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Common Raps ‘Be,’ Lauryn Hill Speeds at L.A. Rock the Bells

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Lauryn Hill returned to the Rock the Bells stage for the second year in a row, closing out the inaugural show, which kicked off in San Bernardino, Calif. Saturday (Aug. 21). Unlike previous years, this year’s RTB had its group of headliners — including Hill, Common, Erykah Badu, Cypress Hill and Nas — perform one of their iconic albums in its entirety.

“The people here are here for hip-hop,” Common told The BoomBox following his performance of his 2005 album ‘Be.’ “The people here appreciated all the hip-hop that you loved growing up and love to hear it. They’re here knowing that Nas is doing ‘Illmatic’; that Cypress Hill is doing their classic album, they’re here knowing Black Star is here, so you know it’s a crowd that really has a true appreciation for hip-hop music.”

In deciding which of his eight albums to showcase, ‘Be’ was the perfect choice for its impact on the Chicago MC’s career. “For me it was one of the monumental albums, not only that was recognized as a classic when it came out, but it also took my career to another level,” Common explained. “It was the re-birth of my career. [People] just kind of wrote me off, and ‘Be’ embodied a lot of who I am.”

Throughout the 10-hour show, fans had the opportunity to travel to three different stages to see some of their favorite artists, yet by the time Hill took the stage to perform her 1998 solo debut ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,’ all eyes were fixed in her direction. Dressed in a green and white blouse, black mini-skirt, thigh-high boots and no leftover baby weight from giving birth less than a month ago, the 36-year-old stormed the stage kicking off her high-powered set with ‘Lost Ones.’

Although it initially seemed that her energy was at an all-time high, she began to move at such a distractingly accelerated pace that the audience could barely keep up. Aided by a live band, that she incessantly directed to amp up the sound quality, Hill sped through her album, putting an almost unrecognizable spin on the likes of ‘To Zion,’ ‘Forgive Them Father’ and ‘I Used to Love Him,’ before reuniting with Nas for ‘If I Ruled the World,’ and closing the show well before midnight.

Up next, Rock the Bells Festival 2011 will head north to Mountain View, Calif. on Aug. 27, New York City on Sept. 3 and wraps up on Sept. 10 in Boston. The Rock the Bells concert edition has nine more dates in various nightclubs around the U.S. and will close out on Sept. 17 in Charlotte, N.C.

Check out Rock the Bells founder Chance Weisberg’s exclusive interview with The BoomBox here.

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