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Some say that Memorial Day is the beginning of summer. When it comes to the tri-state area, however, this is not true. For those folks, summer begins with Hot 97’s annual concert, Summer Jam, which goes down tonight.

The event, which will take place at the New Meadowlands Stadium, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, turns 20, and the lineup is freakin’ stacked. Performing at the show tonight is Chris Brown, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Wu-Tang Clan, A$AP Rocky, Fabolous, Wale, French Montana, Miguel, Joe Budden and more.
It’s going to be a great show, there’s no question about that. The question that remains, however, is will there be a memorable moment that will match the unforgettable Summer Jam moments of the past?

We will soon find out.

But until then, let’s look back at the 13 most epic moments in Summer Jam history.  

13. The Game disses G-Unit in their own backyard. (2005)

In 2003 50 Cent and his G-Unit click gave one of the most memorable Summer Jam performances of all time (more on that later). However, a year later, things became a little more…tense. G-Unit got in an altercation with old Queens buddies Bang ‘Em Smurf and Domination, who were in front row, and who started to throw chairs at the crew. After that incident, 50 wasn’t invited back for a number of years. So when 2005 came, it wasn’t anyone from G-Unit hitting the stage; it was the crew’s new nemesis at the time, The Game, tearing things down. The rapper, who had departed from the click earlier in the year, memorably threw his G-Unit chain in the crowd while yelling “G-Unot” during his set.

12. Aaliyah gives one final Sumer Jam performance. (2000)

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In August of 2001, Aaliyah tragically lost her life in a plane crash. One of the last truly great moments of her career occurred a year before she passed when she performed at the 2000 Summer Jam. At that time, Aaliyah had one of the hottest songs on the radio, “Try Again,” which is off of the Romeo Must Die soundtrack.

11) Ja Rule and Cam’ron rock out for Nas, who is M.I.A. (2002)

Dropping “Ether” on em’ wasn’t enough. No. Nas needed more revenge. So the plan he came up with was to lynch a fake Jay-Z on the Summer Jam stage, a year after Jay-Z called him out on the same stage. However, suits at the top weren’t having it, and they told Nas he couldn’t go through with the lynching. So Nas pulled out in the last minute and blasted the radio station on Power 105, the rival radio station. At the last minute Ja Rule (who was still very much hot at the time) and Cam’ron, who, apparently, was just chilling in the parking lot, came up to bat and performed for Nas.

10. Wu Tang disses Hot 97. . .at their own event. (1997)

In most kind of shows, the act headlining the event usually comes on last. It’s not really like that when it comes to Summer Jam. Folks from the tri-state area are notoriously impatient. People will leave before the final act goes on stage so they can beat traffic. Back in 1997, Wu Tang Clan was the act that ended up going on last. They gave a memorable performance but the crew was pissed. People in the crowd already started leaving and The Wu blamed the radio station, which provoked the fellas on stage to start yelling “fuck Hot 97.” They also shouted out the rival radio station at the time, KISS-FM, which isn’t around anymore.

9. Lil Wayne is the best rapper in the world. (2008)

The often-delayed Tha Carter III was the most anticipated album in the world in the beginning of the summer of 2008. The album was set to be released on June 10. A week before that Wayne put on one of the most memorable Summer Jam performances of all time. And the crowd was ready. (A funny moment occurred earlier in the day when a shirtless rapper with dreads appeared on stage, and the crowd erupted, only to realize that it was Ace Hood. Silence then came.) Memorable moments occurred when Wayne performed “A Milli” and mixtape standout “Pussy Monster.” 

 8. Nas replaces Nicki Minaj at the last moment, brings out Lauryn Hill. (2012)

There was so much drama at last year’s Summer Jam. The tension started when the morning show host Peter Rosenberg made unflattering comments about Nicki Minaj’s “Starship” song during the performances at the little stage. Wayne found out about the comment and sent out a Tweet saying that no one from Young Money would be performing at Summer Jam that year (sans Tyga who didn’t get the memo, we guess). So, poof, just like that, Nicki Minaj, who was supposed to be the headliner, was out. In came Nas, who was gonna come out during Nicki’s set. Nas took her place, rocking the show. A highlight came when he brought out Lauryn Hill, who performed “If I Ruled the World” and “Lost Ones.”    

7. Jay-Z deads autotone in front of T-Pain. (2009)

A couple of days before Summer Jam 2009, FunkMaster Flex debuted a new song called “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune),” which was the first single off of Jay’s The Blueprint 3 album. So the rapper decided to perform the cut live during Summer Jam, when Young Jeezy had the rapper come out on stage during his set. Things would turn kinda funny and uncomfortable when T-Pain, who was also performing that night, came out on stage and started to stand next to Hov while he performed the song.

6. Kanye West and Swizz Beatz have an epic beat battle. (2007)

Kanye West vs. Swizz Beatz. Who is the better producer? During 2007’s Summer Jam, the two producers, who are friendly, proceeded to have a dope beat battle on stage to settle this debate. After about five minutes of this, the winner waaaaas…honestly, it was a draw.

5. 50 Cent, G-Unit and Eminem bury Ja Rule. (2003) 

On February 6th, 50 Cent dropped the all-time classic album Get Rich or Die Tryin.’ After that bomb hit, there was no rapper who was hotter than 50 Cent. So it only made sense for the Queens-based rapper to close out Summer Jam. And he did not disappoint. Not only did he bring out Eminem and G-Unit, but he also took time to crush Ja Rule, with a video appearing on the big screen attacking Ja’s character. 

4. Notorious B.I.G. is the King of New York. (1995) 

New York rap in the ’90s was famously competitive. And there was no rapper bigger than Notorious B.I.G., which is why he headlined the second annual Summer Jam. Not only did the rapper have his own set, but also he came out to help Total when they hit the stage.   

3. Jay-Z and Kanye West throw up their “Diamonds.” 

Jay-Z hadn’t been back to Summer Jam since the iconic 2001 performance. In 2005 Jay came home, and what a performance he gave. Two years after he “retired” from the rap game, with The Black Album, Jay came out during Kanye West’s performance to do his stellar verse from “Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix).” Great moment.  

2. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Eminem rep for Aftermath. 

The other day, the Village Voice ran a piece celebrating 20 years of Summer Jam. In that piece, the Voice talked to Ralph McDaniels, the legendary host of Video Music Box. He’s seen all the Summer Jams, and he said 2000’s show, which featured Dr. Dre, Eminem and Snoop Dogg as the headliner, was the year the event really became big: 

“I think 2000 was pretty big. You had Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z on the same show. You also had Ca$h Money on the bill, who were getting really popular. I think the show was bigger, it was a lot of artists.”

1. Jay-Z debuts “Takeover,” exposes Prodigy and brings out the real G. O. A. T., Michael Jackson.

There’s a reason why when you think Summer Jam, you think Jay-Z. In 2001 he was behind the greatest Summer Jam moment of all time. Summer Jam 2001 was when Jay-Z first declared war on Mobb Deep and Nas, when he debuted “Takeover.” Jay was especially vicious towards Prodigy — Jay would show pics of Prodigy in dance clothes as a kid on the big screen. 

That wasn’t the highlight, however. That came at the end when Jay played the Jackson 5-sampling “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” his new single at the time, he brought out the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.

Best. Summer. Jam. Ever.