Photo courtesy of James Ravenell, Jr
If the unofficial slogan of Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam concert is “expect the unexpected,” then this year’s concert may be remembered by hip-hop fans as one of the most shocking editions of the mega show’s history, because it went almost exactly according to plan. Summer Jam’s memorable past has spoiled fans, who now expect to be astonished by surprise guest appearances and iconic moments. Yet last night’s (June 6) show at New Jersey’s New Meadowlands Stadium felt incomplete when it ended without a signature “Oh, my God” occurrence.
Absent from the lineup were heavy hitters like Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Summer Jam king Jay-Z, as hip-hop relinquished the limelight to R&B for the night—specifically headliner Usher. Despite a lineup that included Dirty South veteran Ludacris and NYC favorites Fabolous and Juelz Santana, hip-hop took a backseat to Mr. Raymond and fellow crooner Trey Songz, whose sensual showmanship arguably upstaged frequent collaborator Drake.
Ignoring the buzz surrounding the leak of his debut album, Thank Me Later, Drizzy chose to stick with his originally scheduled program (which included hits “Forever” and “Over”), and performing no new material from the highly anticipated disc which will officially release on June 15. The Toronto MC did however provide an update on the status of his currently incarcerated Young Money boss Lil Wayne, who is serving a one-year term for gun possession on New York’s Rikers Island.
“I finally got a chance to talk to my brother,” he told the crowd as they exploded at the mere mention of their jailed hero. “I looked in his eyes, and he misses y’all.” As a token of their love, the May XXL cover boy requested that the crowd join him in reciting Weezy’s verse from the mixtape hit “I’m Goin’ In” loud enough that the caged lion could hear them from his cell across the river.
Although his tribute to Wayne combined with the appearances of Cash Money CEO Baby (“4 My Town,” “Money to Blow”) and hip-hop’s current first lady Nicki Minaj (“Bedrock,” and an a capella rendition of her verse from Thank Me Later’s “Up All Night”) made the newcomer’s first solo Summer Jam performance memorable. The most exhilarating moment of the night, however, came as Ludacris’ set was winding down and Miami’s DJ Khaled took over, parading out a who’s who of past collaborators.
The Def Jam South president was joined by everyone from Fat Joe—who performed his street smash “Ha Ha (Slow Down),” sans the noticeably absent trap star Jeezy—to the ageless Busta Rhymes, who spit a verse from the Swizz Beatz-produced “Stop the Party” that put to rest any doubts that he still had it.