Last year’s annual hip-hop spectacle Rock the Bells reunited the estranged members of Rage Against the Machine. This time, it was the Pharcyde’s turn to kiss and make up. Rock the Bells 2008, which launched its six-week international tour July 19th at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in suburban Chicago, featured the first live performance in over 11 years by all four founding members of the long-fractured L.A. alt-rap crew.
Sparked by their eponymous theme song “Pharcyde,” with its raucous roll-call of MCs “Imani, Bootie Brown, Fatlip and Slimkid Tre,” the group’s jubilant, jazz-inflected set ramped up the mercury on an already-sultry summer Saturday — especially their loose-knit, casually raunchy party standards “Ya Mama” and “Oh Shit.”
A Tribe Called Quest closed the nearly 12-hour day with a muscular serving of their more cerebral fare, abetted by a live band and vibrant op-art video flourishes. The Queens-bred innovators were preceded by a politically charged Nas. The durable New York MC called out a number of people and entities on his hit list, including Fox News in his seething track “Sly Fox.” “Watch what you watchin’, Fox keeps feeding us toxins,” Nas spat in warning. “But watch what you say — Big Brother is watchin’.”