One year ago, your favorite hip-hop journalist’s favorite up and coming hip-hop journalist came to fruition. 12 months later, having witnessed over 25 of the best concerts and private parties in the music industry, a once in a lifetime opportunity came knocking when HOT 97 invited me to cover the biggest event of my extremely short-lived journalism career. Summer Jam 2011: arguably the best live show in the history of urban music.
At first, I was apprehensive; I didn’t know what to expect, jubilant; since it was my first time and scared because every year someone gets stabbed or shot (a reported 17 total). Still, I treaded on to Jersey’s New Meadowlands Stadium for my first ever SJ experience. As with many first timers a vast majority of the night is a blur, but I will definitely cherish that moment for the rest of life. Recanting everything that happened over a 9-hour period would be extremely lengthy so allow me to highlight the moments worth sharing.
Prior to the main event, the parking lot could have easily been mistaken for a tailgating party - 50,000 of the tri-state’s hardcore hip-hop fans engaged in drinking, outdoor grilling and hiding all different types of bud from state troopers. Four hours before show time, lesser mainstream acts like Ace Hood, Big K.R.I.T., Big Sean and Pusha –T performed for the pre-gamers and signed autographs for a few lucky fans.
Wiz Khalifa opened the show submerged in thick clouds of weed smoke cramming his set into roughly 10 minutes. Pre-occupied with other obligations, he ransacked cuts from Rolling Papers including Taylor Gang and Roll Up topping it off with Black & Yellow.
Wacka Flocka then came Bustin’ At Em topless - baring a mini keg and shorts before bringing out Wale for No Hands. The southern gangsta rapper’s burst of energy went so Hard In Da Paint causing him gasping for air by the end of his set. Though he failed to connect with the crowd, it seems as though he felt the need to take shots at Jeezy saying f*ck the real is back. Real talk, I’d suggest he work on breath control, channeling his emotions, improving his stage presence and going hard in the gym before talking sh*t.
Fabolous put on for my hometown dressed in a not so fashionable white tee with a printed polka dot bowtie. The Brooklyn emcee was Killin’ Em with most of his mixtape material before Ryan Leslie turned up for his part on Everything, Everyday, Everywhere. Lady Gaga obviously let’s him borrow her accessories because homie came out rocking the most feminine pair of sunglasses ever. Lloyd Banks repped for QB with a 40-minute set including: a cameo from Mobb Deep, who performed Shook Ones, Lloyd soon Layed It Down, while Jeremih assisted Blue Heff on I Don’t Deserve You and Swizz Beatz did an impromptu version of I’m Coolin. Juelz Santana sped in a Beamer, Benz or Bentley just before Start It Up featuring Swizzy, Fab and R-Les.
Chris Brown showed off his fancy footwork in between records She Ain’t You and Wet The Bed. Luda wasn’t present, but the ladies were at a stand still when Breezy selected a random female to assist him during Take You Down, where she was treated to a lap dance resulting in Brown kissing down her neck and serving her with a mouth full of nuts. He then brought out Tyga and Kevin McCall for Deuces, with Big Sean re-appearing for My Last. Like Flocka, Brown had a few last words of his own stating: "Y’all wasn’t f*ckin’ with me two years ago…Look At Me Now" as Busta Rhymes crept from behind.
The newly reunited Diplomats delivered an unstructured, lackluster performance with possibly every goon in Harlem barely fitting on stage. Not only did they completely ditch their 2003 classics to perform newer material, Dipset brought out an anonymous girl to sing something the crowd was totally unfamiliar with, which was weird, especially since her cameo came right after Travis Porter who attempted to Make It Rain. Later on, Jim Jones brought out Olivia to sing a 1-minute rendition of December, and though their lack of synergy was quite noticeable, Vado received moderate applause during Speaking In Tungs, considering the fact that you could hardly see or hear what anyone was saying with their entire neighborhood cluttering the set, while texting on their Blackberries.
However, the night’s best performances undoubtedly belonged to Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. Tunechi gave YMCMB shine, as Lil Twist did a brief auto tune segment; Shanell lent her vocals for Motivation, Gudda, Tyga, Mack Mayne, and Jae Millz made the Bedrock, Birdman spit some Fire Flame and Cory Gunz stood taller than 6’7. Weezy then sang How To Love before calling on Drake for Miss Me as an added bonus. Drizzy sported a tapered 5’o’clock shadow and appeared to have hired a better stylist as he prowled on the stage like a seasoned rapper. Wayne concluded his set with DJ Khaled and a Versace shirt wearing Rozay with his man boobs dangling to perform Khaled’s I’m On One. It would’ve been epic, but I was too busy wondering if Ricky and I shared the same bra size.
Ross murdered the stage as his bigger than life bravado shattered the speakers. The Bawse ran through anthems like Hustlin, MC Hammer, and BMF until an all-white Diddy rocking an 80’s haircut and gold chains performed his verse on Oh Let’s Do It. After a brief Biggie tribute, the Teflon Don quickly switched into MMG mode when Meek Mill joined him for Tupac Back, and Wale returned for 600 Benz. Just when the crowd was wide open, he abruptly ended the show leaving everyone puzzled and wondering whether the ending was a stunt. Rumor has it the stadium was very strict about ending the show on time (11pm) forcing William to end in an awkward fashion.
Sudden endings aside, it was truly a night to remember.
(Photo Credit: The NY Times)