EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — Around 50,000 hip-hop fans proved their love for the music Tuesday night through the drizzle and then downpour that fell on Giants Stadium and Hot 97 Summer Jam performers 50 Cent, Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Fabolous, Nelly, Lil’ Kim, the Clipse, Sean Paul and Nas.
As Jay-Z warned two years ago during his last performance at Summer Jam, you do not want to be the next contestant on the Summer Jam screen. The object of Jay’s scorn was Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, and this year (in 2002 the screen took a rest because headliner Nas was a no-show) 50 Cent made Ja Rule a super-sized object of ridicule.
The Southside Jamaica, Queens, rapper started his set with a special public service announcement that played on the three screens hanging above the stage. 50, who sat at a computer during the PSA, could barely be heard over the crowd’s screams as he said it had been brought to his attention that some of the fans could not identify a “bitch ass n—a.” He then showed a clip from the “Mesmerize” video where Ja tells Irv Gotti that he’s giving up the streets for Ashanti. The words “bitch ass n—a” were displayed below Ja and Irv, and people started laughing.
50 then brought out other “exhibits,” including the videos for “Rainy Dayz” and “I Cry.” He said that he knew that what he was showing on the screen was not hip-hop, Ja knew it was not hip-hop and Irv knew it was not hip-hop.
The MC’s G-Unit crew was then showered with cheers and rain, taking the stage while the instrumental of Black Rob’s “Whoa!” played. “Where’s my little n—a?” 50 asked, beckoning for his young son to join him onstage. “We breed gangstas,” he boasted as the boy came on, dressed like his dad in a Yankees cap, jeans and a miniature bulletproof vest covering his tiny frame.
“What the f— is going on?” the tyke asked, putting on his deepest voice. “Geeeee-Uniiit!”
“Gotta Make It to Heaven” and “Wanksta” kicked off the set, with 50 running around the stage and throwing his Yankees fitted cap to the crowd. He turned his attention back toward his lyrical foe with “Back Down” as he and the crowd rocked from side to side.
After “High All the Time” and the follow-up blow “In Da Club,” the chiseled MC stood on a speaker and whipped the crowd into a tribal frenzy for “What Up Gangsta,” spitting: “What up, blood?/ What up, cus?/ What up, blood?”
“I’m just a P.I.M.P.,” 50 later rapped, donning a white hat with a feather and matching overcoat. His son came on dressed like his dad, and reformed real-life pimp Bishop Don “Magic” Juan made his second appearance of the night, adding more flavor to the atmosphere.
Tyson Beckford came out later to stand in the background for “21 Questions,” but the most high-powered collaboration for 50 would be with his boss. Enter Eminem.
“If ya patiently waiting to make it through all the hating/ Debating whether or not you can even weather the storm,” Em rapped as he walked onstage, providing an instant adrenaline rush for “Patiently Waiting.” “Unless you lie on the table they operating to save you/ It’s like an angel came to you sent from the heavens above/ They think they crazy but they ain’t crazy, let’s face it.”
50 left Eminem to perform his own set. After “Business,” Em brought out D12 to again address Ja on “Do Re Mi.” When the song was finished, Slim Shady called Rule a “pu—” and “punk” among other things and warned that the Hollis, Queens, MC had better never talk about his daughter again.
The height of Em’s disdain would come later in the show when he had Obie Trice bring out his 2002 Source Award for Lyricist of the Year. Slim talked about his battle with the magazine and its co-owner, Ray Benzino. “Take your mutha—-in’ award back,” he yelled, slamming it to the ground. Almost as soon as the trophy smashed, the guitar riff from “Lose Yourself” came on, commencing another of the night’s feverish moments. The next record, “8 Mile,” was equally energetic.
The grand finale of Summer Jam 2003 brought Em and 50 back together with additional support from Busta Rhymes on the “Hail Mary” freestyle dis of Murder Inc.
“I got a head with no screws in it/ Mutha—-as think that they can stop 50, they losing it,” 50 rhymed, with Em bopping and mouthing the words with even more vehemence. The usually amiable Busta Rhymes closed the song out with his verse, which included the line “You let the streets down, n—a/ Apologize to your fans.”
As the record closed out and the rain started to fall more heavily, Busta said his career was not built on beefing but that he felt obligated to come back at Ja after Rule dissed him on a record. 50 laughed and told everyone that he loved the beef and that he was never going to stop.
Earlier, Busta’s set showed why he’s hailed by many as hip-hop’s greatest performer when he made the crowd lose control with his party classics. The audience followed instructions on “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.” The energy level and screams were consistent throughout Busta’ set, which also saw him bring out Lumidee for the remix of her hit “Never Leave You” and Sean Paul for the remix of “Make It Clap.”
The adoration for Busta continued when he brought out another guest, Bone Crusher, for “Never Scared.” It seemed like everyone in the stadium was screaming “I ain’t never scared” at the top of their lungs.
Oddly enough, Bone going topless wasn’t the biggest spectacle Busta brought with him. That honor goes to Don “Magic” Juan, who came out in a Gucci sombrero and matching coat for “Pass the Courvoisier.” P. Diddy, replete with his umbrella-holding manservant, also made a cameo, trading lines with his friend and sporting sunglasses despite it being nighttime and raining.
Bussa Bus’ chorus line of guests didn’t stop there; he continued to steal the show by bringing out Mariah Carey and the Flipmode Squad for “I Know What You Want.”
Surprisingly, a couple of hip-hop’s biggest names were met with unflattering boo birds. Nas started off his set on a throne, rhyming “The Cross.” After a medley of tunes like “Get Down,” he gave the legendary KRS-One time to shine, performing “The Bridge Is Over” and “South Bronx.”
While the blast master was able to get some love with his battle records, Nas couldn’t get the overwhelming support he probably would’ve gotten at last year’s Summer Jam if he had performed. The king of Queensbridge heard an undercurrent of boos during his dis of Jay-Z on “Ether,” but most of the crowd fought off the jeers with their cheers.
Nelly wasn’t as lucky during one of his biggest songs, “Dilemma.” Although the gold-toothed platinum rapper did have the crowd on his side for most of his set, many in the audience became audibly weary.
No one, at least among the males in the audience, was becoming tired of Lil’ Kim. Besides bringing out Mobb Deep for the “Quiet Storm” remix, Kim gave an eyeful as she struggled with her bikini top. “My t—y’s poppin’ out,” she giggled as the tiny top refused to keep her covered.