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Nas, Murs Talk Rock the Bells

Last summer’s Rock the Bells moved the annual hip-hop festival into the national consciousness as the traveling package featured both the reunited Rage Against the Machine and the Wu-Tang Clan. Guerilla Union founder Chang Weisberg, who organizes the traveling festival, says he wanted this year’s trek to have a different feel. “Last year was a really angst-driven, politically motivated type of feel,” Weisberg says. “So this year, with the way things are going with the economy and people’s heads and gas prices, we really wanted to try and provide something where people could get away from all the crap and have a good time.”

The artists that encapsulated that to him are headliners A Tribe Called Quest and reunited west coast ensemble Pharcyde. For Murs, a fellow member of the west coast family, having Pharcyde back together means the world to him. “In a time when the only thing on the west coast was gangster rap they created a space for someone like me, from the ‘inner city,’ or just a young black kid from a single parent home, to be able to be different, to be me, and let me know there was someone out there like me,” he says. ” They gave me a sense of belonging, a voice. I can’t put into words how much the music meant to me. It was literally the soundtrack of my life.”

RTB, as it’s known, has always been known as a showcase for both the icons and young guns of hip hop. For an artist like Murs it provides him with an opportunity to share the stage with those he grew up admiring, something that moves him. “We did the press conference for Rock the Bells and I was literally almost in tears,” he says, recalling the day the tour was announced. “To be up there with Pharcyde and Tribe, De La, it’s like, ‘Oh my god.’ We’re all excited to see each other every night, but I’m sure I’m a little more excited than they are to see them do their thing night after night. And just to be in the same area and be able to walk up to them and say, ‘Good show,’ it’s gonna be awesome.”

Like Murs, Nas is a returning act from last year. He says the mix of acts keeps him coming back. “I’m just really psyched,” the Queensbride emcee says about being on this year’s trek. “For a long time in hip-hop there’s not been a tour on the level of this tour.”

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