Nas rocks the bells

By CHRIS FARAONE  |  September 9, 2011

"From the beginning I knew that [Illmatic] was a template for other records to come, but I was just taking it day by day," says Nas, reflecting on his prodigy years. "The artist who I was back then is still buried inside. So I can venture off into new styles and musical sounds, but I can always come back to that part of me. I'm grateful for that, since I've seen a lot of people copy [me], and I didn't want to give it all up. It's a new thing today, but there's a part of [Illmatic] in me that still lives, and it's ready to come out."

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INSANE IN THE MEMBRANE! Along with Mobb Deep, Cypress Hill are the kind of roughnecks who came up when radio DJs had balls.

Bell ringers: Three classics to catch at Rock the Bells

Nas is not the only icon set to resurrect a youthful masterstroke at Rock the Bells. From the elusive Lauryn Hill's debut to Black Moon's first LP, the canon of a whole rap generation will come alive, while thousands of diehard heads rhetorically ask one another the same question: how's it possible that all these gems dropped within a few years of one another?

GZA | LIQUID SWORDS[1995] | It would be fitting for the Genius to lay into his dark cinematic opus — one of four Wu-Tang classics on display Saturday — as the sun slips behind the amphitheater. By far the most cameo-studded project of the lot.
Potential Guests: Masta Killa: "Duel of the Iron Mic," "Labels," "Hell's Wind Staff/Killah Hills 10304" | Ghostface Killah: "Investigative Reports," "4th Chamber" | Raekwon: "Investigative Reports" | Killah Priest, "4th Chamber," "B.I.B.L.E." | RZA: "4th Chamber," "Liquid Swords," "Labels," "Hell's Wind Staff / Killah Hills 10304," "B.I.B.L.E."

MOBB DEEP | THE INFAMOUS[1995] | Absolutely the hardest album of its time to make noise beyond the streets, Mobb Deep's criminal commentary upped the ante for blacktop hip-hoppers. Here the infamous conglomerate is united for the first time in years, with Prodigy fresh out of jail, and co-defendant Big Noyd hopefully also in tow.
Potential Guests: Nas and/or Raekwon, "Eye for a Eye" | Ghostface Killah, "Right Back at You"

BLACK STAR | MOS DEF AND TALIB KWELI ARE BLACK STAR[1998] | Driving home hip-hop's late-'90s underground-commercial schism, Mos Def and Talib Kweli emerged on their debut as anti-jiggy superheroes, sent to save real hip-hop. Although the two have toured together since, they've for some reason avoided sharing the stage for more than a few throwbacks. Until now.
Potential Guests: Common, "Respiration"

SOULS OF MISCHIEF | 93 'TIL INFINITY[1993] | Here's the critical reminder that West Coast cats also advanced vanguard underground stylings. A-Plus, Opio, Tajai, and Phesto embody the era at hand as boldly as any New Yorker, and they've got the title-track anthem to prove it.

ROCK THE BELLS | Comcast Center, 885 South Main St, Mansfield | September 24 @ 11 am | $49.50-$225 | ticketmaster.com

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