EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — "Where else but Hot 97's Summer Jam?" For 11 years people have asked that question.
The New York radio station's annual stage parade of music A-listers has become legendary because of both its historic and infamous moments, and Saturday's show at Giants Stadium certainly upheld that tradition.
R. Kelly headlined a bill that included tri-state reps the G-Unit, Alicia Keys and Jadakiss, along with Dirty South bigwigs Ludacris, the Ying Yang Twins, Big Boi of Outkast and Lil Jon (see "Judge Allows R. Kelly To Travel, Headline Summer Jam Concert"). Throw the Midwest's Kanye West, Twista and Chingy in the mix and you have a show that more than 50,000 people spent Saturday night seeing and the past 48 hours talking about.
The biggest drama of the night came from the G-Unit. No big surprise there. But what had everyone so baffled was why 50 Cent was so moody, dissing R. Kelly and throwing the mic down in disgust before exiting the stage. 50 started his crew's set by cuing up the famous Summer Jam screen. As anyone familiar with Summer Jam will tell you, if another artist puts you up on the screen, it's not to give you props.
Last year 50 put Ja Rule on blast, and this year he had more in store for his longtime foe, introducing the "Grannie Awards," a pre-taped mock awards show. After announcing the nominees for Wackest Rapper — Ja, Joe Budden and Murder Inc.'s Black Child — 50 said it was a three-way tie. Other Grannies went to Lil' Kim for having the most plastic surgery, The Source for being the worst hip-hop magazine, and Beyoncé for being the sexiest.
Tony Yayo, who was making his first public appearance since being released from jail (see "Tony Yayo's Back — And Spending Like A Fiend"), came out with enough energy to make Busta Rhymes look sedate, yelling, "I'm Tony Yayo, the talk of New York!" The rest of the Unit (with the exception of the absent Game) came out on four-wheel bikes.
The familiar favorite "What Up Gangsta" got things jumping. Then 50 attacked the Inc. again by teasing "I Smell Pu---" and "Back Down" before letting Lloyd Banks lead the charge with his solo offerings "Warrior" and "On Fire."
Flames rose from the stage before Banks started rhyming, "Nah, I ain't putting nothing out, I smoke when I wanna." The theme of defiance stayed prevalent with Young Buck, who performed the solo cut "Let Me In."
With the drama coming from the speakers, tensions started spewing from the crowd when members of the audience began throwing chairs at the G-Unit. According to witnesses, the chair tossers wore Silver Back Guerilla T-shirts, a crew whose members have had a long-running feud with 50.
The ruckus didn't stop the show or even faze the Unit. The music kept going, and when the records stopped for a few seconds, Yayo simply told the crowd, "Something always happens when the G-Unit is around."
As the Unit pressed on with their set, 50 performed "In Da Club," "P.I.M.P." and introduced the new first lady of G-Unit, Olivia, who stars in Banks' "Smile" video. Lloyd rapped to her during his live performance of the cut.
Guest star Joe then came out for his two collaborations with the G-Unit, "Wanna Get to Know You" and "Ride Wit U." Although it seemed like fans were rocking with the G-Unit, the response apparently wasn't what 50 had hoped for. He told the people they shouldn't be frontin' and standing still. "I want y'all to know I know you love me," he said sarcastically.
50 also asked the audience if it was ready to see R. Kelly, and when the crowd screamed, he mocked Kelly's step dance and his sex-tape scandal. Later, after G-Unit DJ Whoo Kid said their time was up and they had to leave, 50 dared the police to come get him. The grand finale of "Stunt 101" wasn't so grand. After 50 performed his verse, he cut Banks off as his friend began to spit. Still unhappy with the crowd, 50 huffed, threw his mic down and left.
Kells showed no sign of being upset about the 50 Cent dis as he started off his set by singing his part from "The Best of Both Worlds." Kelly, too, wanted to make sure the fans were with him. But unlike 50, he was pleased with what he saw. Kelly's DJ would play snippets of some of his biggest hits, including "R&B Thug" and "Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)," teasing the people and then going to the next track just as they started to sing along.
"I'm just warming up. I'm just making sure y'all with me," he said.
He finally let the audience sing a whole song when he hit "Your Body's Callin'," and the R. had a good laugh when he let the crowd rap Jay-Z's verse to their collaboration "Take You Home With Me (a.k.a. Body)." He let the audience sing his own lyrics on "12 Play," but they were of no help on the new cut "Zoo," which he delivered a cappella. "It's like a jungle atmosphere and we two monkeys, baby," he sang. At one point he referred to himself as a "sexasaurus" and delivered a loud animal call: "Ooohoooh ahah."
A cut that Kelly started performing a cappella last year at various concerts, "Sex in the Kitchen," was reintroduced, but this time as a full song with a beat to accompany it. He ended with another new song. "Prayer Changes" was introduced with a brief story about how his older brother battled with a drug habit for years before finally kicking his addiction through the power of prayer.
Kelly sang the first verse of the song from the perspective of a woman in an abusive relationship, the second verse was about a college athlete in danger of flunking off the basketball team, and the third focused on a couple in jeopardy of breaking up. All three scenarios were changed for the better by prayer.
But before Kelly put R in R&B, Alicia Keys took the stage to put the soul in hip-hop soul. She delivered her hit "You Don't Know My Name," but she also brought out Treach from Naughty by Nature to perform "O.P.P.," Dres from Black Sheep to rap "The Choice Is Yours" and Public Enemy to rap "Don't Believe the Hype" and "Fight the Power."
The loudest show of love during the night came during Lil Jon's set via another surprise, Fat Joe and the Terror Squad. Jon had already murdered the crowd with help from his crunk all-stars Bone Crusher (of course he took off his shirt), the Youngbloodz, the Ying Ying Twins and Trillville, but before he left, he asked what the hottest song in New York was.
Joe came out as the first few notes of "Lean Back" began, then Jon yelled, "Puuuuull up!," signaling the DJ to restart the record. Joe rapped the dance anthem's first verse, but Jon once again yelled for the record to be played from the top, getting the spectators more hyped. Finally, the king of crunk let Joe and Remy Martin do the entire record. Virtually everyone in the stadium followed the command to "Lean Back" (see "Fat Joe, Dropout Bear Demonstrate The Hot Dances Of The Summer").
Other guests at Summer Jam 2004 included Trick Daddy, who came out with the Ying Yang Twins; Ghostface, who was a guest of Jadakiss; Lil' Flip and Beenie Man, who performed during Ludacris' set; and Farnsworth Bentley, who stole the show during Big Boi's set.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.