RTB 2012: Ice Cube and Kid Cudi as day 1 ends
Remember when the Rock The Bells lineup was announced and everyone noted the slight generational shift in emphasis that occurred in the booking, especially when compared to the headliners from last year? That it seemed a new generation of up-and-comers were ready to take the limelight? The cumulation of that shift occurred shortly right before Kid Cudi came on the stage, when the lights dimmed and a loud shriek of screams came from the crowd that never was heard before at a Rock The Bells show.
Words: Kevin Lee and Erica Castello, Pictures: Amari Kenoly and Waylan Choy / August 26, 2012
Remember when the Rock The Bells lineup was announced and everyone noted the slight generational shift in emphasis that occurred in the booking, especially when compared to the headliners from last year? That it seemed a new generation of up-and-comers were ready to take the limelight? The cumulation of that shift occurred shortly right before Kid Cudi came on the stage, when the lights dimmed and a loud shriek of screams came from the crowd that never was heard before at a Rock The Bells show. And while the rough and gruff still had a place in the festival, it was time for someone of different sensibilities to take the light.
Kid Cudi was representative of such. While many of his generation took a more well-rounded approach to their music, for instance Black Hippy’s occasional growling and sneers to complement their somber moments, Cudi is a man of surging melodies and emotions. That came across that much that night, as Cudi kept the focus on feeling, with the stage lights kept intentionally low and graphics of outer space behind him to evoke something that might be spiritual. The audience responded with the same single-minded devotion, even overwhelming one female stagecrasher who calmly walked up to Cudi, stood there possibly dumbfounded, before being calmly lead away by security.
Halfway through the set, Cudi brought out 2Chainz for a mini-set within his set, as 2Chainz wasn’t able to make it to his original set. He stormed the stage to Yeezus’ ubiquitous new hit “Mercy” and matched Kid Cudi’s space-out vibe with a pair of fluorescent Nikes that looked like they might have been brought back from some kind of radioactive, post-nuclear meltdown future. Chainz wasn’t on stage for long, but the charismatic and unassuming artist beasted the Rock the Bells main stage in front of 10,000+ devoted hip-hop fans like he was set to be a headliner from the get.
Cudi ends with an extended version “Pursuit of Happiness”. Afterwards, when the stage went dark (encoreless) for a final time and the light went up, it was a jarring cutoff that shook people back to reality, a rude reminder for everyone to get back to their cars already and go home.
Just earlier, Ice Cube took to the 36 Chambers stage opposite of J. Cole’s set. Ice Cube has many personas, which is a requirement for the many roles he likes to push: rapper, action star, movie mogul, and pitchman. And let me emphasize pitchman for a bit, because one thing we’ve seen lately in those commercials is his ‘fro growing back and a return of that trademark snarl. And while he basically plays those Coors Light commercials like it’s an extension of the next Friday movie, it’s almost like he’s also moving back to the persona he had in 1997, back when he and W.C. were Westside Connection, and he was positioning himself as Mr. West Coast.
Well, with the full mean-mug and ample volume in his ‘fro, he steps on the stage, complete with a Westside Connection jacket, and plenty of W-hand signs. And when, during the third jam, he goes into “Check Yo’self” (The Message remix, of course) the transformation was complete, are now in 15 years ago. There he was, pushing California like it was the realest thing in the world and beckoning the crowd that this, the “Yay Area” as he adopts the local vernacular, was the most worthy stop on the tour (without quite saying it, because there’s no way he slights LA). From there, it was the 90’s again, not the current 90’s revival where everyone mimics Big L, but the 90’s the way, as we were persuaded, it should be.
Toward the end of the set, Cube pays tribute to his old groupmates, N.W.A., the seminal gangsta rap group that changed hip-hop and launched his career. Soon after, he performs “No Vaseline”, that infamous diss track that Cube flung at his bitter former groupmates after he left N.W.A. Perhaps Cube just wants to troll, the art of starting shit for the sake of starting shit.