The lineup for the 2012 Rock the Bells festival, which kicks off August 18 in San Bernardino, California, has been announced, and it's full of valuable information. For instance: Did you know we live in a world where Mac Miller rates a bigger font size than E-40? There is an entire Edith Wharton novel's worth of subtle hierarchical shifts and slights in the way this thing is formatted. (Poor Yelawolf, down there in the middle of the eye chart with DJ Lance from Yo Gabba Gabba, basically seated at the kids' table.)
No festival that still trumpets a Lupe Fiasco appearance as a coup is entirely faultless as a barometer of what's really going on in present-day hip-hop, but you can usually rely on the RTB lineup to tell you what's going on in the "old school" category — to codify What's Retro Now and help an audience of bobbing, graying heads process the fact that they're another year older, with one shell toe that much more in the grave. This year we will be explicitly assisted in thinking about death by the reunited Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, who've overcome a long period of disharmony and will be performing all of their 1996 sophomore album E. 1999 Eternal, source of the moving frustrated-by-death anthem "Tha Crossroads." Their appearance is tagged as "FEATURING A TRIBUTE TO EAZY-E," their onetime mentor, who died in 1995. In this laser-ghost-conjuring-obsessed day and age, that feels like at least an implied promise that we'll see the debut of Hologram Eazy, whose existence was rumored almost immediately after Hologram Tupac first flickered into view at Coachella. Are we at the point where holograms are so cheap that even the Bone Thugs can afford one? Maybe they'll just have a really big Eazy Instagram, where the Ruthless Villain looks like he's eating sushi in 1972. Either way — here's hoping somebody brings a beach ball to toss around during "1st of tha Month."
Also reconstituting for this event, but in corporeal form: Missy Elliott and Timbaland, nerd-ruled-dystopia proponents Deltron 3030, most of the Hit Squad, and Redman and Method Man, who'll be doing all of Blackout (what, no staged reading of How High? We hereby cough the word "bullshit" into a closed fist.) If 1999, when Blackout was released, seems as much like it was only yesterday to you as it does to us, congratulations, you're old, and the Reaper is coming for you, in a leather trench coat and mirrored sunglasses, just like he came for Eazy and Wish Bone's Uncle Charles and the guy who invented the hologram. Have a bitchin' summer!