough for people to put aside whatever qualms they might have?
Chang Weisberg: It’s real simple. Rock the Bells, at this point, is kind of like church. People come to church willing to be humbled; they come to church looking for some salvation and the opportunity to maybe even repent or confess or to be proud and to sing. So, I just tell everybody, at the end of the day, if this is the moment you feel in your life that you’re ready to submit to the fans, with all the history here, you’ve got a lot to live up to. It’s a challenge in away but it’s also an invitation. So, there’s a lot of venting that goes on but everybody knows that it’s in the right spirit, to do it for the right reasons and not the wrong reasons.
DX: What’s been the greatest example of that?
Chang Weisberg: I can think of some examples. [A] Tribe [Called Quest,] Pharcyde, Wu-Tang [Clan], Rage [Against the Machine], Bone [Thugs-N-Harmony], Missy [Elliot] and Timbaland. There wasn’t really any issue there but it just has been awhile so it’s like, at the end of the day, they’re doing it for fans.
DX: Speaking of Missy, that’s an interesting addition to the bill. You have Atmosphere, Kendrick Lamar, Missy and 2 Chainz. For a while, it seemed Hip Hop was divided into groups and sub-groups more often than not. Rock the Bells is providing a sense of unity there this year more than in any other.
Chang Weisberg: Ultimately, I think every artist comes to be a part of Rock the Bells. It’s the whole Hip Hop summer camp feel. I think people really disarm themselves when they come to Rock the Bells. Whatever the issues might be prior to stepping into our facility, it’s like you walk into a room and you’re like, “Hey, there’s Ghostface, Method Man, Q-Tip,Ice Cube!” So you kind of turn artists back into fans. I think that’s when that magic hits them in the heart.
DX: Right, but there’s another part to the unity. That’s unity within people that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have had that but this question was referring to the unity amongst subgenres and groups within Hip Hop.
Chang Weisberg: Oh! I think when you look at all the veins that Hip Hop is about, there’s Rock music, Punk Rock, Metal, and Speed Metal, Alternative, Grunge, whatever you want to call it. You can still talk to somebody like Mac Miller. If you ask him, “What was your inspiration?” He would tell you Wu-Tang. If you talk to Wiz Khalifa, he would tell you it’s Bone Thugs N Harmony. If you talk to Atmoshere, [Slug] will tell you KRS-One. So, again, you can’t move forward without respecting those who’ve laid it out for you. So, Paid Dues and Rock the Bells is a collision of that. Whether it’s Yo Gabba Gabba! or Atmosphere or J. Cole, it all comes together here. Good music is good music. I don’t see lines so I ask everybody to drop that. No one has ever said, “I’m not gonna perform because that’s not my type of Hip Hop.”
DX: This lineup may be a manifestation of that. You may have 2 Chainz fans who’ve never heard of Atmosphere and vice versa.
Chang Weisberg: Absolutely. No doubt.
DX: Every year, there seems to be a new part of your ultimate Rock the Bells dream. Every year, a new part of it is revealed, it seems. What part of the ultimate dream is Rock the Bells 2012?
Chang Weisberg: [Laughing] Yeah, we’re into year number nine so this is the ninth chapter of that dream. I don’t know if we have twelve, fifteen or just ten. I’m just thankful for this right now. Tomorrow’s not guaranteed. That’s a big theme. I didn’t bring it up in the launch party [press conference] because I wanted to keep it on the lighthearted tip but I’m not going to ever be able to work with the Beastie Boys [due to MCA’s recent passing]. So, I’m in a hurry to work with anybody. I’m honored, at the end of the day. So, I’ll just keep dreaming and keep having these parties.
DX: But it also seems like it’s not just a part of the ultimate dream; it feels like that’s also what’s been revealed to you up to that moment.
Chang Weisberg: Yeah, exactly. Absolutely. I’m a manifestation of the energy around me. At the end of the day, speaking with a lot of people who are near and dear to my heart, the bill kind of comes together on its own. I just kind of help facilitate it.
DX: There were some winks and nods about technology earlier [alluding to the recent holographic images used during Coachella 2012]. Can you speak to that a little bit?
Chang Weisberg: You know what? I was at Coachella. What Dr. Dre did with Tupac was amazing. It was like the number one topic of conversation. Specifically, people were like, “Wow! Think about what you can do, Chang!” I was like, “You know what? I’m going to try to focus on the here and now and whoever is breathing at the moment.” We’ve got a lot of work to do. As technology catches up, we’re not going to shy way from it but I’m not just going to run to it because somebody else did it. I’m very respectful of that, though. It was an amazing performance. I don’t want to downplay that.
DX: There’s something to be said about Rock the Bells standing apart.
Chang Weisberg: Absolutely. Somebody mentioned Rock the Bells in the same breath as Coachella. Wow. I have such respect for Coachella but at the end of the day, Rock the Bells is Rock the Bells. Coachella is Coachella. We’re just thankful to have it. Really, I’m that thankful that there’s a ninth year. There will be a year when there isn’t a Rock the Bells and me and you are going to talk like, “Remember when?” That will happen. I’m not so full of myself to think [this will go on forever]. Rock the Bells probably won’t be forever so I’m going to enjoy it while it’s happening.
The lineup is listed below, along with Rock the Bells dates/locations.
ROCK THE BELLS 2012 FESTIVAL SERIES ARTISTS
Big Daddy Kane
DJ Lance Rock and Friends
E-40 and Too Short*
Eligh, Grouch and Zion I
Hit Squad Reunion
Missy Elliott and Timbaland
Naughty By Nature
Redman and Method Man
* notes performance on select dates only
RZA + Supernatural
ROCK THE BELLS 2012 FESTIVAL SERIES DATES & VENUES:
08/19 – 08/20 San Bernardino, CA – NOS Events Center
08/25 – 08/26 Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheatre
09/01 – 09/02 Holmdel, NJ – PNC Arts Center