My Paid Dues ticket should have come with clones, because there was no way I could cover it all alone. Shout out to fab photographer Joann, my cohort, Peep our couch sessions Paid Dues report.
Paid dues 2011 at the NOS Event Center in San Bernardino, California comprised of 3 stages (Grindtime Now Stage, Dues Paid Stage, Paid Dues Stage) with over 45 performers and surprise guest.
The Grindtime Now stage was caged and indoors it featured Dj’s and MC Battles. At first the cage posed some barriers between fans and artist but the performances were so high energy you almost forgot the cage was there. Standouts at this stage included closers Slaughterhouse, Dee-1, Invincible, Machina Muerte, Chino XL, Opio, and DJ Exhile w/ Blu, Fashawn and surprise guest Evidence and Alchemist.
Dues Paid Stage early on was mostly a younger audience. A lot of buzz was surrounding Lil B’s performance on this stage. For the five minutes of Lil B’s set I watched I failed to one understand what he was ranting about and second see any real performance, but the young ones seemed content, Swag! The highlights at this stage were Casey Veggies, Thurzday (U.N.I.), Dom Kennedy, Black Hippy, Murs and closing out the stage E-40.
Paid Dues stage saw stellar performances from Eternia, Dead Prez, Rawth, Bun B and closing out the festival Immortal Technique and Black Star. Immortal Techniques set included appearances by Mohammed Dangerfield, Akir and Chino XL. Technique always connects with the audience so that you feel every lyric; by the end of the set I was unsure if my goose bumps were from the slight chill setting in or the power of his delivery. By the time Black Star took the stage the crowd had all converged to the one stage. Mos and Talib performed Black Star standouts as well as their solo hits, there were a few moments where Talib faltered but Mos backed him expertly. Mos was in top form with all the right moves and charisma.
No matter what stage you were at great sets were in progress. If you were unable to catch your favorite artist on stage, you still had the opportunity to interact with most of them at their merchandise tables. Despite being among 11,000 at the festival the vibe was definitely still intimate and I felt at home in hip hop.