Monday, June 29, 2009

BET fails to deliver knock out blow in MJ tribute

My reaction to last night's BET Awards can be summed up in one word: disappointed.

No Chris Brown. No Usher. No 'Thriller.' No 'Billie Jean.' No 'Remember the Time.'

The bases were loaded with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning. The count was full (3 balls and 2 strikes) and BET swings and misses. Strike 3! You're out, BET!

Perhaps it's my fault for having high expectations on what was one of the most anticipated television award shows in recent memory. Everyone tuned into the BET Awards to see this "star-studed" Michael Jackson tribute that had been hyped up since the news of his death.

I had my money on Chris Brown moonwalking in an electrifying performance of "Billie Jean." Unfortunately, that did not happen and C-Breezy was no where in sight at the annual awards show. And after watching host Jamie Foxx attempt to moonwalk across the stage, it was clear that Chris Brown's presence was MUCH needed last night.

We didn't even get the next best candidate, Usher, who was out of the country.

Instead of Brown and Usher, we were insulted and overdosed with Jackson-inspired performances from the triple-threat host Jamie Foxx and the hatless Ne-Yo.

Every time you looked up one or the other was on stage. I lost count on how many times they performed. Now, I like Foxx and Ne-Yo, but I was ready to throw a brick through the television when they came out to close the show with "I'll Be There."

Don't get me wrong, they did good, but we deserved something bigger and better. Maybe a celebration song performed by a group of artists -- "Dancing Machine?"..."Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough?"....or how about "Man in the Mirror?"

In my opinion, "I'll Be There" should have been led by someone like Alicia Keys or Mariah Carey, who previously recorded a powerhouse version of the song. A-Keys/Carey could have had a whole group of singers on stage to support them. Each taking a few lines from the song. Artists like Beyonce, Ciara, the absent Mary J. Blige, Ginuwine, Trey Songz, Tyrese, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake -- whoever!

C'mon BET, where was Smokey Robinson? Or how about Stevie Wonder? I know y'all have both of these men on speed dial. Or even Michael's good friend, Diana Ross? James Ingram or El DeBarge would have also sufficed.

I will give BET credit for having Joe Jackson in the crowd, even though he didn't speak. That was left up to Janet Jackson, who made an emotional appearance to thank fans for their support.

I will also give BET credit for pulling off the task of revamping nearly the entire show to accommodate a few MJ tributes, which were scattered throughout the show. Perhaps the tribute would have came across better if all the MJ performances were done one after the other instead of being spread out.

In addition, the tribute songs were also not the uptempo or dance-friendly hits that most of us have come to love and enjoy. The disappointment continued. I wanted to see Ciara bring the crowd to their feet by singing/dancing to "Beat It" or "Scream." Instead she performed one of my least favorite MJ songs, "Heal the World." Whhhhy?

One performance I will applaud is Ne-Yo's rendition of "The Lady in My Life," a ballad off the 1983 Thriller album. Ne-Yo owned this song and I'm sure the King of Pop was smiling down on that performance. Although MJ should have whispered to Ne-Yo: "Put your hat back on." LOL.

The show kicked off with New Edition, including Bobby Brown, dressed like the Jackson 5 as they performed "I Want You Back," "ABC" and "The Love You Save." The five-man group had the choreography together, but the vocals were a train wreck [and that's being nice]. And Bobby Brown looked even bigger than Mike from Day26. It was a nice surprise, but damn...not a good way to start off the show. That was where we needed Chris Brown. Maybe MTV will bring C-Breezy back.

Fifteen-year-old actress Keke Palmer [of Akeelah and the Bee] nearly stole the show singing "Who's Loving You" before introducing Jamie Foxx and T-Pain.

I had no idea she could sing like that!? The only thing that could have topped what she did would have been a surprise performance from En Vogue, who also covered "Who's Loving You." Wow....imagine if they would have came out!?

Beyonce, to my surprise, was not involved with the Michael Jackson tribute. Another injustice. Instead she performed ballads "Ava Maria" and "In the Arms of an Angel." In my opinion that was a poor and lazy decision, considering she is currently on tour performing those songs. The performance was identical to the one she is doing on the tour.

If Beyonce wanted to sing a ballad, she could have sang "Never Can Say Goodbye" or "Gone too Soon." Or in a recent show in Philadelphia she performed "I Can't Help It" in a tribute to MJ. Why didn't she do that at the BET Awards? I'm sure it would have been appreciated more than "Ava Maria."

