Hot 97 Summer Jam 2003 (By Pizon)
I am a Hip Hop artist. I write rhymes. I make beats. I travel to recording sessions out of state. I do shows. I freestyle. I call, meet up, and scheme with my cohorts on a daily basis. In the midst of all the commotion, it’s easy to lose sight of what I am first and foremost: a Hip Hop fan. I am and will always be a fan before I am an artist. Last night’s Summer Jam put that back into perspective.
No lie, I have been trying to get tickets to Summer Jam for the past ten years. I tried calling the station in the morning. In the afternoon. At night. I had my friends’ phones tied up while I had the station on speed dial on both of my home phones and my mother’s cell phone. I kept my lists for Wendy Williams’ countdown. When Wendy Williams was fired, I kept my lists for Angie Martinez’ countdown. I was caller 96. I was caller 98. I just couldn’t win.
Many of you may not realize this, but they didn’t always sell tickets to Summer Jam. Previously, the only way to get a ticket was by winning one. Last year was one of the first years they sold tickets through TicketMaster. Of course, by the time I realized this, it was sold out. This year, being that it was in Giant’s Stadium with a capacity of 55,000, I was able to get my tickets. Finally. But was it worth the ten year wait? Time would tell.
In past years, everyone from Naughty By Nature to the Lost Boyz to Method Man to the Notorious B.I.G. to Big Pun graced the Summer Jam stage. This year boasted an impressive lineup as well: The Clipse, Fabolous, Sean Paul, Lil Kim, Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Nas, 50 Cent, and Eminem. It was billed as the biggest Hip Hop event in the world, and Hip Hop’s first-ever stadium concert. I was pumped.
We left my man’s house in Brentwood at around 5:15, giving us 2 hours and 15 minutes to make the trip to the Meadowlands, which takes 40 minutes on a good day. A combination of the rain, rush hour traffic, and mob of cars packing into the parking lot at the same time saw us not getting to the stadium until 8:00 — 30 minutes after the show had started. Luckily, our seats were under the upper deck, so the heads that waited till the last minute to cop their tickets had the added bonus of shielding us from the rain.
By the time we got into our seats, The Clipse’s performance was over and Fabolous was finishing up his set. He closed it with a dope performance of “Can’t Let You Go,” one of my favorite tracks of this year. Next up was Sean Paul, whose music I dislike, so I couldn’t really get into it. He did a good enough job though, and the crowd reacted well to his hits.
Not bad so far, but very linear. What happened to all the surprises that Summer Jam is infamous for? Like in 2001 when the Jay-Z/Nas beef was officially launched with Jay’s diss verse that would later become the song “Takeover.” Or when he showed pictures of a young Prodigy in a tutu. Or when he brought out Michael Jackson. Or like last year when Nas was kicked out of the building for trying to lynch a Jay-Z doll. That’s the kinda stuff I wanted to see!
Lil Kim I didn’t have to wait long, as Lil Kim was out next with a bag of tricks up her sleeve (or lack thereof!). Before I can comment on her stage show, I must do my manly duty and report how hot she looks in person. She could get it in a New York minute. That’s all. As far as her performance went, she held her own, rocking it for dolo with no hype man as far as I could tell (if she did happen to have one, I didn’t see him, for obvious reasons). She did her obligatory tribute to BIG, even asking various audience members to name their favorite Biggie song. When they complied, she played the song as the crowd rapped along with her and the record in unison. For some reason, she had to ask permission to do some of her own material (like hello, this is supposed to be a Lil Kim set, not a BIG show).
She did a couple of her solo songs, and brought out Twista for “Thug Luv” off her latest LP, and Mobb Deep for a hot performance of the “Quiet Storm” remix (it must be noted here that Kim, at five feet two inches, is indeed taller than Prodigy). She closed with “Magic Stick” but didn’t bring 50 out for his parts. Overall, I wasn’t mad at Kim’s performance, given that she is not one of my favorite artists.
Nelly was up next, which to most of the heads in attendance signaled a bathroom break. This of course didn’t stop him from proceeding with his completely uninspired performance of his unimaginative, cornball, female-degrading pop songs, which garnered virtually zero reaction from the crowd. By the time most of the audience was back in their seats, he and his St. Lunatic goons were still dancing and singing away on stage, apparently not realizing nobody was paying them any attention. Finally the crowd put him out of his misery, as Giant’s Stadium went from complete silence to the sound of 55,000 booing fans in a matter of seconds when he attempted to perform his “Dilemma” song with Kelly Rowland. I hate to say it, but I enjoyed Nelly’s set more than Sean Paul’s, only because it was great to see him get booed off stage. New York and New Jersey tell it like it is!
Speaking of boos, Sway from the world-famous Wake Up Show and MTV News came out during the intermission to make a speech and the crowd just wouldn’t let him speak. Apparently they were heated that he was taking the beloved Star and Bucwild’s spot in the mornings on Hot 97. I can appreciate the sentiment, but damn, Sway should never be booed. The man has Hip Hop in his blood. He let the crowd have it though with a big “Fuck that!” and introduced the next performer, Busta Rhymes.
