I chatted with Chang Weisberg today, the head honcho of Guerilla Union and founding member of Rock The Bells. In case you’ve been under a rock the past few months, Rock The Bells is going down this Saturday, Aug. 20 at the San Manuel Amphitheater. Chang shared with me some history of RTB and what to expect this year. Trust me, if you’re a hip hop head, you’re not going to want to miss this very special RTB.
How did Rock The Bells come about?
It was Christmas of 2003 and we were talking about how there aren’t any underground hip hop shows anymore in L.A. or anywhere. We wanted create something with the feel of the late Bigga B’s UNITY in the early 90s. That’s where acts like Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep and Gang Starr broke in Southern California. It was all about the connection with the fans and the artists in these small clubs. We wanted to recreate that feel and borrowing the lyrics from LL Cool J around Christmas time seemed like the right thing to do. A small weekly club show turned into the world’s largest touring hip hop festival: Rock The Bells.
Why is RTB always in San Bernardino instead of a major city like Los Angeles?
We have had a lot of success with our partners Cypress Hill (Cypress Hill Smoke Out) and the National Orange Show in San Bernardino. Believe it or not, it’s tough to get L.A. kids into Orange County or Orange County kids in L.A.— but for whatever reason, that one hour (plus) drive to San Bernardino seems like the right middle point for people from San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles. It’s a nice way to escape and get out of your town.
How is this year’s RTB going to differ from year’s past?
Every year we set the bar higher. There is one common goal with Rock The Bells and that is to create an experience that fans may never experience ever again in their life: one of a kind. This will be the first time Nas will play “Illmatic” in its entirety, Ms. Hill’s going to perform “Miseducation,” Erykah Badu with “Baduizm” … It’s all classic iconic records in all their entirety. And we have the freshest up-and-coming underground hip hop acts in the country. This is the formula for that once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s making history.
What artists are you most looking forward to seeing perform?
For a lot of hip hop heads and for myself, I really loved Masta Killah’s “No Said Date.” He never toured that record. I don’t think anyone in the world has ever seen him perform more than one song from that album. I’m looking forward to that and I’m also of course just in awe about “Miseducation” and “Illmatic.” There’s so much going on at the show, it’s really hard just to point one thing. We spent so much time getting all the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner—it’s hard to take the gravy over the cranberries.
For newbies, what should be in their Rock The Bells survival gear?
Come with a great attitude. Wake up very early because the show starts at noon and Blackstar is on at 1 p.m. You don’t want to miss anything. Dress in layers, hydrate and enjoy the way the grass feels on your toes at the San Manuel Amphitheater. Remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you go really hard at Rock The Bells, then by 4 p.m. you’ll be DONE. You gotta pace yourself and drink lots of water. And remember, what’s happening on stage will never happen again.
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For more information on Rock The Bells, click here.