Jay Z may have moved the crowd at Glasto this year, but for true hip hop fans, Rock The Bells is the only festival worth steppin' to. Formed in 2004, when the promoters hit upon the seemingly impossible idea of reuniting the Wu-Tang Clan, the annual festival has grown in stature since then, and in an era of dwindling sales and lacklustre rap albums, it represents one of hip hop's most important events.
So a Rock The Bells European tour should be the high point of the year for heads and fake gangsters from all over the capital? Theoretically, yes. Only problem is, the line-up is nothing like what the bar-setting Californian event provided. The tour hits the O2 this weekend, but instead of the dozens of acts that have performed at US events, British fans are restricted to a mere handful: Nas, a reunited Pharcyde, EPMD, Scratch (former beatboxer for The Roots), and Supernatural,. Advertised on the bill is Mos Def, but the Brooklyn native has pulled out at the last minute. The tour has been beset by difficulties - dates in Manchester and Birmingham were cancelled as organisers blamed "challenging financial times".
The show should still be a decent one. Nas in particular will have a lot to say about the events of this week: the final track on his last album was called "Black President", and concluded with a sample of Barack Obama being introduced as "the next president of the United States". Prescient stuff, and as one of the more politically engaged rappers, Kelis' better half should deliver the goods more effectively than he did at his 2005 Brixton concert which was interrupted by gunshots. And any chance to catch The Pharcyde and EPMD, two of the finer acts from hip hop's mid-Nineties heyday, should not be missed. We just hope that this doesn't prove a one-off, and that any future European dates boast a better lineup.