1. Winner: Nicki Minaj
Two years after she backed out of her 2012 headlining performance because Hot 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg insulted her pop-leaning single “Starships,” she was a king among legends at Sunday’s show. And her flawless set, which included appearances from Drake and Lil Wayne, was the night’s best case for the enduring relevance of the Summer Jam stage, reassuring the crowd that New Yorkers still become trendsetting, mainstream stars.
2. Winner: Drake
Around 11 p.m., Nicki trolled the crowd hard with a theatrical monologue. “Its a n****s in Young Money, I don’t fuck with no more,” she said. “Drake, I used to love you. But I don’t love you no more.” As the stadium fell into a cold sweat, the the beat for Drake’s “Worst Behavior” dropped, and Drake appeared, all smiles. And then, Nicki jumped up to give him a full-body hug.
3. Loser: Misogyny
Lil Wayne rapped his verse from Chris Brown’s “Loyal” during Nicki Minaj’s set, concluding with the song’s refrain — “These hoes ain’t loyal!” Before the song could play on, Nicki cut it off.
“Wayne, what you mean these hoes ain’t loyal? It’s loyal women in the building,” she retorted, as the women who made up at least 40% of Sunday’s crowd screamed their support.
4. Winner: Rihanna
Ahead of her big CFDA award acceptance, Rihanna was just chilling backstage, soaking up love and support from her homegirl Nicki.
5. Winners: Every personality in the parking lot
6. Winner: Soulja Boy
Southern rap has been clawing its way up the Summer Jam ladder from the bottom for years. But Soulja Boy being on stage during the event’s spotless headlining set, after Nas and 50 Cent had come and gone, feels particularly barrier-breaking. One of rap’s first internet sensations, Soulja Boy has spent his entire career weirdly leaping over the typical stepping stones of hip-hop cred — but this particular jump felt like a real coup.
7. Winner: Young Thug
Nicki brought out Young Thug to perform her remix of his song “Danny Glover.” Thug has never performed an official show in New York before. For his debut on this celebrated stage, he wore an ace bandage-like surgical mask, which kept falling down his neck.
8. Winner: Nicki’s steel wool shirt
Whoever designed this teasing, float-away top probably also designs space shuttles.
9. Loser: Young hip-hop fans
Iggy Azalea, the woman with the No. 1 and No. 2 songs in the country on Sunday, was relegated to a 2:30 p.m. performance in the parking lot.
10. Winner: Old hip-hop fans
Nas reunited with 50 Cent, and The Roots brought out The Lox, M.O.P., and Dres of Black Sheep for tuba-backed versions of their classic hits. But the best old-head moment of the night, maybe, was when Hot 97 DJ Mister Cee played the Martin and All That theme songs between sets.
11. Winner: French Montana
Because he’s still dating Khloe Kardashian, who was hanging out backstage. And because he performed alongside hometown legends 50 Cent and Nas, even though he wasn’t on the bill.
12. Loser: West Coast hip-hop fans
Throughout the evening, DJs and performers spun the hits of Los Angeles-based producer DJ Mustard. If Mustard and the lineup of collaborators he brought out with him — rapper YG, singer Kid Ink, singer Ty Dolla Sign, California ally Young Jeezy, rapper Nipsey Hussle, and Harlem’s ASAP Ferg — had performed earlier in the day, it might have felt like a coronation of their sound, which is currently dominating hip-hop radio in both California and New York. But instead they thanklessly closed out the show near midnight, as people were heading toward the exits.
13. Winner: G-Unit
14. Losers: 50 Cent and Jimmy Iovine
Jimmy Iovine, whose Beats Music was just acquired by Apple, is definitely winning these days. But he was the subject of an onstage rant by 50 at Sunday’s concert.
“N****s thought Jimmy Iovine was my boss. I ain’t got no boss,” 50 said. He continued, saying, “This is gonna be a hot summer. Let’s take ‘em back. I got hits for days,” but performing new, little-known songs, instead of the big hits he recorded under Iovine while signed to Interscope.
15. Loser: Trinidad James
“Fuck Trinidad James. I’m from New York,” shouted Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex after cueing up “All Gold Everything,” the surprise 2012 hit that landed the Atlanta rapper a Def Jam deal.
Dude’s already down. Maybe it’s time to give him a break?
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