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Hip Hop History: 10 Most Memorable Moments From Rock the Bells

Celebrating a decade of the biggest hip hop festival in the country

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Keep Their Heads Ringin'

Getty Images, 3

Hip hop festival Rock the Bells has created more memorable moments since its 2004 debut than virtually any other festival. Beefs have been squashed. Classic groups have reunited. And special surprise guests show up on the regular. It was hard to winnow down, but here's the 10 most memorable moments of the festival's 10-year history. The 2013 edition kicks off this weekend in San Bernandino, CA. Fuse will be there documenting it all, but check out the following moments to get all caught up.

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Wu-Tang Clan Reunite/ODB’s Final Performance (2004)

In 2004, Wu-Tang Clan were slightly more fractured than they were upon the release of their landmark debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) a decade earlier. So just getting all nine members (and Cappadonna!) on the same stage would've been a memorable event. Sadly, the show would have other, more tragic, circumstances, as Ol Dirty Bastard would die four months later, making this the last time the original members would all perform together.

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Tribe Called Quest Reunite After 6-Year Hiatus (2004)

As Michael Rapaport's 2011 documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life showed, it hasn't always been easy for the members of A Tribe Called Quest to function as a working group. But when the crew came together in 2004 to reunite after a six-year hiatus, the crowd was happy and content to hear the revered group perform their biggest hits. Shockingly, there's no video available of their 2004 performance, but check out the group's equally vicious performance from 2010.

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Nas Squashes Beef With KRS-One (2005)

During his 2005 set, Nas ended a longstanding feud with KRS-One, bringing the Bronx rapper onstage to perform "MC's Act Like They Don't Know" and Boogie Down Productions' "South Bronx." On the flipside, Nas made numerous disparaging references to 50 Cent. To everything, Turn, Turn, Turn....

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Rage Against the Machine Reunite After 7 Years (2007)

2007 marked the first time the festival left its safe California environs and embarked on a successful, cross-country tour. But of equal importance was the reunion of rap-rock pioneers Rage Against the Machine, reuniting after seven years.

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The Pharcyde Reunite (2008)

Few West Coast hip hop groups were as influential as The Pharcyde, and when the L.A. foursome reunited in 2008 after an acrimonious breakup, it was like witnessing old friends forgetting why they were angry in the first place.

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Jay Z Makes Surprise Appearance Alongside Nas (2008)

Anyone who listened to hip hop in the early 2000s was well aware of the feud between Jay Z and Nas over King of New York status. It got super personal and ugly until 2005, when the two reconciled at Jay's ironically named "I Declare War" show. Fast forward three years, and Hova would join Nas at the New York Rock the Bells show to perform the first verse of Jay Z track "Success" before the duo rocked their collaborative track "Black Republicans."

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Will the Real MF Doom Please Stand Up? (2008)

Brilliant, nimble rapper MF Doom has always had a sketchy relationship with the truth, performing and alter egos. In 2008, the rapper sent out an imposter Doom to perform in his place, much to the crowd's confusion and chagrin. Doom has defended the practice in the past, noting that it's a commentary that "anyone could be Doom," but the crowd wasn't buying it. 

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Wu-Tang Clan and Slaughterhouse Quash Beef (2009)

Tensions had been brewing for a while between Wu-Tang Clan and NYC hip hop collective Slaughterhouse, specifically between Wu's Method Man and Inspectah Deck and the latter's Joe Budden. A war of words ensued both in-person and to the media, but when the two crews appeared at the festival on the same day, all was love. Meth and Budden were seen in the festival's parking lot squashing beef and a crisis was averted.

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Snoop Dogg Performs 'Doggystyle' in Its Entirety (2010)

Even though it was announced, it was still hard to believe that Snoop Dogg would run through his classic 1993 debut album Doggystyle in its entirely, complete with guest stars Kurupt, Daz, Warren G, Lady of Rage and RBX. Snoop incorporated mini-movies for each of the album's skits and the set became one of the festival's most endearing and fun.

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Lauryn Hill Brings Chris Rock Onstage (2010)

For her 2010 performance, the Queen of Hip Hop brought a star-studded cavalcade of guests, including Jay Z, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys. More incongruously attending, though, was Chris Rock, who appeared onstage and backstage to support Hill. Sadly, no duets.

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