UNIONDALE, New York For the second year in a row, the biggest story to come out of New York's Summer Jam, put on by radio station Hot 97, is the feud between Jay-Z and Nas. Unfortunately for the fans who went to the show Wednesday night, for the second year in a row, the Queensbridge rhyme king was not in attendance. (Click here for photos).
Advertised acts Mobb Deep, Alicia Keys, N.O.R.E. and Busta Rhymes, and special guest Cam'ron who claims he was plucked out of the audience to perform had already got on the mic. And as Ja Rule and the Murder Inc. family sang their last notes and spit their last lyrics, confetti was dropped on the crowd at Nassau Coliseum and the house lights were turned up. At any other show that would have been the automatic signal of closure, but on this night, it took a few minutes for the pondering onlookers to figure out that the headliner, Nas, was not coming.
For weeks there had been speculation about the MC it wasn't a matter of if Nas was going to exact revenge on Jay for calling him out in front of the tri-state area last year, but how. What surprises did Nas have up his sleeve? On Wednesday night, the only talk was about where he was.
"Where the f--- is Nas?" a man screeched futilely at the stage. "That's bullsh--."
A brief chant of "We want Nas!" even went out among the audience as everybody filed out.
So just where was Nas on the night he was supposed to perform at his first-ever Summer Jam? He was in New York, but he was on the air, taking no prisoners in an interview with Hot 97's rival, Power 105.
"I'm here to let my people know why I am not at the Summer Jam," he said on former Hot 97's DJ Steph Lova's show. "I been bamboozled, hoodwinked and the whole nine ... I'm here to let my people know that I was dissed this morning and told what I couldn't do on the show. Which is really outrageous and shows that the wrong people are in power ... It's really out of hand and I'm not going for it."
From there he went on to vent his frustration at what he considered Hot 97's dirty politics and called out some of their DJs, like Funkmaster Flex and Angie Martinez and the station's programmer, Tracy Cloherty. He also rampaged, among other things, about how his peers shouldn't be so willing to bow down to the powers that be.
On Thursday afternoon (June 27), Hot 97 DJs Angie Martinez and Sunny responded to Nas' screed against their station. They said the only problem the station had with Nas' performance was a planned "mock lynching" he wanted to do with Jay-Z.
"Management told him not do it," Martinez explained. "Nas then decided if he couldn't do that portion of the show, he didn't want to do any show. We were not trying to protect a specific artist, this was not about politics, money, nothing. This was just a decision that was made. That's the truth."
"They don't even know what I was about to do," Nas told radio personality Wendy Williams in a pre-taped interview that aired Thursday on New York radio station WBLS 107.5. "It wasn't even Jay I was coming after. I can't even [divulge] everything I was going to do on that stage that was going to raise the bar of hip-hop music."
There was strong Queens representation at the show, however. Two of QBs Finest, Mobb Deep, opened the show with a short film that starred themselves and included DJ Kay Slay and their manager Chris Lighty. The plot? A gun-busting break from the cops onscreen that segued into their opening number, "Get Away," onstage.
It took a while for the next artist, Missy Elliott, to get onstage. She did leave the audience in good hands, however. Elliott's guest Eve began the set with her verses from "4 My People" and "Hot Boyz" before Missy came out, showing off her slimmer figure in a black sweat suit. Missy came and went almost as fast a the one-minute man she rhymes about, only performing a few selections, including "She's a Bitch" and "Get Ur Freak On." She did take time out at the end, though, to give a tribute to Aaliyah and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.
Alicia Keys must have been peeping how the crowd last year wasn't much into the crooning songbirds (they booed Destiny's Child) (see "Jay-Z's Special Guest A Thriller For Summer Jam Crowd"). Keys showed that not only can she carry a tune, but that she's in tune with the 'hood. Hip-hop's gutter griots the LOX joined her. She sang "Troubles" over the beat to Jadakiss' "We Gonna Make It" then Kiss himself joined her for a verse off the record. His partner Styles came on with "The Life" and Keys and her background singers sang the chorus. Much like Jada received his next level-propelling stamp of approval last year at Summer Jam, the crowd overwhelmingly co-signed for Styles on "Good Times."
Foxy Brown and Capone came onstage to join N.O.R.E., who highlighted his set with his finale of "Nothin'." But no one shook things up more than P. Diddy, who danced around, jumped and rapped with Busta Rhymes.
"I'm gonna reach deep into the stash, I hope y'all ready," Busta, who had already melted the roof with M.O.P. on "Ante Up," said before Usher's recorded voice rang out around the arena. "I Need a Girl that'll ride, ride, ride."
Then the funk bassline of Puff's "I Need a Girl (Part 2)" dropped and P.D. swaggered on the stage with Loon. "Let's stop playing with them," Diddy told Busta after the song was finished, transitioning into Bus' last jam and showstopper "Pass the Courvoisier Part II."
Murder Inc. rolled out their cavalcade of singers and rappers. Ashanti defined sexiness, prancing around in her Pocahontas-like skirt, performing "Foolish" and "Happy." Ja Rule did half his songs topless, bringing out Charli Baltimore, Vita and Caddilac Tah for their various collaborations. However it all seemed anticlimactic in the end with the no-show. Many confused fans just wanted to know what happened to the closing act.
For a full-length feature on the battle between Nas and Jay-Z, check out "Nas And Jay-Z: Grade-A Beef."