Summer Jam 2021 went down on Sunday evening, despite less than ideal weather. The show featured an eclectic mix of legends and newcomers.
There’s only one major live event that could bring out thousands Tri-State residents amidst a northeastern storm. Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam event commenced at its home in East Rutherford, New Jersey at MetLife Stadium despite several flash flood warnings and complaints from supporters. Throughout its entire existence, Summer Jam has often had to co-exist with an unusual occurrence of rain nearly every year, leading some to jokingly comment that the event is cursed. With their first live production in two years, Hot 97 was determined to prove that not one storm, flood warning, or canceled festival stage could stop the main event.
Doors opened at 5 PM and by 6:45 PM Saweetie and her army of backup dancers sauntered to the stage to the sounds of “My Type.” The stadium showed no signs of emptiness as a colorful wave of moving raincoats filled the sports center. Saweetie ran through a brief set of some of her most popular songs including “Tap In,” Loui’s “Talkin’ Bout,” and her duet with Doja Cat, “Best Friend.” Following Saweetie’s appearance, Hot 97’s DJ Megan Ryte took to the stage for her set which featured rising NY star Capella Grey with his local hit “Gyalis;” Mavado who revisited classics such as “Weh Dem a Do;” and Harlem’s A$AP Ferg.
Polo G delivered a decent set that featured hit records “Pop Out” and “RAPSTAR” but failed to truly capture the audience by performing over pre-recorded vocals. Staten Island’s CJ gave a lively performance that paid homage to his hometown with the appearance of Wu-Tang Clan legends Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon.With CJ’s performance of his Drill hit “Whoopty,” Brooklyn’s new wave of talented rappers graced the stage as Fivio Foreign and Pop Smoke’s mother, Ms. Jackson, took to the stage to commemorate the legacy and impact of Pop Smoke and Brooklyn Drill.
Moneybagg Yo, the top selling rapper of 2021, dominated the Summer Jam stage with hits like “Wockeisha” and “Time Today” before sharing the stage with two of rap’s brightest rising stars 42 Dugg and EST Gee. By this point in the show, the stadium was at complete capacity, the rain had ceased, and the energy of hip-hop’s greatest legends and rising artists proved to be the perfect mixture for success.
Swizz Beatz paid homage to his friend and music collaborator DMX with a star-studded tribute that featured The Lox, Lil Kim, Busta Rhymes, Remy Ma, Fat Joe, M.O.P. Fans were shocked with the appearance of R&B legends Ron and Ernie Isley who performed one of DMX’s favorite songs “Between The Sheets.”
Da Baby, performing his first major set since his homophobic comments at Rolling Loud, spent most of his 20 minutes allotted to him throwing water in the pit, jumping into the legion of fans screaming his name, and calling fans who didn’t support his empty apology “cry-babies”— right before performing the Megan Thee Stallion-featured song of the same name. It was a sobering moment in the night that showed how much work still has to be done within the hip-hop community against toxic masculinity and fragile egos.
Migos, DJ Durel, and a very pregnant Cardi B took fans to the A with a perfect setlist that consisted of their mixtape and early hits such as “Fight Night,” “Handsome and Wealthy,” and “Bad and Boujee” before transitioning into newer records from Culture III.
French Montana indulged in a medley of hits before bringing out Rowdy Rebel and Bobby Shmurda. Their appearance caused a frenzy that sent the crowd into overdrive. As French passed the mic to Bobby while performing the NY classic “Hot N*gga,” Bobby jumped from the stage, into the media pit, and from the pit into the crowd of adoring fans waiting to officially welcome Brooklyn’s own home.
— HOT 97 (@HOT97) August 23, 2021
This excitement and energy suddenly halted when instead of allowing Rowdy and Bobby to perform their classic “Computers,” they were rushed off the stage to prepare for the final performance of the night. While it’s completely understandable of timing and production standards, Hot 97 should have anticipated the arena’s excitement with the arrival of Bobby and Rowdy. It was a failed moment that deserved so much more.
Ending the event was A Boogie with Da Hoodie who began his performance with a montage of him flying over MetLife Stadium in a helicopter before dropping down from the sky while surrounded by a group of male dancers mimicking Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” moves. Throughout his 30 minute performance, A Boogie brought out PnB Rock, Capella Grey (again), and H.E.R. who performed “Damage.”
Summer Jam 2021 proved that hip-hop and R&B is a beautiful place of growth and homage as they try to keep their pulse on the trends and legacies of such acts.
Kia Turner is a freelance journalist and music historian from Newark, New Jersey. Managing her album-based series Deconstructing or talking about Pussy Rap, you can find the Hoodaville princess at @ChasingKia on all platforms.