Rock the Bells has essentially been the hip hop festival since its inception in 2004: when you begin your history as an event with one of Wu Tang Clan’s final performances featuring Ol Dirty Bastard, you can’t really help it. Since then, the festival has spread in both influence and locations, boasting an impressive lineup each – and every – year.

Sadly, this year the festival has shrunk locations to three, two of which are in California. Regardless, the cast of those set to appear is impressive as always. As per the norm, yesterday’s acts are performing albums in their entirety, perhaps most exciting are Method Man & Redman performing Blackout!. Also worthy of immediate attention are Missy Elliott & Timbaland, as well as Dipset, reuniting and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony performing E. 1999 Eternal. Other legends set to appear include Nas, Ice Cube, DJ Quik, Slick Rick, Prodigy, Too $hort, RZA, and even Salt-n-Pepa. Also big news is Hit Squad forming together as one, with EPMD, the afore-mentioned Redman, Das EFX, Keith Murray, K-Solo and DJ Scratch all present. Basically, it’s as big as ever.

However, somewhat more surprising is this year’s heavier inclusion of artists very much in the now. Indie kids will rejoice over Atmosphere, A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul. Then there’s some bigger names, Kid Cudi, J. Cole, Wiz Khalifa, Yelawolf, Lupe Fiasco, and even (and most disappointingly) Mac Miller. Frankly, some might balk at some of the newer faces, but it will work in the festival’s favor, beyond the increased sales, where else can you get such an odd, motley crew of rap power players?

8/18 San Bernardino, CA – NOS Events Center
8/25 Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheatre
9/1 Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center