On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. took on the Rock The Bells Festival to chat with LL Cool J, Fat Joe, Ice Cube, Peter Rosenberg, and several others about highlights in their careers.
Named after LL’s 1985 breakthrough single of the same title, Rock The Bells is an annual hip hop festival that debuted in several cities across Southern California. The event introduced a lineup of prominent alternative hip hop musicians, often fronted by pioneering groups who laid the groundwork for the genre. Redman, Wu-Tang Clan, Dilated Peoples, Sage Francis, and many more performed at the inaugural event in 2004. That same year, there was a second festival that included performances by A Tribe Called Quest, Xzibit, Cypress Hill, and Jurassic 5, among others.
In 2018, LL prevailed in court against Guerilla Union, the promoters of the 2004-2013 concert series “Rock the Bells.” The original lawsuit claimed that Guerilla Union and its founder Chang Weisberg trademarked “Rock the Bells” in 2004 to use in connection with the company’s domain name and several social media platforms, in addition to the annual music event. Over the span of those years, the festival included performances by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, DMX, Nas, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and many more.
Returning for the first time since the global pandemic, the 2022 Rock The Bells Festival took place in Queens, New York on Aug. 6. This year’s lineup saw artists like Lil Kim, The Diplomats, Remy Ma, N.O.R.E., Jadakiss, Fat Joe, and none other than LL.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the Rock The Bells interview. Check them out below and watch the latest episode here.
1. Fredo Starr on Brittney Griner’s imprisonment and doing shows in Russia
While traveling through customs at Russia’s Sheremetyevo International Airport in February, WNBA player Brittney Griner was detained after marijuana-concentrated vape cartridges were discovered in her baggage. In regard to her recent nine-year sentencing, hip hop group Onyx spoke about smoking weed in the country and their experience performing overseas.
“For her to get knocked for some weed, I’m like, ‘Yo, my n**ga. I’ve been smoking weed in Russia, but I never brought weed to Russia. I never brought it myself,” Fredo Starr shared. “We started to focus on Europe because we notice every time we go to Europe, the crowd anticipation is way iller. They don’t get American hip hop as much so when you go there, the fans are crazy. The merch is selling.”
2. Fat Joe on developing “The Book Of Jose” TV show with Showtime
Earlier this year, Fat Joe announced the publishing of his memoir, aptly titled “The Book of Jose” and slated to debut in November. As Deadline reported in June, Showtime and BET Studios are creating a pilot based on the book that will serve as a tale of triumph over adversity, chronicling Fat Joe’s rise to success. The legendary rapper discussed what viewers can expect whilst teasing a full “Drink Champs” episode near its release.
Regarding the upcoming show, Joe explained, “It’s based on my book. I wrote a book called ‘The Book of Jose,’ it’s coming out in November. I’m waiting to do the real ‘Drink Champs’ with Fat Joe because of the book. The book already is so crazy, we already got a deal with Showtime.”
3. Peter Gunz on his hit song “Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)” with Lord Tariq
Released in 1997, Peter Gunz and Lord Tariq’s debut track “Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)” serves as a hip hop anthem that pays homage to their Bronx upbringing. It peaked at No. 9 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and laid the groundwork for the duo’s first studio album, Make It Reign. Due to the song sampling Steely Dan’s “Black Cow,” the rappers gave up 100 percent of their publishing royalties, Gunz revealed.
“We did the record and the misperception is that we got sued. We got stuck up. They wanted $120,000 cash and all the publishing,” Gunz revealed. “So it’s bittersweet. It got us out there, but when you hear that s**t on TV, I don’t see none of that.”
4. Peter Rosenberg on his “beef” with Joe Budden
In August, Joe Budden and Peter Rosenberg traded words regarding their positioning on Apple Podcasts. While “The Joe Budden Podcast” ranked among the top five alongside “Drink Champs” and “Caresha Please,” Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds’ “Juan EP Is Life” found itself a whopping 50 positions behind. Rather than doubling down on his comments, Rosenberg referred to himself as a “sensitive guy” and said that he has put things behind him.
“No beef with Joe Budden. Joe is my guy. I’m a sensitive guy. I have my moments and I get in my feelings … so every once in a while, I’ll say something,” Rosenberg explained. “I was saying, ‘Damn, we shouldn’t be 50 spots behind Joe Budden because I feel like what we’ve done, we’ve f**ked up. We shouldn’t be that far back and that goes for [‘Drink Champs’], too. I think we’re up there with the best podcasts.”
