An estimated 30,000 fans of true hip-hop were on hand at an event that has become synonymous with warm weather and smoke-filled air. As was to be expected, the entire Hot 97 roster was on hand to support the Summer Jam. I was a little disappointed in what seemed like a hurried set from Funkmaster Flex. Most of selections were spun for maybe 20 seconds then he would switch it up. Very annoying to say the least. I listen to music to hear the music, not to play “guess where this song gets mixed”, but turntable enthusiasts had to have been satisfied with the spinning overall. DJ Mr. Cee, DJ Enuff, and other DJ staffers spun in between performances.
First up was New Jersey’s own Joe Budden. One would imagine it is a difficult to move a crowd of this size so early, but Budden evoked the Jersey natives amid the masses and eventually that energy found its way to the Budden fan faithful that were spread around the stadium. He repeatedly shouted out Jersey as if it were a mantra or cadence and the Jersey natives returned the energy two-fold. He did him. Not bad.
Chris Brown’s set was one of a few that seemed hurried. However, what the set lacked in duration was made up for by Brown’s song choices, which of course included his hit “Fine China.” Always energetic and light on his feet, Brown was drenched in sweat by the third song of his set. A good performance, but more would have been nice.
Fabolous’ set was kind of bland to me. He has a reputation as a smooth yet rugged lyricist in the same vein as many other Brooklyn lyricists who came before him, but I was left wanting. Perhaps it’s my age, or maybe it was because he was performing a lot of his new stuff, much of which I hadn’t heard before. In the end his set was strictly for the “Loso” illuminati because I recognized maybe two of the songs. It was concession stand time right up until he brought out Lil’ Kim on the surprise tip. As she performed with Fab I could hear the typical backbiting Kim related comments firing off my eardrums, but as a lifelong fan of the genre it’s always cool to hear her hardcore bravado and familiar vocalizations on the microphone.
Singer Miguel’s signature vocals sounded as clear and precise as an MP3. He featured J. Cole and a forever hot Mariah Carey on his set as well. Wale performed his R&B-laden hits to the delight of most of female concert-goers, and males as well. A$AP Rocky brought out Bone Thugs and Harmony as his invited guests, as well as Trinidad James.
Somethings should not be taken too seriously. The lyrics of 2 Chainz’s songs are one of them. Many purists make unfavorable comments about his simplistic lyrics and his choppy cadence, but he’s always good for a laugh. I know he would never call himself a joke rapper, but his lines are stuffed full of comic anecdotes and laugh-out punchlines not unlike Biz Markie, Kool Keith and ODB (RIP).
His surprise guest was Nicki Minaj. Her appearance was a bit of a surprise for several reasons, primary among them was her supposed beef with Hot 97.
Wu-Tang Clan, who was also celebrating their 20th anniversary, performed many hit records from their extensive catalog. Though much of the crowd was too young to fully respect the Wu legacy, the Wu faithful always turn up in numbers and made sure Wu-Tang Clan was aware of their many supporters.
The best on stage performer of the night was Kendrick Lamar. He mouthed and ad-libbed to his hits as they blared over the loud-speaker, then turned the music off and rhymed so that the lyrics for songs such as “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” could be fully appreciated. He brought out School Boy Q and other affiliates to give his set something of a concert within a concert feel.
The evening was capped off by French Montana, who called upon DJ Khaleed, Ace Hood, Rick Ross and Lil’ Wayne to help him with the grand finale. Brooklyn-based rapper Papoose also was a part to the finale-kind of. Once considered a rapper on the verge, Pap has been railing on about the release of his “new” album Nacireema Dream for at least 5 years. I’m a fan of good lyricism and he is a good one (“Law Library, “Faces of Death”). However, dude is starting to look a little nutty. Drop the album already or just go away, please! Maybe 30 percent of the audience actually knew who he was. He led the audience in a pro-Remy Martin chant and bounced after one song. C’mon man!
Over all, Summer Jam was an ongoing party right up until the mad dash to the parking lot ensued afterwards. Hip-Hop was celebrated and respected and no one got shot. So, I’d have to say it was a good day.