Hot 97's Summer Jam: A Preview
Wired and well-connected
Summer Jam probably isn't the defining annual big-money rap moment that it was in years past. In the past two years, no major beefs have been started, extended, or ended on that Summer Jam screen, and there hasn't been a holy-shit surprise-guest moment on anything like the level of Jay-Z bringing out Michael Jackson. Mostly, these days Summer Jam is just the moment where people look at the lineup, scratch their heads, and then bitch about how bad rap is these days. But! I'm going, and I'm really looking forward to it. I've only been to the past two Summer Jams, but I've never not had fun, even last year, when the one big special surprise guest was an endlessly punishing and spirit-crushing day-long rainstorm. From where I'm sitting, Summer Jam is basically the equivalent of those traveling 50s and 60s variety shows when, like, the Supremes and Eddie Cochran and the Coasters and Waylon Jennings would get onstage, do their couple of big hits, and then disappear immediately. The stage managers at Summer Jam are just completely ruthless; two years ago, they cut T.I.'s half-hour set short just as "What You Know" was starting, and I'm surprised a riot didn't break out. The performers this year will have time to do their hits and bring out their guests, and that'll be it. And stadium-level efficiency like that makes for a good show. It just does. So after last year's wildly inaccurate speculation about what'd go down on Sunday's show, here's the sequel, which will probably be just as wrong.
Alicia Keys. Keys is the big special-guest late-addition, which makes me wonder whether ticket sales were way down this year and Hot 97 was just trying to do what Coachella did by shelling out ridonkulous sums of money to recruit Prince. If that's the case, I have to say, Alicia Keys is a deeply sad Prince equivalent, iron grip on radio playlists notwithstanding. And if the Mary J. Blige set from two years ago is any indication, Keys's set will be both the most professional and the most boring of the day. Stadium crowds are nothing new to Keys, and she's definitely got enough hits to keep everyone interested, but she's way too tasteful and bland of an artist to try for any of the headline-grabbing stunts of which Summer Jam legend are made. As for special guests, the best we can hope for is probably Damian Marley on the "No One" reggae remix.
Kanye West. Given that Kanye's coming off the earth-shattering Glow in the Dark tour, I guess there's some possibility that he'll attempt a scaled-down version of that same live show on the Summer Jam stage. I can't see it, though. There's no way his army of stagehands would have time to build that set, and Kanye is such a stickler for details that he probably wouldn't consent to a halfassed version of that elaborate show. I'm hoping Kanye ends up in the de facto headliner spot (second from last, since everyone leaves whenever the last artist is on), which is always the time when all the huge surprise guests show up. Obviously, our best shot of a surprise Jay-Z appearance comes here. And honestly, there aren't too many big names who Kanye wouldn't bring out; I'm fully expecting some combination of Nas, Jeezy, T.I., and Chris Martin. Kanye will almost certainly do the "Lollipop" remix with Lil Wayne. I wouldn't even rule out a 50 Cent appearance here. Or, hell, Michael Jackson. Kanye has more pull than anyone right now, and he loves big moments.
Rihanna. I do sort of expect Rihanna to reprise her Glow in the Dark show, since it was pretty much awesome and since it's basically the first indication we've had that Rihanna is a stadium-sized star. A Chris Brown cameo here seems just about inevitable, and we could also get Jay-Z here. Ne-Yo will probably show up for "Hate That I Love You." Adam Levine could show up for that song she does with Maroon 5, but I hope not. I'd love to say that M.I.A. might come out on Rihanna's "Paper Planes" cover, but I just can't convince myself that something like that might happen, and anyway, if it did, all the kids in the audience would have no idea what was happening.
T-Pain. This had to happen, huh? T-Pain was on the bill at last year's show, but I don't remember seeing him; I was probably hiding from rain when he was on. But this show comes after his chart-dominating ascendancy, so we'll probably get some ridiculous parade of doofuses who have hired T-Pain for guest-chorus duties. Hey, maybe 2 Pistols and Tay Dizm will be there! This will probably be a pretty solid midday set, and I'd bet money on Flo-Rida and Rick Ross making appearances. Maybe Akon too, but I don't want to get too crazy here.
Ray J & Yung Berg. Speaking of crazy. What the hell are these jokers doing on the bill? They've got like two hits between them! This is just dumb. I'm thinking they'll probably go on last, when everyone is leaving, and they'll do the same thing Rich Boy did last year: they'll do their two songs, and then they'll give the stage to Jim Jones. Except people won't care as much about Jim Jones this year.
The-Dream. Fuck this guy. I saw his opening set on the Jay-Z/Mary J. Blige show, and he just did his three unbearable songs and got out of the way, so at least he won't be hogging the stage. Maybe he'll bring out Fabolous or some shit. Honestly, who the fuck cares.
D-Block. Hey, New York rappers at a New York rap show! What a concept! On the show's site, this is billed as "D-Block featuring Styles P and Sheek Louch," which is disquieting. Why isn't it "the Lox"? And is Jadakiss just not showing up? My guess is that this'll be a mid-afternoon NY-rap nostalgia-set, sort of like Mobb Deep two years ago except better. These guys have too many great singles to name, and their set at the Zune Barbecue last year was pretty much all those hits in rapid sequence. Plus Sheek actually had an inescapable radio hit this year (the pretty great "Good Love"), so they won't even look out of place up there. As long as I hear "Money Power Respect," I'm good.
Public Enemy. Uh, what? Is this because of Flavor of Love? Jesus, I'm getting depressed just thinking about that. Even if they're a truly left-field choice for a show like this, I'm guessing this'll pretty much rule. I ran into Chris Weingarten on the street this morning, and he told me about the Public Enemy set he just saw in London: Nation of Millions in its entirety, followed by a crazy intense forty-minute medley of all their hits. If that forty-minute medley happens on Sunday, I'll bug the fuck out. Kids will be confused, but whatever.
Lil Wayne featuring Gym Class Heroes. Again, what? Why? Why the fuck is this happening? Can't I just be amped about seeing Lil Wayne? Doesn't he realize that "featuring Gym Class Heroes" are about the four most buzz-killing words in the English language? Honestly, I'm still amped to see Wayne, and those jokers will probably only share the stage with him for a song or two, but still. I do not understand this, and I probably won't understand it any better come Monday.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.