NEW YORK Local radio station Hot 97 (WQHT) called on MCs from the North to the South on Friday to help raise funds for victims of the September 11 tragedy.
Along with headliner Jadakiss, Ludacris, Noreaga, Fabolous, and Redman and Method Man all took to the stage for the Hip-Hop Has Heart benefit concert at Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom. (Click for onstage photos from the event.)
After Nore warmed things up for the few spectators that were in the building shortly after the 8 p.m. start time, Fabolous came on to the bass-laden thump of "Keepin' It Gangsta."
"Y'all know how we do," Fab sang, exhorting the crowd to respond and finish the chorus: "Keepin' it gangsta!" After a medley that included verses from "Get Right," "Right Now & Later On" and the remix to Mary J. Blige's "Family Affair," he brought the level of intensity up three notches with "Can't Deny It."
"Y'all can't deny it, I'm a f---ing rider/ You don't wanna f--- with me," the crowd chanted while Fab chimed in with his punchy one-liners.
Speaking of which, Fabolous threw several lyrical jabs the way of underground MC Ali Vegas, promising to leave him shaking like Muhammad Ali and to leave his "brains looking like vomit."
He went back into party mode with his closer, "Young'n'." "Got a good lawyer/ I'm gonna squeeze," he rhymed while his breakdancers came onstage to pop and do backspins while he finished up. "Thuggin', jeans and Tim's/ Fitted to the front, lean the brim/ Ride but never on teenage rims. ..."
Hip-hop's self-proclaimed version of Cheech and Chong, Redman and Method Man, followed Fab's performance with their brand of helter-skelter stage antics. Although they started the show with "Big Dogs" and "4, 3, 2, 1," the real jump-off for their set was when they performed their solo hits.
"Is it real, son?/ Let me know it's real, son/ Is it really, son, is it really real?" Meth said before he lunged headfirst in the crowd while performing "Bring the Pain." Not to be outdone, Redman hopped on top of a speaker with the agility of "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka scaling the top rope for "I'll Bee Dat."
After a plug for their upcoming movie, "How High," and its soundtrack, Red and Meth teamed up for "Part II," then brought out special guests Erick Sermon and Keith Murray, who acted as Sermon's hypeman for "Music."
A smoothed-out RZA clad in leather pants and a Nate Dogg-esque bowler hat joined the party, performing his Method Man-featured "La Rhumba." Red didn't let the crowd marinate too much on the Wu-Tang's laid-back vibe. He brought out DJ Kool for "Let's Get Dirty" before they closed with "Da Rockwilder."
As he ran around the stage, Kool said, "If you pumping this one in your truck/ Say 'Let's get dirty'/ If you really don't give a what/ Say 'Let's get dirty!' "
The next act, Ludacris, didn't waste any time with his turn on the mic; he just leveled the crowd with a barrage of his hits. He started "Area Codes" off by doing his best Nate Dogg imitation: "I got hoooos in every areaaa code." It's only right he followed that up with "Ho." His verses from Missy Elliott's "One Minute Man" and Cam'ron's "What Means the World to You" remix followed and segued into "What's Your Fantasy."
Cries of "Roll out!" came from the audience as Ludacris performed his Latin-tinged single "Roll Out (My Business)." He then took time out to tell the crowd how saddened he was about the events of September 11 and that the day was even more significant to him because it was his birthday.
"New York is my second home," he said, "let me tell you where I'm from."
"Yo, yo, yo, yo," a high-pitched voice interrupted from behind the stage, and Jermaine Dupri revealed himself to perform "Welcome to Atlanta." "Welcome to Atlanta, where the playas play/ And we ride on them things like every day," JD rapped, with Ludacris repeating his words a few bars later.
After Luda performed his first verse from the next cut, "Fatty Girl," LL Cool J received the loudest pop of the night as he stepped out for his verse. Standing in the middle of the stage, LL captivated the crowd. "…I'm talkin' down-home, smothered in gravy/ Cool J be having young ladies bustin' like 380s/ Lubricated silencers, crushing all challengers. ..."
Keith Murray followed the G.O.A.T. with his part from "Fatty Girl," but like Luda's finale, "Southern Hospitality," it seemed like an afterthought in the wake of LL's appearance.
Jadakiss' night-ending set also felt anticlimactic. He brought out Sheek and Styles, the other two members of the LOX, which was to be expected. Aside from the Jada/Styles mixtape freestyle over R. Kelly's beat for the "Fiesta" remix, "Put Ya Hands Up" was the first song Jadakiss performed in its entirely. It arrived halfway through his almost-30-minute set, which was shorter than Ludacris' and Redman and Method Man's.
Kiss admitted that it was a rough time for the Ruff Ryders. The company's co-CEO Darrin "Dee" Dean was hospitalized following a motorcycle accident on Thursday and is still in critical condition.
"Light your lighters for Dee," Kiss urged before ending on an uplifting note with "We Gonna Make It." Keeping with the night's theme of surviving through the harshest of times, the LOX chanted "We gon' make it/ We gon' make it," and the crowd chanted along.