Hot 97's Summer Jam, known as the Super Bowl of Rap because it's played in a football stadium and features the rap game's biggest theatrics, happened last night (June 3) at Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The show's drama was on par with the best of 'em, with Lil Wayne pulling himself, headliner Nicki Minaj and DJ Khaled out of the show at the last minute because Hot 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg insulted Minaj's single "Starships."
That was a low moment for Summer Jam, but given the amazing lineup, there were plenty of high moments as well, including some monster special guests and one electrifying performance from a rapper I never thought I'd like. Between bursts of rain and the DJs and performers asking, "Is Brooklyn in the house?! Is Queens in the house?! Is The BX in the house?! Staten?! Jersey?!" every 15 minutes, there were some pretty unbelievable things happening on that stage! Here are my top five:
5. The Stage Banter
Rappers and radio DJs are funny people; it's their job to entertain audiences when they're on the mic, and Hot 97 Summer Jam lets them do that to a crowd of about 60,000. It's the biggest stage in rap. But after a few hours of trying to rally the crowd, the DJs were scraping the bottom of the barrel: "Yo, if you not West Indian but you know a West Indian, put one finger in the air!"
Another DJ said, "Shoutout to all my ladies out there makin' money!" and he got a huge cheer out of the crowd, so he kept going: "Shoutout to all my ladies with a high school diploma!" and then, "Shoutout to all my ladies with a college diploma!"
Young Jeezy, though, had the best line of rapper stage banter: After he shouted out some places in New York and thanked some people, he yelled, "Now that we got that positive s**t outta the way, if your p***y clean lemme hear you scream!" The stadium went crazy.
4. French Montana Bringing Mase Out
Mase is one of the most lovable New York rappers ever, with a super laconic flow and lyrics that were clever once you could hear them, so it was only fitting that his heir, both at Bad Boy Records and sonically as a rapper, would bring him out. French Montana, dressed in a gold headdress, looked pretty gleeful to see Mase skipping out onto the stage, and although he only made a brief appearance, the crowd went wilder for him than they did for almost anyone else.
Mase has only been on one song of late, guesting on Wale's remix for "Slight Work" (also featuring French Montana & Diddy), so I think the whole crowd hoped that his Summer Jam appearance means that he'll be getting on more tracks soon.
3. Young Jeezy's Classics-Heavy Set
Artists can't be golden forever. When Young Jeezy dropped Thug Motivation 101 in 2005, the same year T.I. put out King and Lil Wayne put out Tha Carter II, Southern rap demanded respect and the whole country finally heard. Jeezy's career peaked with 2008's The Recession and then the rapper disappeared for a few years. He came back with Thug Motivation 103 in 2011, but it didn't quite capture the trap magic that Jeezy's earlier albums came packed with.
Luckily for the crowd at Summer Jam, Jeezy resisted the urge to play only his new stuff and layered his set with classic early album material, going so far as to play "Bottom of the Map," which wasn't even a single off his first album, but is a cut that every hardcore Jeezy fan knows by heart. For a guy who must know he sounds awkward on "songs for the ladies," he skipped most of those and kept his set almost 100.
2. Nas Bringing out Lauryn Hill
Hot 97 DJs have been on a Twitter and radio campaign for weeks to try to get Nas to "unexpectedly" show up at Summer Jam, and with their persistence, he did. Angie Martinez came out to introduce him, but the person Nas brought out was a bigger surprise and got a massive rise from the crowd.
When Lauryn Hill hit the stage wearing a white blazer, close-cropped hair, a big gold necklace, loose pants and huge green heels, the stadium went insane. And when she played "Ready or Not" and "Lost Ones," singing and rapping with better technique than anyone else who stepped on stage for the whole night, 60,000 people watched her get resurrected.
1. 2 Chainz's Verse During Mercy
I never expected 2 Chainz to be my favorite anything, but last night at Summer Jam, when Big Sean came out to play Kanye West's "Mercy," I realized that the whole song is basically a warmup for 2 Chainz's verse, including the long instrumental interlude that separates his verse from the rest. That's because 2 Chainz's verse is amazing.
Pusha T came out to perform his verse, which was itself impressive, but the crowd went apocalyptic when 2 Chainz stepped on stage and started rapping, "Okay, now ketchup to my campaign /Coupe the color of mayonnaise /I'm drunk and high at the same time /Drinkin' champagne on the airplane." Every single person I could see was rapping along at the same time. 2 Chainz's verse brought out the sense of community and camaraderie among the fans that was beyond welcome after a day of intermittent rain and headliner cancellation. It was the best moment of the festival and a reason in itself to go back next year.