Anything can happen. That’s the very sentiment that coincides with each and every Hot 97 Summer Jam, also known as the “biggest hip-hop concert in the world.” For well over two decades, the long-standing New York station has hosted hip-hop’s biggest and greatest stars (The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jay Z, Big Pun, Eminem, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and many, many more) for moments written in the rap history books. And each of those guests have either delivered or been a part of quintessential surprises that shook the game to its core.
DJ Khaled, Migos, Chris Brown and Biggie Tribute set for Hot 97’s Summer Jam 2017
As anticipation builds for all the unexpectedness set to take place this weekend (June 11), including chatter about a possible Biggie hologram, lets take a trip back to Summer Jam’s most unforgettable surprises.
Nas and 50 Cent reuniting on stage
One of the biggest moments of Summer Jam 2014 was one that was unadvertised: the reunion of the rap giant G-Unit. Together, the legendary foursome reunited strong in front of 50,000 strong and this came after months of public turmoil. But that wasn’t the only historic moment. Right before G-Unit reassembled, 50 reunited with another former ally: Nas.
Esco, who performed a 20-year anniversary set for Illmatic, brought 50 to the stage, where they put their troubled past in the past and emerged as two standing titans. Sharing the the stage with their entire Queens entourage, the two sides blessed fans with quite the moment.
The epic Swizz Beatz vs. Kanye West beat battle
For his Summer Jam set in 2007, Swizz Beatz, who was riding high off the hit singles “Money in the Bank” and “It’s Me” for his album One Man Band Man, decided to flip the script. 10 years before he would stage an unforgettable beat battle with Just Blaze, Swizzy squared up with Kanye West, who himself was setting up the release of Graduation, for an epic producer showdown. Playing the best of their catalogs, Ye playing classics like “Takeover” and “Stand Up” while Swizz weaved with “Banned from T.V.” and “Jigga My Nigga,” the two volleyed back and forth for several minutes. In the end, Swizz walked out victorious but in all actuality, it was the crowd who were the real winners.
In an interview with Drink Champs, Swizz called the showdown epic but said it could have been crazier if Kanye stuck to the original script. “The craziest part, I told him my playlist, he told me his playlist. I kept my playlist and he changed his playlist,” Swizz said. “When it was showtime, I heard songs he didn’t present [previously]. The songs he picked before, I thought it was a little stronger. I wanted him to be great and me to be great. And he was great. But I think the selection that we first had was better. Because it’s not like me going on the Summer Jam stage and showing off on another person because that man is talented. He’s a genius. He’s a master of his craft just like Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Pharrell, Just Blaze, all the producers. They’re masters of their own crafts.”
Busta Rhymes bringing out Diddy, Mariah Carey, and more
At Summer Jam 2003, Busta Rhymes basically became the walking halftime show. Pulling out all the stops, Bussa Buss not only performed with 50 Cent and Eminem for their version of “Hail Mary” (aimed at Ja Rule), but he delivered surprises galore during his own set. Before DJ Khaled became the master of special guests, Busta held court and brought out stars like Diddy, Sean Paul, Bonecrusher (“Never Scared” in 2003 was the hottest record out), and the one and only Mariah Carey for “I Know What You Want.” Like the title to his 2006 album, this was the big bang.
Jeezy brings out Drake and Jay Z
Like the title suggests, Jeezy provided the perfect example of Summer Jam’s penchant for unannounced guests for the 2009 edition of the concert. Riding high off the success of The Recession, released almost a year prior, Jeezy performed a greatest hits set. After shouting “This is Summer Jam isn’t it,” Jeezy then brought out Drake, whose So Far Gone was the soundtrack of the year, for “Best I Ever Had.” To follow that up, Mr. 17.5 then brought out Mr. Summer Jam himself, Jay Z, who walked out to uproarious applause as he performed his remix verse on Jeezy’s “Put On.” Dressed in all black, Hov followed up with his lyrical eulogy to Auto-Tune, “D.O.A.,” which debuted on Hot 97 just two days prior to the concert. There was also a moment during the set when Jay pantomimed the sign of the cross while requesting a moment of silence — all while T-Pain bizarrely stood on the stage.
Fabolous brings out the entire Big Apple
If Jay Z is the King of Summer Jam, Fabolous is arguably an emperor himself. At Summer Jam 2015, the BK rapper made that all the most certain. Bringing out New York giants, Fab blessed the MetLife Stadium with performances by M.O.P., Method Man & Redman, Raekwon, Remy Ma and Fat Joe, Lil Kim, Ma$e, and more. By the time he left the stage, he took the rest of Summer Jam with him.
Jay Z bringing out Michael Jackson and debuting “Takeover”
It’s a shame that the moments of moments doesn’t have a YouTube clip associated with it, besides an audio version and photos. In 2001, Jay Z made Summer Jam (and the screen) bigger than it ever was. As attention rose thick on the road leading to his sixth studio album, The Blueprint, Jay had big fish to fry.
He was in the midst of a rap feud with Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, which featured a slew of subliminal disses volleyed back and forth, that was relatively low-key until Summer Jam 2001. Making it (very) public, Jay took to hip-hop’s biggest stage and debuted a new song called, “Takeover.” He performed the second verse a cappella and took the opportunity to humiliate P on the four large screens above the stage with an unearthed photo of the “Shook Ones” rapper as a kid dressed in leotards and a sparkling jacket as a dancer from his grandmother’s dance school. “You was a ballerina, I got the picture, I seen ya,” he famously rapped. To close, he ended off the very line that would spark the greatest rap feud ever: “Ask Nas, he don’t want it with Hov.” That half a bar would change the game.
But that wasn’t all.
Pulling all stops, the King of Summer Jam upped the ante by bringing out the very man he samples on “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” Michael Jackson. After performing the Jackson 5–sampling hit, Jigga told the crowd during his headlining set, “I know Michael Jackson better come from behind that muthaf—kin’ curtain.” From there, he went backstage and returned with MJ, sending the entire stadium into a frenzy. No proper video footage has surfaced from this moment, but Hot 97 did interview Hov after the moment of moments and his response is priceless.
Unarguably the greatest night in Summer Jam history —none before it, none to come.
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