It might be cold outside, but Summer Jam is on its way

David Goodson | 4/19/2018, 3:05 p.m.
With its announcement Monday, Hot 97 gave the first true indicator that the wintry-like blanket we find ourselves under will ...
Summer Jam 2014 Photo by Nayaba Arinde

With its announcement Monday, Hot 97 gave the first true indicator that the wintry-like blanket we find ourselves under will soon dissipate, at least by June 10. That marks the date of the biggest concert in hip-hop, Hot 97’s Summer Jam. Taking place at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, this is year 25 of the festival and it has the makings of a show befitting such a landmark. As homage to the Souls of Mischiefs’ classic, “93 Til Infinity,” year 25 of the series will carry a variation of the moniker entitled “94 Til Infinity.”

“Our team got together and felt the theme 94 Til Infinity captured where Summer Jam is today launching into the 25th year,” said Ebro Darden, assistant program director and co-host of Hot 97’s morning show, “Ebro in the Morning.”

Darden continued, “We wanna make sure the culture knows we plan to keep it cracking for the tristate and hip-hop. Summer Jam has established itself as a mainstay in an artist’s evolution since the beginning, and we will keep working with artists and fans to keep the same energy.” But he offered later that there is a degree of pressure on the performers. “Careers are made and broken,” he warned.

An animated Funk Master Flex added, “You know what it is, somebody is gonna shock the crowd and somebody’s gonna flop. So artist get your show together. Don’t come in there and flimflam. It’s gonna be a lot of special guests in there, and you could get hurt. Your whole brand and everything. Step your game up. It’s 25. If you stand still when you perform, this show’s not for you.”

Manning the main stage this year are Tory Lanez, Swizz Beatz & Friends, Remy Ma, Rich the Kid, Megan Ryte & Friends, Bobby & Jabba with Adiona, Kranium and Konshens, A Boogie wit da Hoodie and Hood Celebrityy, A$AP Ferg, Lil Wayne and headliner Kendrick Lemar. Tickets are available Friday at Ticketmaster.com.

As a sidebar, the headline announcement comes on the heels of Lemar being nominated for 15 Billboard Music Awards and actually winning a 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Winning a Pulitzer Prize! That definitely gives an added meaning to the album’s title, “DAMN.” This award is the first time since the Music category was established (1943) that a non-classical or jazz artist has been bestowed with the honor. The administrator of the Pulitzer Prize Board, Dana Canedy, declared in interview after the announcements, “The time was right. We are very proud of this selection. It means that the jury and the board judging system worked as it’s supposed to—the best work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.”

She concluded, “It shines a light on hip-hop in a completely different way. This is a big moment for hip-hop music and a big moment for the Pulitzers.”

The collective Board defined Lemar’s album “DAMN” as a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”

Couldn’t agree more with that statement. Yet that could be applied to his previous three releases. Therefore, the question can be begged: Why now? I mean, I get the whole acknowledging hip-hop thing, but he’s the first non-classical or jazz musician ever to win in a category since 1943! Were Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley not around during that time frame? Is this award an accomplishment for Lemar or an indictment of the Pulitzers? The bio for the category explains that the definition and entry requirements of the music category beginning with the 1998 competition were broadened to attract a wider range of American music. In an indication of the trend toward bringing mainstream music into the Pulitzer process, the 1997 prize went to Wynton Marsalis’ “Blood on the Fields,” which has strong jazz elements, the first such award. In music, the Board also took tacit note of the criticism leveled at its predecessors for failure to cite two of the country’s foremost jazz composers. It bestowed a Special Citation on George Gershwin, marking the 1998 centennial celebration of his birth, and Duke Ellington on his 1999 centennial year. In 2004, the Board further broadened the definition of the prize and the makeup of its music juries, resulting in a greater diversity of entries. In 2007, the music prize went to Ornette Coleman for “Sound Grammar,” the first live jazz recording to win the award. The Board also awarded posthumous Special Citations to jazz composers Thelonious Monk in 2006 and John Coltrane in 2007.

Let’s see where this award leads.

Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.