A Full Day of Hip-Hop on Governors Island

August 30th, 2010

Rock the Bells – South Island Field at Governors Island – August 28, 2010

Lauryn Hill - South Island Field at Governors Island - August 28, 2010
With less than a month remaining in the summer, many of hip-hop’s living legends and cunning contemporaries assembled on South Island Field at Governor’s Island for the seventh annual Rock the Bells. Thousands dressed in Wu-Tang Clan T-shirts and tank tops took the short ferry ride to the festival grounds where thousands more crowded around two stages to share in the American pastime of hot dogs, lemonade and blunts. With so many great acts to see and ridiculous people watching, the following is a list of the best moments at this year’s festival:

Best Underdog: Brother Ali, the self-proclaimed, “Fat-ass Muslim, albino rapper,” used his competing set time with KRS-One to captivate his loyal audience. Although the sun’s unforgiving rays seemed to deep-fry the MC, Brother Ali fought back with fierce rhymes, preaching tolerance and thoughtfulness. You came for the Minnesota rapper but you stayed for DJ Snuggles, the multitalented 22-year-old who spun, beat-boxed and even rapped on Brother Ali’s beats.

Best Looking Tent Food: Sweet corn cakes with mozzarella. I didn’t get them but I’ll be damned if I didn’t ogle the precarious sounding treats every time I walked past the tent.

Best Extended Breakdown: More than a decade after The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ms. Lauryn Hill played Rock the Bell’s main stage with a full band, backing singers and an outfit somewhere in between Little Miss Muffet and a church lady. It was a treat to see her perform such songs as the Fugees’ “Ready or Not” and “How Many Mics,” however the best moments came when versions of “To Zion” and “Fu-Gee-La” spun into a pageant for friends and family members. Highlights included Hill calling all her children to the stage as well as Chris Rock, Jay-Z and a very pregnant Alicia Keys.

Best in Show: A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang Clan (tied). Call me biased, but how can you top New York City’s two legendary hip-hop groups playing their classic albums? You can’t, and that is why the Queens and Staten Island natives drew the largest and most devoted crowds at the festival. Q-Tip and Method Man played frontman to their respective group’s sets, both coming out into the crowd for their go-for-broke performances. Personally, I give the slight edge to A Tribe Called Quest solely for Busta Rhymes’ ground-shaking cameo during “Scenario.” However, the late ODB’s son Boy Jones’ flawless impersonation of his father during Wu-Tang Clan’s set is a very close second. —Jared Levy

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Macchiarelli |