Verbal insults! Wanton violence! Temper tantrums! Comical jpegs of foes! Mock lynchings live on stage! Sunday brings us another installment of Hot 97 Summer Jam, wherein rap’s leading lights get the chance to prove the accuracy of the adage about modern hip-hop being closer to the world of professional wrestling than anything Afrika Bambaataa ever envisaged back in the ’70s. So as a glittering lineup of Lil Wayne, Drake, Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, and the peculiarly titled Lloyd Banks And Friends—which may just be a titular ruse to get committed Ross enemy 50 Cent into the venue, what with rumors of Curtis being banned from Summer Jam events—all prepare to take the stage this Sunday, here’s a far-from-virtuous look back at Summer Jam’s most controversial moments.
5. Eminem Vs. The Source
In 2003, Eminem’s widely publicized dispute with The Source was in full swing. That year’s Summer Jam offered the bleached-blonde MC another outlet to express his disgust at former Source owners Raymond “Benzino” Scott and David Mays, with Detroit rap associate Obie Trice carting out Em’s Lyricist of the Year trinket from the magazine during his performance. After a curt outburst of “The Source was behind me from day one and now y’all shitting on me? You can have your motherfuckin’ award back!” Em smashed the (presumably pretty brittle) trophy onto the stage floor, and segued into “Lose Yourself.” Later on that night, Em continued the event’s broad bovine theme by joining 50 Cent and back-seat rabble-rouser Busta Rhymes on stage to rap through a freestyle over 2Pac’s “Hail Mary” beat aimed at Ja Rule’s Murder Inc. camp; the song included the playground-level dis of claiming that, “If ‘Pac was still here now he’d never ride with Ja/ Na, na, na, na, na, na!”
4. The Game Hollers “G-Unot” And Beats Up A Giant Rat
Summer Jam 2005 saw L.A.’s pathological beef merchant The Game take his long-simmering hatred toward former label boss 50 Cent to a new level of rap pantomime. Mentally pumping after having had the brain-wave to flip G-Unit’s name into the G-Unot slogan, The Game persuaded one of his entourage to dress up in a cartoon rat suit, ostensibly to represent 50 Cent after Game accused him of snitchin’. Then came the pretend beat-down! As Game recalled to the highbrow rap documentarians behind The Beef DVD series, “When the rat came out on stage I kinda forgot who he was… We fucked that rat up! He just start looking like 50 Cent to me.” Hit up the 4:40 mark on the video to see the world’s least-50-Cent-looking rat in existence for yourself.
3. 50 Cent Gets Digital On Ja Rule’s Ass
50 Cent and Ja Rule have relationship issues that go back many years, but Summer Jam 2003 gave Fif’ the opportunity to take his mocking of the midget rapper to an all new technological level. He broadcast a spoof P.S.A. that saw him sitting behind a computer while images of Ja Rule and his Murder Inc. cronies were beamed up and superimposed with helpful slogans like “Bitch-ass nigga.” Alas, Fif’ had yet to get up on the hilarity of the animated-gif game back in those days, although he did find time to paste in a snippet of Ja’s apparently emotionally incriminating “I Cry” flick.
2. Jay-Z’s Takeover
Jay-Z treated Summer Jam 2001 as an opportunity to demonstrate how to eviscerate pesky rap foes. Kicking parts of the Kanye West-produced “The Takeover,” Hov first lit up his long-rumored beef with Nas. But it was his next verse which effectively emasculated another challenger: Prodigy. In a blistering a capella, Jay coined classics like “You little fuck—I got money stacks bigger than you,” before dropping the death blow: After spitting “When I was pushing weight back in ’88/You was a ballerina, I got the picture, I seen ya,” images of a young Prodigy dressed in a leotard during his days at his grandmother’s dance school flashed up on a quartet of giant screens. Despite Prodigy’s recent reputation as an internet eccentric, his rap career’s never recovered; Jay, on the other hand, we hear is still doing pretty well for himself, and he even survived Cam’ron making fun of his own foppish sandal-wearing.
1. Nas’s Mock Lynching
In 1994, Nas was hip-hop’s golden boy, cast as the heir to Rakim, and all was good. By 2002, though, he was better known for being caught up in a ferocious dis war with Jay-Z that soon turned unceremonious, with Nas calling Jay-Z gay and Jay in return alleging that he’d slept with Nas’s daughter’s mother. The undignified height of the feud came during at Summer Jam 2002, when Nas attempted to lynch an effigy of Jay-Z in a 12-foot gallows live on stage. In a rare drawing of a moral line, Summer Jam organizers Hot 97–whose hosts had just the year before mocked Aaliyah’s death in an airplane crash live on air, and would soon go on to make jokes about the 2004 tsunami–refused Nas’s request, saying in a statement, “We as a radio station feel we have a responsibility to our audience and could not condone this type of simulated violence on stage in front of 16,000 people.” Cue Nas appearing on rival radio station Power 105 to criticize the decision and much of the music industry, all elucidated in the manner of a delusional crime boss left in charge of a crumbling Mafia family–a style Nas has since perfected with his subsequent tirades against Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, not being allowed to title his album Nigger, and, perhaps most shockingly of all, the decision to record a collaborative project with Damian Marley.
Hot 97 Summer Jam takes place at New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday, June 5.