Overall, the tribute was about a 4 out of 10. The entire show was about 7 out of 10 (Thanks to the O'Jays performance)

Bottom line: BET failed to deliver and I'm sure MTV is already hard at work to produce a much better tribute. (even though MTV will have three months compared to BET's two/three days)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

All-star lineup expected for tonight's MJ tribute

All eyes are on BET tonight.

Everyone is waiting to see tonight's Michael Jackson tribute at the annual BET Awards.

Who is going to perform? Which songs are going to be performed by what artists?

Here are some of my picks: (most probably won't happen..but it was just a thought!)

Chris Brown - "Thriller" or "Billie Jean"

Mariah Carey - "I'll Be There"

Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross - "Never Can Say Goodbye"

- "Dancing Machine" or a good slow song for her would be "Gone too soon"

Jamie Foxx and Mary J. Blige - "Remember the Time"

Justin Timberlake
- "Rock With You"

- "Bad" or "P.Y.T."

Usher and Ciara - "Beat It"

Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys - "Ben"

Boyz II Men and Musiq Soulchild
(possibly) - "I Want You Back"

Trey Songz (or maybe Ginuwine) - "Dirty Diana" or "Smooth Criminal"

John Legend - "Man in the Mirror"

I'm sure Kanye West will weasel his way into this tribute somehow. But I can't figure out what he would do. LOL.



Saturday, June 27, 2009

Top 5 reasons why Chris Brown should do Michael Jackson tribute

It's no secret to anyone that I think Chris Brown should be allowed to perform at the BET Awards in a tribute to Michael Jackson.

And special shout out to blogger Necole Bitchie for including my Tweet about wanting to see Chris Brown in the MJ tribute in her latest blog.

Say what you want about C-Breezy, but he's a talented singer, dancer and overall entertainer.

His name will be forever tarnished and hitting a female should not be tolerated under any circumstances. But he'll learn from his mistakes and he'll pay for what he did thanks to the judges order of five years probation and 180 days of community service.

With that being said, let's give this kid a chance to shine in a tribute to the late Michael Jackson.

Here's the top 5 reasons why:

5. Chris Brown bears strong similarities to the King of Pop in his innovative and electric dance moves and in his boyish singing style. It's probably what led him to performing "Thriller" at the World Music Awards in 2006. (see below)

4. Chris Brown has already joined unlikely artists -- The Game and Diddy -- to record a Michael Jackson tribute called, "Better on the Other Side." Not sure that I'd want to hear this at the BET Awards in a tribute because I think they should stick to MJ songs. However, I wouldn't be opposed to closing out the tribute with this, I guess. (?) Check out a clip of the song here.

3. Chris Brown would be the best candidate to perform"Billie Jean" to get the crowd hype as the BET Awards kicks off. It would be great if he performed it similar to the Motown 25 special where Michael debuted the Moonwalk. It would certainly be something EVERYONE would be talking about the next day.

2. Without question Chris Brown is the perfect choice. Hands down. He's better than selecting the 30-year-old Usher, who is the middle of a divorce and hasn't been too popular since his Confessions album. Ne-Yo could get away with performing a song like "P.Y.T." and that's about it. And The-Dream can't sing or dance. Justin Timberlake is a safe choice, but if you want someone who is going to put on a show you have to go with the 20-year-old from VA.

1. Michael Jackson once praised Chris Brown [along with Justin Timberlake] in a televised interview as being an artist from the new generation that he was impressed by. Chris Brown leading the MJ tribute would only be right...why? Because MJ would have wanted that.

Michael Jackson: Gone too soon

I danced and sang to his chart-topping music as a kid.

I had his magical microphone and collectible doll.

I went to his sold out concert at Madison Square Garden.

I rushed to the television to watch the network premiere of the video "Remember the Time."

And who could forget playing the "Moonwalker" video game on Sega!?

All those things rushed through my head when I heard the disturbing news that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson had suddenly died on June 25.

I was in the newsroom at the time -- already working overtime on a story/video for -- and discussion began about MJ being rushed to a LA hospital after going into cardiac arrest.

The news startled me, but I figured the King of Pop would undoubtedly pull through. He was that kind of figure and an icon that could survive just about anything. He had overcome allegations of child molestation and other health issues in the past.

Shortly after, his death was announced, sending editors scattering throughout the newsroom. I quickly began texting friends and family members: "Michael Jackson is dead."

Many didn't want to believe it or told me that television was reporting he was still in a coma, etc. Some thought it was a joke. But it was not.

