Nostalgia, Ultra at Rock the Bells

Rock the Bells took over Governor’s Island this past Saturday for a dose of nostalgia, ultra. Big K.R.I.T. and Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, were two of the newest kids on the block amongst a lineup of artists that included Black Star and Cypress Hill, plus Nas and Lauryn Hill, who performed their classic albums Illmatic and The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill.

For our group and about 40, 000 concert goers, waiting in line for the ferry commute was a necessary evil, but skewered set times made things a bit difficult, causing us to completely miss Big K.R.I.T. in the shuffle. The talent at this year’s festival was divvied up between the Main Stage (Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Nas), the Paid Dues Stage (Big K.R.I.T., Freddie Gibbs, Immortal Technique, Slaughterhouse), the 36 Chambers Stage (Mobb Deep, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon) and the Grindhouse stage, reserved for battle rappers.

Mos Def and Talib Kweli were the first big performances of the day, delivering hits like “Respiration” and “Definition” from their 1998 album Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star. Erykah Badu took the main stage just before sundown, where she opened her set with “The Healer” from New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) and continued through a set that most fans in attendance were able to deliver line by line.

In the back-and-forth shuffle, primarily between the main stage and 36 Chambers, we got lucky enough to catch Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones,” and the saw the end of Childish Gambino’s set, for which Donald Glover decided to wear his shortest, most provocative pair of shorts.

Lauryn Hill was only a tad late for her set, but not actually late by her own standards of lateness, especially in light of the delays/schedule changes. To the dismay of some fans, Ms. Hill added her own experimental spin to the setlist from The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, incorporating new elements and switching up the sound (a lot), since it’s been over a decade and all. Fugees member Pras was her special guest of the night, standing by her side for “Ready or Not,” but her final guests were pretty interesting, too. At the end of her set, asking the crowd if we could “feel her love,” Hill brought five of her six children on stage, as if saying, “Sorry, this is where my heart has been for the past decade.”

Nas was the final performance of the night, and although hits like “Life’s A Bitch” and “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” can never go wrong, we caught the end of his set while boarding the ferry (did we mention there were about 40k people in attendance?) Before Nas’ closer, Ghostface and Raekwon performed songs from Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and Ghostface’s pre-show banter was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the night. Listening to him harass the sound and music technicians about providing the right amount of volume and blue lighting was thoroughly entertaining. Someone get this man a standup comedy show.

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Morning Links: Justin Bieber Attacked, Frank Ocean & Chris Brown Made Up

● Justin Bieber almost got in a fight with a policeman yesterday, after a plainclothes cop jumped the barriers at his perfume event to restrain the crowd, knocking Beiber down in the process. Anyway, Bieber’s fine, but check on your Beliebing little sisters — we hear they’re not happy. [NYT] ● The Supreme Court ruled against Anna Nichole Smith yesterday, posthumously denying her the $300 million she felt she had been promised by her also dead husband. [LAT] ● Cynics be gone: Kim’s assets are all her own. She’s got the butt x-rays to prove it. [E!]

● Chris Brown and Frank Ocean tweeted and made up last night, deciding it was best to put their beef aside before things got too real. [Rap-Up] ● Wilmer Valderrama isn’t worried about his ex Lindsay Lohan’s recent troubles. “I’m not worried about her at all,” he said, when asked about Lindsay at the Cars 2 premiere. “I think she’s going to get through this because she is ridiculously talented.” [People] ● Apparently Kreayshawn has been picked to direct the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new video, director being a role she’s used to, having worked most notably with Lil B. Girl’s really living the dream. [MTV] ● Meanwhile, her friends from Odd Future have proven themselves to be more than just a moment. Word has it that they are working on a song with rap legend Nas. [P4k]

New Music Leaks from Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Nas, & Big Sean

Yesterday was a banner day for hip hop leaks. We’ve got new songs from Yeezy, Weezy, Nas, and Big Sean. Are they all good? Meh, not really. But is it exciting to have a batch of new music from some of the best rappers working today? Definitely. Below, a roundup.

Kanye West –Mama’s Boyfriend” This didn’t make the cut for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which is too bad because it’s an excellent throwback to early, College Dropout-era Kanye. It’s also a rather touching tribute to Ye’s mother, who passed away in 2007. Download it here.

Lil Wayne –Dear Anne (Stan Pt. 2)” You wouldn’t believe it on first listen, but Swizz Beatz produced this track. It’s pretty dark and melancholic, with a lot of minor chords and tinkly piano. Remember that Eminem song “Stan,” about an obsessed fan? This is a follow-up to that. Unfortunately, it won’t be appearing on Tha Carter IV. You can download it here.

Nas –Nasty” Back in the day, Nas was known as “Nasty Nas,” hence the title of this track. If you like Nas, you’ll like this new track from his upcoming album Life Is Good. As ever, his flow and lyrics are dazzling, although I’m not crazy about the production on this one.

