New York, NY – Despite a late start, severe heat during the day, and a flash lightning storm that temporarily delayed the concert, Hot 97’s Summer Jam festival — an annual tradition that has become the station’s official summer kick-off — went off remarkably well.
Part of the fun in the festival is, of course, the pre-gaming in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium, located just outside of New York City in East Rutherford, NJ, where the famed skyline is still visible in the distance. Guests came to sell their homemade wares — everything from jerk chicken to “Oyays,” a mixed alcoholic beverage that got the user wavy within minutes of consumption — as they waited for entry.
Once entry was finally granted, the elite press corps and other sundry clients were treated to a VIP experience that included a full food and drink bar — selections included a pasta bar and steaks — that concluded with a Viennese-style dessert and candy bar.
As for the performances, they ranged the gamut in enjoyability, as these things are wont to do. The titular headliner — one Cardi B — came out to a cheering audience and kicked off her performance with “Get Up 10,” the opening track on her Invasion of Privacy album. After a roll call of the Tri-State area (including a reference to Brooklyn’s “scammin’ ass niggas,” which drew a lot of chittering from the crowd), she brought out a literal who’s who of modern Hip Hop: Blueface (for a spirited “Thotiana” remix), Offset from Migos (her husband, of course, for “Clout”), and even Billy Ray Cyrus (!!!!!) and Lil Nas X for a hilarious remix of “Old Town Road.” This writer never thought she’d live to see the day when Billy Ray Cyrus was the “surprise guest” at Summer Jam, but here we are.
Cardi B brought out Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus at Summer Jam… It was EVERYTHING! (🎥: HOT 97)
Posted by Essence on Monday, June 3, 2019
Other standout performances included Tory Lanez, whose marathon style of performing woke up the quickly-slumbering crowd, and a triple shot of female Hip Hop that included Kash Doll, Melii, and Megan Thee Stallion — though it’s safe to say that we all could have benefitted from a full performance from each of these ladies, rather than a “one-and-done” quick hit.
Performances that left much to be desired included Migos — who make excellent music, but who lack in the charisma and energy department — and Meek Mill, whose “Martin Luther Meek” routine of being a quasi-woke modern-day civil rights activist rings hollow, and whose screaming and shouting proves tiresome after a short while.
— Meek Mill (@MeekMill) June 3, 2019
At the risk of sounding like an “oldhead,” we are many light years away from Summer Jam’s former glory. Indeed, few — if any — Summer Jam lineups can come close to the 1995 lineup, which is now considered the lineup of “The Year That Changed The Culture.” How can you go wrong with a lineup that included Brandy, Soul 4 Real, Naughty By Nature, Blackstreet, Shabba Ranks, Method Man, and The Notorious B.I.G?
Additionally, Summer Jam is no longer the only game in town. Festivals such as the Governor’s Ball (whose final night was on the same night as Summer Jam) and the Roots Picnic are all vying for the attention — and the dollars — of Generation Z, and these festivals’ respective lineups is giving Summer Jam a run for its money.
But the fun in Summer Jam is not, necessarily, in the performances (although it’s certainly nice). It’s in the sense of community that the festival brings. For one day — for a few hours — attendees in the New York Tri-State area put aside their troubles and their differences, whip out the barbecue and the Henny, and just enjoy themselves for a few hours. For that reason alone, Summer Jam is a party that’s worth it, regardless of who touches the stage.
Check out photos from the event below. [All photos by Mike Lavin for GroovyTracks.com]