Since I happened to be in the newsroom at the time of the announcement, I got pulled into the newspaper's coverage on the public reaction to Jackson's death. (Click here to read the article)

I went out to the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, N.J. and the nearby Best Buy to talk to shoppers and store employees. All were in shock and some were just in disbelief. However, most could recall a moment where Jackson and his music had touched their lives.

Peggy Cook, 46, of Paterson, was one of them.
“He was like my little boyfriend on TV,” said Cook, who grew up watching Jackson. “It’s not real. It’s like being in a car accident and you don’t even know you've been hit.”

One employee at Aldo Accessories in the mall said the news was spreading like wildfire. She had found out via text message.

She said customers of all ages, races and backgrounds were coming into the store to discuss Jackson's untimely passing. It was a clear example of how universal his music was.

In Best Buy, ran into a 20-year-old store employee who said he performed MJ hits at annual high school talent shows. He eventually won for a performance of 'Thriller' during his senior year.

The employee had turned the Home Theater area of Best Buy into a Michael Jackson shrine. His 1992 concert played on a 60-inch flat screen television and his DVDs/CDs were scattered on nearby tables.

Meanwhile, other customers gathered to watch CNN's coverage of Jackson's death on a wall of 60-inch flat screen televisions.

As I talked to people and took photos, I couldn't believe this was real.

It wasn't until I got home and watched Jermaine Jackson speak about his younger brother when I realized how real it truly was. He shared a close bond with Michael and somehow held his composure and addressed the media, asking for respect during their difficult time.

And like a bolt of lightning, it hit me -- Michael Jackson was gone.

The man who gave us endless hits and the Moonwalk had gone home to a place where the paparazzi could no longer follow him.

He was only 50.

Another star gone too soon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Beyonce flys high; Hubby Jay-Z makes good surprise

A freakum dress? Check.

Several giant wind machines? Check.

A rapping husband? Check.

A laundry list of hit songs? Of course!

And Beyonce's bag of tricks didn't stop there.

She even soared above the crowd and showed off her acrobatic skills. All it took was a few strings to hoist the Houston-bred diva hundreds of feet in the air as she "walked" and somersaulted over her adoring fans. And just like that, the concert had turned into the UniverSoul circus!! Before she was done most of the crowd had at least one good picture to show their friends the next day.

But aside from the acrobatics, the biggest stunt of the night came in the first few minutes when she was joined by rapper and hubby, Jay-Z.

The crowd at Madison Square Garden went absolutely nuts when Jay came out during "Crazy in Love." However, rather than doing his verse on that track, Jay performed "I Just Wanna Love You [Give to Me]." And like a cloud of smoke, the Jigga man was gone. It was the second consecutive night the "I Am..." tour was at MSG and Jay was the surprise for both shows. Thankfully for the thousands of Beyonce fans in attendance, he held back from performing his new song "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)."

It was clear this night was all about Beyonce, but she wasn't afraid to share it with many of her fans.

Before performing "Single Ladies," a video montage played on the big screen showing numerous variations of the now infamous dance routine. When she finally performed "Single Ladies" every girl [and some guys] went right into "video mode." They all did their best to nail every dance move from the video. Some decided to leave their seats and line up in the aisle so they had enough room. I hadn't seen that many people doing one dance in a large venue since the "Macarena Night" at Shea Stadium. LOL.

Other fan favorite hits that she performed included "Diva," "Get Me Bodied," "Me, Myself and I," "Check Up On It" and "Upgrade U."

Some noteworthy moments: "Radio" featuring a video clip of Beyonce at 5-years-old, "Ego" with the Kanye West verse [but no Kanye] and "Video Phone" with help from some male dancers. Beyonce also did some "head-bangin'" as she covered Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" during her performance of "If I Were a Boy." Personally, I didn't like the cover and I don't see how it fit into "If I Were a Boy?"

The usually uptempo singer wasn't afraid to slow it down on this tour on a number of occasions. She performed songs like "Smash Into You," "Broken-Hearted Girl," "Hello," "Ave Maria" in a white wedding dress [likely by Dereon], "At Last" as pictures of Barack Obama appeared on the big screen and the final song of the night, "Halo."

Beyonce also took fans on a ride down memory lane performing to various popular Destiny's Child tracks -- "Say My Name" and "Bootylicious," just to name a few.

For fans in the New York/New Jersey area, Beyonce will be back on July 24 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J. It's a concert that's well-worth the price of admission if you've never been to one of her shows before. Beyonce will not let you down. But if you are going with hopes of seeing the Jigga man, you should be expect to be let down. I think Jay's cameos are special to New York, sorry.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ashanti exceeds expectations in 'The Wiz'

I had my doubts when I first heard R&B songstress Ashanti was going to play Dorothy in the off-Broadway production of The Wiz.

