Where Slaughterhouse goes, drama follows. Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to sandwich the beef-happy Slaughterhouse between sets by Wu-Tang cornerstones Raekwon and RZA at a rap festival? That person should certainly be unemployed now, for having helped create a damper that sent this year's Rock The Bells festival off on a bad note.
The Rock The Bells tour descended on San Bernardino on Saturday, with surprise guests (Slick Rick), long-awaited collaborations (Nas & Damian "Jr Gong" Marley) and a barrage of unique performers that wouldn't fit under any other bill. Tech N9ne meets La Coka Nostra meets Busta Rhymes? Check. Necro sharing the same bill as Chali 2na and Mystik Journeymen? Check. The crowds were accordingly diverse, ranging from thugged-out South Central hoods to Birkenstock-wearing white boys with their girlfriends and everything in between, but the atmosphere was celebratory... at least until one ventured backstage.
As The Roots enjoyed some time away from Jimmy Fallon with a beat-tastic set and Talib Kweli of Reflection Eternal spit the inimitable flow, event hosts Supernatural, KRS-ONE and Murs (host of the Paid Dues second stage) made the rounds in the VIP area, chatting up fans and fellow artists in an atmosphere of genuine positivity and goodwill - until nightfall, that is.
It was clear that the mood had shifted considerably backstage after sundown, at which point several dozen armed police descended on the VIP area. It wasn't until later that we learned why: Joe Budden of Slaughterhouse, well known for having begun a feud with key Wu-Tang Clan members, was assaulted earlier in the evening by a member of Clan member Raekwon's entourage, and a full-scale rap riot was on the verge of breaking out.
Budden had evidently made steps towards peace with the Wu in previous weeks, having apologized for earlier comments on Method Man, Rae and Inspectah Deck, who released a dis track attacking Budden. According to Mickey Factz, Rae approached Budden backstage in what at first appeared to be an act of good will.
"Rae came in on some people shit at first," Factz said in a vlog of his own (which he took down, but was recorded by a fan). "He dapped everybody...took a seat, and that's when everything just changed...Next thing you know I just heard a punch...I was like oh shit, it looks like n****s is gonna be fightin' today. I'm gonna be fightin' a n***a that I grew up listening to, that's crazy. And it wasn't Rae who did it. ’m not a street dude, but if it would’ve went down we would’ve had to fight. We were not going to win, but I’m looking at Joe if it has to go down, it has to go down. I stayed, I didn’t leave. Rae told me it didn’t have anything to do with me. According to Rae, he put it on his kids...that Joe wasn't supposed to get hit."
"For the people just joining me, I just wanna let everybody know that I'm alright," Budden said in a vlog immediately after, while holding an ice pack to his face. "Raekwon didn't actually hit me. We was in the middle of talking about what we was actually talking about, and them n****s just came in like Storm Troopers."
Joe Budden's immediate reaction:
Raekwon took to the stage shortly after like nothing had happened, while Budden nursed his wounds and got ready for his set with Slaughterhouse, which was cut short due to curfew. Afterwards, several reports indicate that Slaughterhouse group member Crooked I and his Circle of Bosses crew went after Rae and his crew, which resulted in a brawl. His final words as he left the stage Saturday night were "Ain't nobody gonna disrespect one of my dudes when we on the West coast."