As I sat perched inside a press box at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, somewhere in between the lackluster crowd who – perhaps sadly – weren’t there for Kendrick Lamar‘s performance yet were excitedly doing the Whip Dance when T-Wayne’s “Nasty Freestyle” was played for the umpteenth time, and away from the massive fracas between the police and the frustrated ticket holders-turned-angry mob that involved tear gas, a riot squad, a possible stabbing and a couple of helicopters, the only thing I could think of was “Man, this red velvet cake and barbecue chicken is so crucial to my livelihood right now.”
It was my third year in a row in which I’ve participated in the adventure known as Hot 97’s annual SummerJam, now in its 21st year and has since expanded into a smaller scale “festival” the occurs shortly before the actual concert itself. After dealing with a thunderstorm at my first one and witnessing an onstage chain-snatching at the second, I did not know what to expect when I made the trek to the home of the New York Giants/Jets. First things first, though: I needed to grab something to eat.
As an aside, in some far-off, vastly different lifetime I instead followed the path of the culinary arts instead of music, and rather than receive an onslaught of mixtapes, SoundCloud links and flash drives I instead get coupons to the finest of restaurants throughout my neighborhood. So don’t be surprised if, should you ever have a conversation with me, the topic veers toward food. But I’m digressing.
After enjoying a surprisingly impressive burrito, something that is very difficult to come by in the East Coast, I stepped into SummerJam’s pregame-style Festival Stage, where within its first sixty minutes Charles Hamilton, Teyana Taylor, and Chedda Da Connect performed. Seriously. I hadn’t even taken a bite out of my lunch when Chedda popped up, performed “Flicka Da Wrist,” then lumbered off the stage almost as quickly as he appeared. Teyana Taylor’s brief set, however, did include some seductive dance moves and a reunion (of sorts) of two-thirds former Bad Boy artists Total for a nostalgia-inducing performance of “Can’t You See.”
Following sets from Joey Bada$$, DeJ Loaf, and B.o.B, Fetty Wap sent the predominately New Jersey crowd into a tizzy despite only having an a maxi-single’s (or an EP, at most) worth of songs out. That perfectly set up Travi$ Scott, who in – true La Flame tradition – instigated a stampede (hearing him warble out “The security can’t stop all of you!” to the crowd in Auto-Tune was pure hilarity) and a mosh pit so wild it left one unlucky person so injured he had to get carried out of the chaos by the hired guns. I don’t know what happened to the guy, but after seeing that picture of one of the Rae Sremmurd guys with a huge chunk of his leg missing I’d rather not know.
Eventually I made my way into my designated press box to take in the sights and sounds of SummerJam 2015, and prepared myself for listening to almost every Hot 97 deejay play French Montana’s “Pop That” ad nauseam while clouds of weed smoke wafted through the air. I caught Omarion dance to other artist’s songs, all the while ignoring the one thing that everybody would prefer to see at this point: a B2K reunion. I’ll admit, while I was not a fan of them during their chokehold on music (on account of being a heterosexual male) at this point I’d much rather see Omarion, Lil’ Fizz, J-Boog and Raz-B prance around the stage while singing “Bump, Bump, Bump” over Maybach O do the awkward soft shoe to a song he didn’t even make.
Ty Dolla $ign was up next, and save for Wiz Khalifa sauntering out to perform “We Dem Boyz” it was a largely “meh” performance. Los Angeles-based musicians still continue to get the shaft whenever they perform in New York (I’ll come back to that later).
Trey Songz: next.
At this point, and after seeing Chris Brown – who missed a golden opportunity to perform in 2014 since he was in jail, leaving most of the other artists to play his songs instead – struggle lip-sync through his entire performance (not even bringing out 50 Cent, G-Unit and French Montana could hold my attention) I was beginning to regret missing the Cavaliers-Warriors game, but fortunately I was able to watch it on my iPad thanks to some surprisingly quick wifi. That was a great game, and I hope that it goes the distance.
Hey look, there’s Fabolous on stage. Oh nice, he brought back out French Montana. Yea. Wait, what’s this? Busta Rhymes? Method Man?! Redman?!? The LOX?!?! Lil Kim?!?!? Mobb Deep?!?!?! Fat Joe?!?!?!? Remy Ma?!?!?!?! Ma$e?!?!?!?!? What year is this, 2004? I’m totally here for all of this.
I was so transfixed by Fab’s set that I failed to notice the massive uproar happening at the front of MetLife Stadium. Allegedly, some boneheads decided it would be a great idea to jump over the fences to catch SummerJam for free (this is all your fault, TIDAL!), which prompted security to deny entrance to those who actually bought tickets. Needless to say…
… I was now trapped, against my will, inside SummerJam. While I plotted my escape from New Jersey like a black Snake Plissken Kendrick Lamar was performing, and despite bringing out his TDE brethren ScHoolboy Q (for “Collard Greens”), SZA (for “B*tch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”) and Ab-Soul and E-40 (for “Alright”) he saved the best for last when Welven Da Great popped out. Yes, this guy…
… was now on stage bopping along with K. Dot.
— The Source Magazine (@TheSource) June 8, 2015
Meanwhile, the crowd gave a collective blank stare to all of this, with some sprinkles of excited fans in between.
Following Kendrick, Big Sean (who performed largely solo) and Meek Mill (who, after bringing out Future, naturally brought out Nicki Minaj) closed out the night. Oh wait, Troy Ave is now on stage, and he’s closing out the night. No, now Fetty Wap is closing out SummerJam.
Fortunately the fracas outside has calmed down, so I was able to leave MetLife Stadium with no problems. However, for my own personal safety (and finances. Traveling to SummerJam with no car is an adventure in itself) I may just have to sit next year’s out. Hopefully by then TIDAL won’t try to force you to pay them $9.99 to watch something that’d been free for years prior.
Pictures courtesy of Johnny Nunez and Raven Barona