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Back in ’85, no one could’ve predicted that LL Cool J’s single “Rock the Bells” would, decades later, inspire an entire international music festival designed to represent everything that is good and pure about hip-hop—everything, that is, except for LL Cool J. The Rock the Bells fest is now in its seventh year, and Uncle L still hasn’t put in an appearance. Has the rapper been invited but declined? Have organizers used his pop-influenced missteps like “Hey Lover” and “Doin’ It” as grounds for shutting his old ass out? Do the other artists work against him, knowing full well that LL could still upstage any of them simply by removing his shirt? We may never know: This year, Nas and Damian Marley headline the daylong event. But the bill includes Ice Cube and Cypress Hill, who are taking the festival back to its West Coast roots, and up-and-comers such as the Knux and Tabi Bonney, all of which should help satisfy those who are still starvin’ like Marvin for a Cool J song.
AT 12 P.M. AT MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILION, 10475 LITTLE PATUXENT PARKWAY, COLUMBIA, MD. $51–176. (410) 715-5550.