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Wu-Tang Clan -- and a cast of thousands

August 07, 2006|Ben Quinones | Special to The Times

"Yo, he belongs in the zoo," said Wu-Tang Clan's de facto leader, referring to "Jackass' " Steve-O, who paid tribute to ODB by taking the stage with the rapper's mother, stripping down butt naked and performing what he called "dirty back flips" -- just picture "The Silence of the Lambs' " Buffalo Bill strutting his stuff.

Yes, it was that kind of day at the fourth annual Rock the Bells Festival on Saturday at San Bernardino's NOS Events Center.

Although a grocery list of artists took the main stage, only a few made this festival worth standing under the San Bernardino sun.

First, Freestyle fanatic Supernatural broke the Guinness World Record for longest freestyle rap -- nine hours and 10 minutes.

On the main stage was Immortal Technique, the short and stocky Peruvian-born, Harlem-raised lyrical assassin who showed the crowd no mercy with his fierce sickle-and-machete lyrics from his "Revolutionary, Vol. 1 and 2," including the hard "The Point of Return."

"I'd rather have you here than at a Minuteman or Republican convention," Immortal told the young crowd, which went crazy when the rapper brought out L.A.'s Psycho Realm, whose members ripped it on their hit "Psycho City Blocks." They turned in a riveting collaboration that could point the way to the future of L.A. hip-hop.

De La Soul put on a surprising, entertaining show, rolling out "Saturday" and "Me, Myself and I." The group then brought on '90s crews Black Sheep and a Tribe Called Quest.

The talented Lauryn Hill of the Fugees made a surprise appearance, performing her group's hit "Ooh La La."

But it was the Wu-Tang Clan that the 20,000 hip-hop heads wanted with their shouts of "Wu-Tang! Wu-Tang!" and throwing up "W" hand signs.

As a huge Wu-Tang Clan banner unfurled, the Wu-Tang warriors came onstage, one by one: Ghostface Killah, RZA, GZA, U-God, Masta Killa, Method Man, Raekwon the Chef and Inspectah Deck, along with their hundred-deep entourage, including Shao Lin monks and Rage Against the Machine's frontman, Zacarias de la Rocha.

"It's been a long time since you've seen the Wu-Tang on stage," said Method Man, wearing his signature black baseball batting gloves before jumping over the Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am at the front of the stage and into the crowd.

And with that, the Clan went into ear-crushing, street-based classics like "C.R.E.A.M" off its debut album, "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)."

Nine of hip-hop's most recognizable voices and individual personalities, all onstage with their style of organized chaos, moved the hyped crowd with the likes of "Protect Ya Neck," "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin ta F' Wit" and "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'. "

The Clan then dedicated a number to ODB, and when it went into "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," the crowd went absolutely bonkers.

Although Wu-Tang's set was mostly a trip down memory lane, the distinctive sound (both sonically and lyrically) continues to push the boundaries of what hip-hop should look like.

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