Ashanti Takes Manhattan; Loon Gives First Solo Show In New York

Ja Rule, Fat Joe, Da Band also performed in New York radio show extravaganza.

NEW YORK — The Murder Inc. and Bad Boy families joined forces Thursday night for radio station Hot 97's Hot Summer Night. Located at a pier off of the Westside Highway, water, boats and helicopters served as the stage's backdrops as Ashanti and Loon performed.

"I don't remember ever feeling like this," Ashanti, the night's headliner, yelled with excitement as the opening notes of her first selection, "Baby," came through the speakers.

"Oh my God, it's bananas out here!" she marveled, taking in the crowd's applause and affectionate reception.

"This is a big summer record," Ashanti told the audience before getting into her verses for the next cut,  "I Found Lovin.' " Murder Inc.'s princess was then joined by her dancers for the sugary dance remake.

There wasn't anything sweet about Irv Gotti when he came out onstage. Throughout the night, he was hurling more profanity from his mouth than a fleet of sailors.

"What, y'all thought y'all wasn't gonna see me?" I.G. asked the crowd as he scampered out with a mic in his hand, serving as Ashanti's hypeman on "Happy."

"In honor of the Queen Mary, let's take it there," Gotti said, signaling to the DJ as "Happy" progressed. The beat then changed to the same track Mary J. Blige used for her song "Mary's Joint." A little later, the retooled "Happy" segued into the remix.

"Pump ya fist like this," Gotti and his R&B pop star told the audience, waving their arms up and down, while Notorious B.I.G.'s voice emanated from the speakers. "Delivering chills up your spine/ That ass is mine," they screamed.

The jubilant feelings carried over to Fat Joe's "What's Luv?"  The Terror Squad Don himself came out, bopping and grooving with grace as he paid homage to ménage à trois and encouraged "crushin' " between the sheets.

The Incsters then shifted their focus from the old bangers to new material.

"We want to give y'all a taste of this mutha----in' number one album," Gotti told the crowd, referring to Ashanti's Chapter II LP. "We don't just like performing the mutha----in' hits."

Slated to be her next release, the crowd sang along with "Rain on Me," but their interest seemed to wane as she went into "Then Ya Gone."

Instead of dancing and singing along, folks just stood there looking at her like it was a fashion show. Clearly it was time to bring back the hits.

After Ashanti launched into "Foolish" and a piece of "Unfoolish" to regain the audience's enthusiasm, Ja Rule generated screams by bounding onstage on for "Always on Time."

The Rule brought his usual combustible energy, getting some of the crowd to rap with him.

"And when I play you, play the same way," some spectators sang as he motioned his mic toward them. "You freak me baby, I f--- you crazy, then I'm gone."

But it was Ashanti who was gone shortly after her finale of "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)."

After the set, Gotti thanked everyone.

"I'm a gangsta, but I love all y'all mutha----as!" he exclaimed.

The night's opening act, Loon, got his gangsta lean on while performing one of his first solo shows in front of his hometown crowd. He started off his brief set with his current single, "How You Want That." Showing off his Harlem swagger, P. Diddy's top gun strutted across the stage with a wide a grin, dropping rhymes.

"I be that young handsome cat," he rapped. "Same color chocolate/ Same n---a pop sh--, same n---a got sh--/ Loon ain't no lame, Loon never gossip."

"Say 'bad, bad, boy, boy,' " he instructed the audience in between songs. After snippets of his cameo verses from "Freeway" and "I Need a Girl Part One," P. Diddy and Mario Winans joined him for the much more club-friendly "I Need a Girl Part 2."

"They like you, kid, they like you," Puff said to Loon, citing the fans' applause when the set ended. 

"They like you too," a laughing Loon said to his boss, giving him a pound.

The people at the pier really liked Diddy's new group, Da Band, from "Making the Band 2." Frederick, Ness, Chopper, Dylan, Sara and Babs came out onstage before and after Loon's set to cheers. The reaction felt so good to Chopper, he threw his T-shirt into the audience. Seems like they're learning what it takes to be stars already.