Without a doubt, Busta’s set was the highlight of the night. The entire place was bananas the entire time he was on stage. He did most of his hits, new and old, with Spliff Star and the rest of Flipmode backing him up. He brought Sean Paul back out for the “Make It Clap” remix, a topless Bonecrusher for the “Never Scared” remix, P. Diddy for the “Pass the Courvoisier” remix, and Mariah Carey for his latest smash, “I Know What You Want.” The only downside was that Mariah’s mic was dead (either that or they didn’t pay her enough money to actually sing), but who cares? Just seeing her in person is worth the price of admission alone.
Nas — the number one reason my crew and I were there — performed next. He started off with “The Cross” which got a decent reaction. Then he went into his newest single (and best track off his latest LP) “Get Down.” He took us back to Illmatic with “The World Is Yours” and It Was Written with “If I Ruled the World” and “Street Dreams.” His performance of “One Mic” was chilling, as the entire crowd had their index fingers in the air the whole time, representing the one mic. Then he burst into “Ether” which got one of the biggest receptions of the night, with the entire crowd shouting “Fuck Jay-Z!” and every line of the song at the top of their lungs. Contrary to other reports, Nas was NOT booed. Ironically, the only boos came when he cut off “Ether” after only one verse, with the crowd wanting to continue to rap along.
The disappointment ended, however, when Nas played MC Shan’s “The Bridge” and explained that was what inspired him to make music in the first place, then brought out the legendary KRS-ONE who performed “South Bronx” and his classic QB diss song “The Bridge is Over.” It was rumored that Nas would make peace with Jay-Z. That didn’t happen, but extending the olive branch to KRS after a QB/Bronx feud that climaxed many years ago was a suitable alternative. If it took this long for that to officially cease, maybe we can hope for the Jay-Z/Nas onstage hug at Summer Jam 20. In the meantime, we’ll gladly continue to argue over who really won the battle.
Another highlight of Nas’ set came when he stopped “Made You Look” mid verse and brought out Jadakiss to do his parts from the remix. Nas closed with “I Can” and sent everyone home happy.
But it wasn’t time to go home yet. Funkmaster Flex came out to introduce 50 Cent, which put the place into a frenzy. Before Fiddy came out though, they played a video of him backstage where he showed pictures of Ja Rule and Irv Gotti with the words “BITCH ASS NIGGA” underneath them. 50 declared that we now know how to spot a “bitch ass nigga” when we see one, and assured us that Ja Rule is not Hip Hop, he’s R&B. As proof of how un-Hip Hop he is, 50 showed various clips of Ja, including portions of the “I Cry” and “Mesmerize” videos where he’s singing in the rain and has tears flowing down his face. The montage ended with a close-up freeze frame of Ja crying, which had the entire stadium in hysterical laughter.
50’s set wasn’t anything special, though the crowd was very much into it. It was obvious he was who most of the people were there to see. He easily set the record for most heads on stage with him (all of D12, Obie Trice, G-Unit, and others), and all of them were miked up and wearing bulletproof vests. 50’s son got on the mic and asked, “What the fuck is going on?” which set the stage for his daddy to perform nearly every song off his new album and then some. The highlight came when he performed “P.I.M.P.” with he and his son donning matching pimped-out fur coats and hats. Hip Hop’s token pimp “Magic” Don Juan’s appearance was icing on the cake. “Patiently Waiting” saw the introduction of Eminem to the stage, whose reaction surpassed 50’s for loudest of the night.
An explosive night After that song, Em told us to give it up for 50. We did, which prompted 50 and everyone else on stage to leave, barring Eminem himself and his usual hype man, Proof. At this point, people started to leave. By the time Em’s set was halfway over, the stadium was halfway empty. Heads should have stayed though, cause Em really put it down. He started off with “Business” from the Eminem Show, then went straight to the Ja Rule diss records with D12 and company coming back out only when their verses were up. Surprisingly, he performed mostly non-album shit (the aforementioned Ja Rule disses, his “The Realest Label” freestyle joint, a few D12 songs, “8 Mile Road,” “Rap Game,” and “Love Me” with 50 Cent and Obie Trice off the 8 Mile Soundtrack, etc.). He only did one of the four singles from his latest album. In fact, the only big hits he did were “Without Me,” “The Way I Am,” and “Lose Yourself.” Before going into the latter, he was handed his 2000 Source Award for Lyricist of the Year. He looked at the award and said, “The Source was behind me from day one, and now y’all shitting on me? You can have your motherfucking award back!” and threw it on the stage, smashing it into pieces.
Em closed his set (and thus the whole night) with a tribute to BIG and Pac, which segued into the “Hail Mary” Ja Rule diss, with 50 and Busta coming back out to do their parts. Busta then got on the mic and said, “My career has never been built around beef, but if someone steps to me, I have to bitch smack them to put them in their place, and that’s exactly what I did.” 50 added, “My career WAS built on beef and I ain’t ashamed to admit it!” Gotta love the honesty.
At the end of the night, it was a great show that kept me entertained for the four and a half hours I was there. Yes, it was well worth the price of admission, and yes, it was worth the ten year wait. Now damn it, I better not be shut down for tickets next year!