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Rock the Bells Brings Real Hip-Hop to New York’s Jones Beach Theater

It was a packed house at Long Island, New York’s Jones Beach Theater and concertgoers at the 2008 Rock the Bells international festival were in hip-hop heaven. While the traveling festival features more than 20 hot acts, it was the headliners and surprise appearances that garnered the most excitement from the New York crowd. This year’s festival was all about reunions. A recently reunited Fatlip, Slimkid3, Imani and Bootie Brown, better known as The Pharcyde, took the stage and ran through ‘Runnin’,’ ‘Drop’ and ‘Passin’ Me By’ as backpackers bopped their heads to the foursomes’ hits.

Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, who appeared a bit dazed and confused at times, represented for the Wu-Tang Clan and performed tracks from ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx’ as well as Wu classics. Mos Def shared the stage with Talib Kweli for a mini-Black Star set. As expected, Method Man and Redman — unarguably two of the livest performers — got the crowd going as they climbed speakers and jumped into the crowd. Red and Meth celebrated the old school with guest appearances by EPMD and Slick Rick. But it was Nas‘ performance — with a full band — that stole the show when God’s Son brought out fellow hip-hop icon Jay-Z. The crowd went wild as Nas and Jay performed ‘Success’ and ‘Black Republican’ before Hova took a bow and exited the stage.

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The festival’s headlining act A Tribe Called Quest was forced to follow New York’s finest emcees, but managed to keep the venue jumping by reminding the crowd that the group hadn’t performed in New York in 10 years. Q-Tip got things going with his solo hits, including ‘Vivrant Thing’ and ‘Breathe and Stop’ before bringing out Phife Dawg, Jarobi and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Busta Rhymes joined ATCQ on ‘Scenario’ and launched into ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See,’ before handing the mic back to Tip. Method Man, Mos Def and De La Soul joined Tribe onstage to wrap up the evening, which, as always was a true celebration of real hip-hop.

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