FOR WHOM THE BELLS ROCK

With all the recent hip-hop is dead talk and the vast amount of interchangeable garbage on the radio lately, one would think that we've reached some sort
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Raekwon raises a toast to Ol' Dirty Bastard

With all the recent “hip-hop is dead” talk and the vast amount of interchangeable garbage on the radio lately, one would think that we've reached some sort of rap-music apocalypse. But at the Mezzanine club in San Francisco, the Rock the Bells tour — which includes an all-star line-up of East Coast rhyme veterans — showed a packed club that indeed, hip-hop is alive and kickin' it.

World-renowned freestyle master Supernatural wowed the audience with his usual routines, which included having people throw up random items that he would weave into his verses and impersonating rap royalty such Biggie Smalls and Slick Rick. The crowd was definitely digging it and getting appropriately amped for the forthcoming monumental acts.

Pharoahe Monch, first to fame with Organized Konfusion, performed with two backup singers and DJ Boogie Blind, running through several tracks off his album coming out in 2007, Desire (SRC). The songs were solid, the energy was hype, and he ended the set with his biggest hit to date — the guaranteed riot-starter “Simon Says.”

Raekwon was up next, and he immediately jumped into classic mode, treating the ravenous crowd to timeless joints from Only Built for Cuban Linx (RCA, 1995) and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (RCA, 1993). Ghostface Killah soon emerged from out of the smoke, and the heads got even crazier. He rocked “Ghost Is Back” off More Fish (Def Jam, 2006) and gave some time to his Theodore Unit protégés before ripping through a bunch of older gems such as “Ice Water,” “Criminology” and “Heaven and Hell” alongside Raekwon. They also did an ODB tribute, leading a rap-along to some of Dirt Dog's biggest hits.

Last on the bill was Redman, who took it back to the early '90s, dusting off essentials like “Time 4 Sum Aksion” and “Tonight's Da Night” before doing more recent material, such as “React.” He jumped around like a wild man, joked with the audience and plugged his new album due out this year. The Funk Doc was in fine form throughout, with a rowdy and rambunctious set that perfectly capped off an evening of legendary hip-hop.