The most well-dressed folks on New York City’s Governors Island last Saturday looked the bummiest. On the balmy last Saturday of the summer, cutoff shorts, tank tops, dirty sneakers and worn-in sandals were among the best things to be wearing for the daylong hip-hop festival that is Rock the Bells.
Elaborate outfits highlighted by fresh tennis shoes, high heels (wedges, too) or anything that gave off a vibe of effort earned more laughs than sartorial appreciation at rap’s lone major fair.
I mean really, how can you appreciate grimy sets from Wu Tang Clan members, Slaughterhouse, and Mobb Deep when you look so, so clean?
Not I, Mixers. In beat up five-year-old Air Jordans, a star spangled tank top (it was Labor Day weekend!), and a pair of shorts, I came to sweat. And from 2pm to midnight, that’s exactly what I did.
My day began with Black Star. The duo featuring Brooklyn rhymers Talib Kweli and Mos Def performed cuts from their 1998 album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star. They also broke away to perform solo hits. Kweli did his uplifting “Get By.” While Mos, dressed like a substitute teacher in his tie and short sleeve white shirt tucked into his jeans, broke out “Umi Says.”
Things continued with Erykah Badu, who ran through 1997’s Baduizm. Eclectically clad in a fedora, blazer, and pants tucked into her knee-high gold boots, she killed with her mellow “On & On.” Between singing and crowd cruising, she even showed off her production chops by hopping on MPC drum pad for some quick beats.
Next up was Lauryn Hill. Surprisingly, she was bumped out of her headlining slot in favor of hometown favorite Nas. Still, she performed as if she was the night’s main draw. The theme of this year’s festival was that each act select one of their several albums to play. The decision was easy for Hill, who notoriously only has one solo studio album.