Rock The Bells was a blur for me this year - in between trying to run to photograph the first two to three songs for most main stage artists (yes, there were two stages and it was crackity) and stalk artist/tour/road managers to ask your favorite rappers some pressing questions, my pretty little curly-cue head was spinning by day's end.
Talib Kweli, House of Pain, Sage Francis, Chali 2na, Buckshot and more were just some of the artists that lined the stage and yours truly got to sit down with them and ask them the hard questions.
What's your favorite non-instrumental, non-engineered sound? From everyday life or the natural world?
Sage Francis: I like the sound that pigeons make. They’re like weird guttural, synthy, other worldly [makes sound effects].
Joe Budden: Rain. Very serene. It's just relaxing - helps you think, get things in order.
Everlast (House of Pain): The crackles of an old vinyl record.
Ill Bill (House of Pain): My daughter's laughter.
Chali 2na: Water. It's calming - I don't what it does to me but it makes me feel at ease. To hear water running, to hear it rushing, waves.
Buckshot: The sound of the water. If you hear raindrops, each one of them got they own rhythm. And if you listen close, it'll start making certain rhythms, but if you don't pay no mind to it it'll just sound like water. It's just like the trees - everything has a rhythm. I have a symbol on my neck that represents something called Kachina and that's what it is - everything has an energy and a soul. So, water has a soul.
T3 (Slum Village): Farts. They're inexcusable. They come out in so many ways - sometimes physical with a lady, sometimes just you. Farts are a wonderful sound.
Elzhi (Slum Village): My favorite sound would have to be just like, that "no sound" sound. You just hear that little...I can't even make the sound, but you just hear a little sound [T3 starting doing a high-pitched, "niiiiiiiinnnn"]. Yeah! It's like a ringing in your ear. Aye, but I find something out of that sound. Like basically, I see colors in music and through that sound I can hear a certain color in that sound. It's like a white slash yellow sound.
Hi-Tek (Reflection Eternal): I think my favorite sound is the song of the birds when I wake up in the morning. It's pleasant, it's peaceful - it's life. Let's me know the world is still moving.
Talib Kweli (Reflection Eternal): My favorite sound is the sound of my children laughing. It sounds like I'm in the right place - in the place I need to be.
Say there was some sort of oracle and you had a free pass to have one question, any question answered - what would it be?
Sage Francis: Why my metabolism slowed the f*ck down when I turned 22? It turned down to a halt. Somehow I feel like the Internet slowed my metabolism. But I really want to get the bottom of that because I’m bordering on morbidly obese now.
Joe Budden: Where do we go after here?
Everlast (House of Pain): How did your mom get my cell number?
Ill Bill (House of Pain): Who knew about 9/11 before it happened?
Chali 2na: My cousin passed away - she was one of the youngest ones of us. So I'd ask, "why her first?"
Buckshot: Is there a conscious after life? Because I don't want material, I don't want to be in land of milk or honey; I don't want in any way, shape, or form - anything material. I just want to have consciousness so I can keep praising the Creator no matter where I go in the universe. That's it - if I could praise the Creator, I don't care about life or death.
T3 (Slum Village): What makes women tick? I'm still trying to figure that out because women are so complex. Each one is different; each one is their own Rubik’s Cube that you gotta solve.
Elzhi (Slum Village): What's the meaning of life? We're all here on the planet doing something and in the end, what's the point of it all - why are we here?
Hi-Tek (Reflection Eternal): I just wanna know how we got here. I don't know about the Big Bang Theory and all that - I just wanna know. I believe in God, but there are still questions out there to be answered. I'm amazed at the stars and the moon [Talib chuckles] and all that above the clouds stuff [long walks on the beach...]
Talib Kweli (Reflection Eternal): "How many licks?" would be my question. You'd have to fill in the blank on that one.
What's one thing you must do before you die?
Sage Francis: Skydiving naked might be on the top of that list.
Joe Budden: If I die tomorrow, I'm fine. I've been blessed. I'm doing it - I'm making music; they can take me from here, [but] my music will be here.
Everlast (House of Pain): Already been dead....
Ill Bill (House of Pain): Make extraterrestrial contact.
Chali 2na: I have to make Hajj - I wanna go to Mecca one time. Man, that's what I wanna do - I haven't done it. My intentions have been there for a couple of years now...for the past, I think, five years? But I just haven't had the chance to really do it - there's been so much stuff. My son is in college now so I'm like, "Ha! Done." I may have the time to do it now.
Buckshot: It's hard to answer that because I really don't have that in my heart - I can't find a place in my heart where I yearn for something.... besides, you know what? I think the closest thing that would come to that is finding a girl, a true soldier that's gonna be universally there.
T3 (Slum Village): I gotta make sure I leave a legacy. I want to leave a line of people to follow in my steps. So if I can do that before I die, then I'll be satisfied.
Elzhi (Slum Village): I gotta make a billion dollars before I die.
Hi-Tek (Reflection Eternal): I wanna go to Egypt and check out the pyramids. I'm just amazed at that - never seen it, you know. Just wanna see it in person and capture some of that energy out there. I believe I'm a scientist - that's why they call me Hi-Tek. And I think that it's still amazing that after they've figured out everything else, they still can't figure out how they built the pyramids.
Talib Kweli (Reflection Eternal): I'd like to see Greece.
Seher: Like, live?
Talib: [super WTeff-ish] Nnnno. I've seen Grease live; I'd like to see the country.
Seher: [composes self] Why Greece?
Talib: I was on the airplane, I was on American Airlines flying to California and they have this new one-way service to Greece. And they were showing the commercials, like "Greece. Been here for 5000 years," "Greece. See the Pantheon," "Greece." And the old white lady that sat behind me said, "You know what? Before I die, I'd like to see Greece." And I thought to myself, "You know what? I'd like to see Greece before I die, too."
Seher: So in other words, before you die you want to be like an old white lady?
Seher Sikandar is a Bay Area-based photographer and writer who covers art and lifestyle events. Check out her portfolio at rehescreative.com.