Hard as it might be for some to believe, but this year marked the 25th anniversary of the seminal, New York-based — but New Jersey hosted — hip-hop live event known as Summer Jam. Curated and promoted by the radio station Hot 97, Summer Jam has had a long and storied history, filled with more iconic moments and, if we’re being honest, career-scarring disasters than just about any other event on the calendar in its quarter-century history.
Though there weren’t any moments from this year’s iteration that quite matched the time Jay-Z debuted “The Takeover” while flashing an image of Prodigy as a child in embarrassing ’80s dancewear, and bringing out Michael Jackson back in 2001, it was a pretty memorable experience nonetheless.
Many fans were amped for the appearance of Lil Wayne, whose monumental album Tha Carter III was celebrating its 10th anniversary that very day. The former Cash Money MC stated strong with tight performances of “Mr. Carter” and “Sky’s the Limit,” but then forgot the words to “I’m Me,” disappointing some in the crowd.
One of the biggest highlights of the night was the appearance of Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill, who was recently awarded his freedom on bail, after a long and convoluted battle with a judge in his hometown. Meek came out to a boisterous ovation, hitting the stage on a dirt bike and launching right away into “Dreams and Nightmares.”
The night’s headliner was the self-proclaimed “greatest rapper” Kendrick Lamar, who set about to show why he’s earned that title — along with a Pulitzer — with a barnburner of a set that included cuts from his most recent album DAMN. As an added bonus, he also brought out his TDE labelmate Jay Rock, who’s new album Redemption drops this Friday, June 15.