NEW YORK — Each summer, New York radio station Hot 97 gives the hip-hop community something to talk about for the rest of the year.
Something crazy always happens, whether it be a classic performance, like Puff Daddy bringing the whole Bad Boy crew in the late ’90s, or a spark of beef, like when the Game delivered a faux beatdown to a man in a rat suit and called off a truce with 50 Cent last year
This year, classic performances seemed more likely because Sunday’s headliners at Giants Stadium — Mary J. Blige and Busta Rhymes — really have no rap beef to speak of. Neither do Jermaine Dupri, Dem Franchize Boyz, Sean Paul, Three 6 Mafia, Remy Ma, T.I., Ne-Yo, Chris Brown or Young Jeezy. The only ones who could have used the infamous Summer Jam screen (which artists use to put their rivals on blast) are the Diplomats, who make their disdain for Jay-Z very public.
Last year the Dips were given a very unceremonious second-performance slot during the show. That means that as people were still filing in — many with their hearts set on seeing Cam’ron, Juelz Santana, Jim Jones and crew — the group was finishing a brief performance. This year, Hot 97 tried to make amends by letting the Dips go on last.
When Summer Jam’s last acts hit the stage in past years (Eminem, R. Kelly, Snoop Dogg), a large portion of the crowd was either in the parking lot or on the New Jersey turnpike heading home. Not this year.
As the Dips hit the stage Sunday night, one big question hung over the crowd: Would Cam’ron, who just a few days ago released a dis track aimed at Hov, strike on a major stage? Nope. Cam & Co. didn’t even mention Jay’s name. The Diplomats started with Juelz Santana and Jim Jones, who performed the street anthems “G’s Up,” “Oh Yes” and “There It Go.”
The Dip family had a good 50 people onstage, looking almost as deep as the crowd that paid to see them. Cam was introduced to a thunderous roar, coming on with “I Really Mean It” and later carrying the momentum to “Wet Wipes.”
Busta Rhymes’ set came right before the Dips’, and he got the crowd laughing when he entered the stage wearing Jeremy Shockey’s New York Giants jersey with shoulder pads and a helmet. Bust did get love, but he probably would have been able to maintain frenzied feedback throughout his set if he would have stuck with his earlier catalog rather than newer Big Bang songs like “Get You Some” and “In the Ghetto.” The MC told the audience that it may not know his new material but will learn it by the time he rocks the next Summer Jam.
Busta paraded out several legends toward the end of his set, including the Wu-Tang Clan for “Triumph” and Rakim for “Eric B. Is President.” Not to be outdone, Big Daddy Kane came out for “Warm It Up, Kane.” The guests didn’t end there: Slick Rick came out for “Children’s Story,” Q-Tip followed for “Scenario,” and the set closed with Busta and Swizz Beatz performing “New York Sh–” with all the legends onstage.
But Jermaine Dupri got the award for the most stunting with guest appearances on Sunday. Not only did JD bring out his girlfriend, Janet Jackson, during his set with Dem Franchize Boyz (Janet kissed him on the lips before walking off and waving to the crowd), but he also invited Mariah Carey. For some reason, MC could not sing, but they played “We Belong Together,” and the crowd sang along. Mariah mimed the words and waved the crowd as well.
T.I.’s show was basically an abbreviated version of the concert he gave at the Apollo a few days earlier but when he was getting ready to give the fans his biggest hit, “What You Know About That,” his mic was cut. Just like Young Jeezy earlier in the night as he was getting into “Go Crazy,” Tip apparently ran out of his allotted time.
The audience began to boo — not at Tip, but at Hot 97. The crowd had stood patiently through the rain and paid more than $100 per ticket, and T.I. had flown into Jersey that same morning after being in L.A. for the MTV Movie Awards on Saturday.
Jamie Foxx, who sang “Live in the Sky” with T.I., had his own surprise guest: LL Cool J. LL came out, and he and Foxx acknowledged that they used to have beef, but all is settled. “All I ever wanted to be was your hype man,” Foxx told LL.
Still, Summer Jam was missing that one monumental Summer Jam moment. With no Jay, no 50, no Nas, there was no one who really left the stage in shambles.