Big Sean ft. Kanye West –Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay” When is Big Sean going to blow up? Kanye’s labelmate has a lot of potential, but this is definitely not his breakout hit. That creaky nails-on-a-chalkboard noise in this beat is abrasive. The rest of his debut album is apparently coming on June 28 after many delays. For a much better Big Sean track, may I direct your attention to “My Last“?

So the summer is shaping up well so far, rap-wise. Could any of these qualify as the 2011 summer jam though? No. And the lack of said summer jam is still a pressing issue that the world of popular music needs to address.

Reasons to Go to Rock The Bells 2011

The lineup for this year’s Rock the Bells concert series is here, and it’s manna for hip hop fans! How often do you get to see Nas, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu (and many more!) on the same day? But there’s a big downside, and it’s this: Governor’s Island. New York’s most contested mound of goose poop is a hellhole in the summer heat and annoying to get to. Plus, four stages means a lot of the good acts will be going on at the same time. Click through for the reasons you should still go:

The New York date for Rock the Bells is September 3rd. Pre-sale tickets go on sale on June 3rd, and the rest on June 4th. Another option, for those of you willing to travel to Philly, is the Roots Picnic on June 4th. Headlining are The Roots, Nas, and Wiz Khalifa. It seems a bit smaller and more manageable (and I’d daresay cheaper). Here’s the Governor’s Island lineup:

• Nas • Lauryn Hill • Erykah Badu (see her! I beseech everyone to see her live at least once. When I saw her in Chicago, she had a foot-tall blond mohawk and did an extended acid-jazz version of “Appletree.”) • Mos Def and Talib Kweli • Raekwon and Ghostface Killah • Souls of Mischief • Mac Miller • Curren$y • Blu • Cypress Hill • Childish Gambino • Big K.R.I.T. • Immortal Technique • Freddie Gibbs • Murs

In Open Letter, Nas Is Nobody’s Slave

It takes a lot of balls for a musician to stand up to their record label. And in case you haven’t been listening to his music, Nas has balls, and they’re made of granite. The legendary rapper–who has more street cred than sales cred–just wrote an open letter to his employers over at Def Jam, railing against their failure to put out his The Lost Tapes: Vol. 2. It’s pretty great. One of the people named in the letter is Antonio “L.A.” Reid, aka one of the most powerful people in music. This is what he said to him: “The #1 problem with DEF JAM is pretty simple and obvious, the executives think they are the stars. You aren’t…. not even close. As a matter of fact, you wish you were, but it didn’t work out so you took a desk job.” Take that, suits. We’d post more highlights, but the whole thing is highlight, so read it after the jump.

From: Nas

To: LA Reid, Steve Bartels, Steve Gawley, Michael Seltzer, Joseph Borrino, Chris Hicks

Subject: PUT MY SHIT OUT!

Peace to all,

With all do respect to you all, Nas is NOBODY’s slave. This is not the 1800′s, respect me and I will respect you.

I won’t even tap dance around in an email, I will get right into it. People connect to the Artist @ the end of the day, they don’t connect with the executives. Honestly, nobody even cares what label puts out a great record, they care about who recorded it. Yet time and time again its the executives who always stand in the way of a creative artist’s dream and aspirations. You don’t help draw the truth from my deepest and most inner soul, you don’t even do a great job @ selling it. The #1 problem with DEF JAM is pretty simple and obvious, the executives think they are the stars. You aren’t…. not even close. As a matter of fact, you wish you were, but it didn’t work out so you took a desk job. To the consumer, I COME FIRST. Stop trying to deprive them! I have a fan base that dies for my music and a RAP label that doesn’t understand RAP. Pretty fucked up situation

This isn’t the 90′s though. Beefing with record labels is so 15 years ago. @ this point I just need you all to be very clear where I stand and how I feel about “my label.” I could go on twitter or hot 97 tomorrow and get 100,000 protesters @ your building but I choose to walk my own path my own way because since day one I have been my own man. I did business with Tommy Mottola and Donnie Einer, two of the most psycho dudes this business ever created. I worked well with them for one major reason……. they believed in me. The didn’t give a fuck about what any radio station or magazine said….those dudes had me.

Lost Tapes is a movement and a very important set up piece for my career as it stands. I started this over 5 years ago @ Columbia and nobody knew what it was or what it did but the label put it out as an LP and the fans went crazy for it and I single handlely built a new brand of rap albums. It’s smart and after 5 years it’s still a head of the game. This feels great and you not feeling what I’m feeling is disturbing. Don’t get in the way of my creativity. We are aligned with the stars here, this is a movement. There is a thing called KARMA that comes to haunt you when you tamper with the aligning stars. WE ARE GIVING THE PEOPLE EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT. Stop throwing dog shit on a MAGICAL moment.

You don’t get another Nas recording that doesn’t count against my deal….PERIOD! Keep your bullshit $200,000.00 fund. Open the REAL budget. This is a New York pioneers ALBUM, there ain’t many of us. I am ready to drop in the 4th quarter. You don’t even have shit coming out! Stop being your own worst enemy. Let’s get money!

-N.Jones