Rock The Bells

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Songfacts®:

  • Based on the title, you expect to hear the famous Bob James "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" sample on this track. Those breakbeat-friendly bells found their way to many hip-hop tracks of this era, including Run-DMC's "Peter Piper" and Eric B and Rakim's "Don't Sweat the Technique."

    This song, however, isn't about the actual bells of hip-hop, but about LL's dominance in the rap game, which he was never shy in expressing, even on this first album, Radio. According to Mr. Cool J., the phrase "rock the bells" was a popular saying around his parts, and he thought it would make a good title.
  • This song was produced and co-written by Rick Rubin, who was just beginning his extraordinary career. Rubin went on to produce the Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash and many other musical luminaries.

    The first version of this song was released as a 12" single and was 7 minutes long. This one did have tinny bell sounds throughout. LL wasn't happy with this version, so he asked Rubin to redo it. "He wasn't busy, he had time," said LL in Entertainment Weekly. "Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys played a tape for him, and I went and met him in his dorm room. Back then he only had Def Jam Productions. Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons and myself - they formed the label, and I was the flagship artist."

    The 4-minute reworking of this song was the one used on the Radio album, and the most popular version of the song.
  • Along with Rubin and his DJ, Cut Creator, LL used an 808 drum machine to form the basis for this track, mixing in a guitar scratch sampled from the AC/DC song "Flick The Switch" and some synth from the song "Rocket In My Pocket" by Cerrone (electro-disco producer Jean-Marc Cerrone). Beats from the Trouble Funk song "Saturday Night In the Park" were also sampled on the track.
  • Thanks to this song, the phrase "rock the bells" became synonymous with old-school rap, and in 2004 the first Rock The Bells festival took place in San Bernardino, California, featuring a reunited Wu-Tang Clan in what would be their final performance. This festival was documented in the movie of the same name, which was released in 2006.
  • In 2017, SiriusXM satellite radio rebranded their classic hip-hop channel Backspin as "Rock The Bells Radio," with programing curated by LL Cool J.

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