5. Ice Cube on not being able to do a fourth installment of ‘Friday’ because of Warner Bros.
A fourth and final installment of the Friday movie franchise has been long rumored since Friday After Next was released in 2002. The franchise, which notably starred Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, was reportedly in the works but blocked by Warner Bros. according to the former. He revealed two of the initial scripts for what would’ve been Last Friday, stating that “the s**t is funny.”
“I had two scripts. I wrote one, it was the s**t. They were like, ‘Yo, we don’t want Craig and Day Day in jail.’ ‘Cause Craig and Day Day went to jail for selling weed before it was legal. I was like, ‘What you mean? This s**t is funny.’ Then after they rejected it, they had all these f**king movies about going to jail,” Ice Cube shared regarding the first script. “The other script was about the youngsters in the hood having beef with the OGs in the hood and Craig has to come back and squash that because Smokey’s son is the new Deebo and he’s wilding.”
6. LL Cool J on the trademark lawsuit for “Rock The Bells”
LL Cool J sued event producer Guerilla Union in November 2018 over the IP for hip hop music festival Rock The Bells, which shares the name of the rapper’s 1985 smash tune. In the same year, a federal judge in California ruled LL will be the sole owner of the trademark and ordered Guerrilla Union to cease using the title without his consent. LL discussed winning the lawsuit and hosting the festival for the first time in four years.
“I had to go to court and take the IP back. I went and got it back and I feel like hip hop is not disposable. The same way that Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger get celebrated, I feel like Ice Cube and N.O.R.E., and these acts out here … Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe and Remy Ma, and Lil Kim deserve to be celebrated,” LL stated. “I want us to have something so when I sell a piece, I’ll be able to write them a check, and they’ll be able to have some fruits from all the labor that they put into this culture.”
7. Lance “Un” Rivera on The Notorious B.I.G.’s Lil Kim namedrop on “Rap Phenomenon”
Later in the interview, N.O.R.E. seemingly made a joke toward former music exec Lance “Un” Rivera regarding his relationship with Lil Kim, who performed at this year’s Rock The Bells Festival. In The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1999 song “Rap Phenomenon,” the musician rapped, “Me and my n**ga Lance took Kim and Cease advance/Bought 10 bricks, four pounds of weed plants.” As a result, many were left to think they stole from Kim. Rivera cleared the air about the lyrics.
“I’m going to explain that line. Biggie was really clever. So when he said the line, ‘Me and my n**ga Lance took Kim and Cease advance,’ he was talking about me and his portion of the advance. We was the production company,” Rivera shared. “Kim got her portion of the advance. Cease got his portion of the advance.
8. Un on The Notorious B.I.G. documentaries skipping over his contributions to the late rapper
Pivoting on their conversation about Biggie’s legacy, Un revealed why many of the late rapper’s biopics and documentaries leave out several of his contributions, citing “whitewashing” as the reason. Regarding the documentaries, Rivera said, “You can skip over Un if you want to, but if you’re going to be honest, you’re gonna do what you just did here. You’re going to say, ‘This guy was responsible. He helped break me.’ Or you can do it the Hollywood way. The people that don’t want Un around anymore just because of whatever the reason. Whatever the reason, whatever the history, whatever the truth. They can say, ‘Well it’s not important.’”
9. Sticky Fingaz on discovering Fivio Foreign and Pop Smoke before anyone else
On the topic of Ma$e signing Fivio Foreign for a $5,000 advance, Sticky Fingaz said he discovered the New York rapper prior to him receiving any record deals. Furthermore, the Onyx member claimed that he found out about Pop Smoke before anyone else and started the drill wave.
“I had Fivio [Foreign], I had everything … No, Ma$e wasn’t the first f**king one. Tell Ma$e don’t start that s**t. I’ll give Ma$e props for where he started from. Whatever their business is, that’s their business. But Ma$e, he knows what’s up. I groomed that,” Fingaz shared. He went on to add, “I had all of it, the whole Brooklyn drill. Not only Fivio, everything. Handsome Balla, Pop Smoke, the whole Woo.”