Yesterday we headed over to scenic East Rutherford, NJ for the latest edition of the rapstravaganza known as Hot 97′s Summer Jam, a night when millionaire MCs have heart-to-hearts with 80,242 of their closest fans as the Giants Stadium parking lot gets filled with enough promotional material to clothe and shelter a third world nation for weeks. Truth be told, we look forward to it every June. This year we arrived at the aforementioned parking lot early enough to grill some dogs (and barter them for Hennessy), check out some opening acts on the Festival Stage, and stand around in the steady drizzle that would later turn into a total fucking torrential downpour. Fortunately, there were teal Rihanna umbrellas – wild promo no brainer of the year! – to shield us during short sets from the likes of Lil Mama and Collie Buddz, and we were soon inside to watch the real show, direct from the gloriously dry mezzanine level. It included Swizz battling Kanye, Lil Wayne high off that Whitney Houston, and Akon and TI minus shirts. Far too much commentary and BULLET! BULLET! points after the jump, direct from our cell phone notepad into your hearts and minds.
You guys only care about who brought out who, right? Ever since Jay-Z’s famed unveiling of Michael Jackson (and Prodigy in dance school sequins), the entire concert has become one long succession of “top that” cameos, ranging from the compulsory (of course Mims is going to bring out Junior Reid and Cham for the “This Is Why I’m Hot” remix, otherwise it’s just Mims on stage) to the genuinely surprising. This year we’ll give the OH SNAP! crown to Swizz Beats. After running through an extended version of his SXSW set, he went off on a “I AM THE BEST AT THIS SHIT! NO PRODUCER BETTER THAN ME!” tirade. Then Kanye West walked onstage. They battled it out, dropping intros of songs they produced: “Takeover” vs “Banned From TV“, “Stand Up” vs “Ruff Ryders Anthem“, “Encore” vs “Jigga My Nigga,” “Gold Digger” vs “It’s Me Bitches.” It was an extremely clever take on the Summer Jam status quo, and a high point in the evening’s energy – too bad it came less than halfway through the show.
Swizz also brought out Lil Wayne to do his voulez-vous verse on the “It’s Me Bitches” remix, and once he was through, Weezy F launched his microphone into the crowd. He closed out his guest spot during Chris Brown’s set a few hours later by mumbling something about how he had to leave, otherwise he would just stay on stage all night long. Then his DJ played Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as Wayne strutted offstage doing some kind of hop skip. The man is touched.
Diddy hit the stage third from last, but acted as if he was the headliner. Spectacle to spare – though most of it just hammered home how limp his Press Play singles were. He kicked off with a wildly long intro video (interspersing Gladiator clips with Puff n Hype classics…and lots of shots of doves, clouds and ponies) that segued into “Victory,” reunited with the Lox and Lil Kim for “Benjamins,” freaked girls in the audience alongside Elephant Man, brought TI out to do three completely Diddy-less songs, and shot off thousands of fireworks. He even had a leather Sergeant Pepper jacket and those things that set James Hetfield on fire. “Take those fucking ponchos off! It’s my party!”
By this point, the rain was coming down in pure sheets of water and people were leaving the stadium in droves, but our man Akon did not disappoint, running through his hits like a pro (precise but never workmanlike) and bringing out FADER cover stars Bone Thugs and Cham for two consecutive jams. He ended the set by inviting everyone from DJ Khaled’s “We Takin Over” to the stage (including Wayne, screaming into two mics LL Cool J-style). The whole crew was smiling, and Akon and TI running around giving hugs to all their overweight bros (RAWWWSSSS!) made for one of the most unexpectedly adorable concert moments in some time.
There was still more show to go – Rich Boy was puzzlingly scheduled for the evening’s headlining performance, and after a verse each of “Boy Looka Here” and “Throw Some Ds”, he would wisely cede the stage to Jim Jones – but thats it for our guest star play-by-play. On to the random notes!