But last weekend, I checked out the show at the New York City Center and I was treated to a solid production filled with strong singing, pretty good acting and innovative choreography.

While Ashanti may be a Grammy Award-winning singer, I really didn't think she could pull off the part that had been previously played by Diana Ross and Stephanie Mills. But in her own way, she did an excellent job as Dorothy. A definite surprise to me and many who were in attendance.

Ashanti does not pack the powerhouse vocals of Mills, but her singing performances were clean and she proved that she's not just a 'studio artist' known for hits like "Happy," "Foolish," and "Rain on Me."

After the first half, I was impressed with her singing, but not so thrilled with her stage presence. My only real gripe was with her posture and lack of expressions. Her arms maintained straight down by her side nearly the entire team. But maybe that was part of playing the role of a lost little girl trying to find her way home??

Aside from her poor posture throughout the show, Ashanti soared in her performance as Dorothy. It was only the last song -- "Home" -- where I felt she missed the mark. It felt more like a high school talent show or amateur night on Showtime at the Apollo. "Home" is a powerful song and could use a voice that sings with lots of emotion. I didn't get that from Ashanti's rendition.


The best singer of the cast was Tony Award-winner LaChanze (formerly of The Color Purple) who played Glinda. She gave us the singing performance that Ashanti could not pull off. Her version of "Believe in Yourself" was moving and among the best vocals in the entire show.

The Lion, played by James Monroe Iglehart, was also among crowd favorites, especially his performance of "Mean Ole Lion."

But the showstopper was Tichina Arnold, who played the mean Evilene. Arnold took immediate command of the stage and the crowd. Most people know her from Martin and Everybody Hates Chris, where she was known for her witty acting, but her singing should not be overlooked. While her role was rather brief, the Evilene character made her presence felt. Her performance on "No Bad News" was definitely among highlights in the second half of the show.

The two-hour plus performance was well-worth the price of admission and did not leave me disappointed. The Wiz featuring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson was one of my childhood favorites and I would strongly recommend this production to anyone in the NYC area.

Hopefully it makes a good run and can end up on Broadway. Right now the production is makeshift and doesn't include the elaborate sets and costumes, but they did well with what they had.

Take a trip down the yellow brick road and see Ashanti in 'The Wiz,' today!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

iLike: Boat party on Hudson River

It was a nice night in NYC and one of my friends has been celebrating his 25th birthday for 25+ days.

So why not enjoy a boat party on the Hudson River?

I think partying while cruising past the Statue of Liberty is something everyone should experience at least once.

The cost? Only $10 in advance and $15 at the Pier, located between Houston Street and Clarkson Street on Westside Highway.

My only advice is make sure you don't miss the boat. A few of my friends -- I won't mention any names -- worked up a sweat while rushing to the boat.

I don't know how they did it, but luckily for them the boat did not leave at 8:30 p.m. as planned.

Instead it left around 9 p.m. on Friday, June 12 and didn't return to the dock until about 12 a.m.

Three hours on the water was all I needed. I'll stick to partying in clubs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer Jam 2009 gets boost from surprises

If it weren't for the surprises -- well, particularly one or two -- this probably would have been one of the worst Summer Jam concerts ever.

But thanks to two huge surprises during the Young Jeezy set -- rap icon Jay-Z and the Canadian newcomer, Drake -- the annual concert turned out to be a memorable one.

Giants Stadium roared when Drake hit the stage for "Best I Ever Had" in what was one of many surprise performances. He had gotten the biggest pop of the night.

That was until moments later when the Jigga man came out and the stadium shook as if Giant player David Tyree had just came in the game and made another "helmet catch" to win the Super Bowl. After all, this was Summer Jam, which might as well be the Super Bowl of hip-hop concerts.

More than 45,000 fans -- many who were videotaping Jay's performance for YouTube -- went bananas when the Brooklyn rapper recited his verse on "Put On" with Young Jeezy. Then he went into his latest single, "Death of Auto-Tune (D.O.A.)." What could top that? Not much and for many in attendance, the show at that point was over.

At that point it was about 10 p.m. and only T-Pain, Juelz Santana and Jim Jones were left to perform.

T-Pain, who briefly joined Jay-Z on the song that bashes the tool he frequently uses, coincidentally performed after Jigga. His performance seemed to drag and he performed numerous hit tracks that he's appeared on. However, with each performance the crowd grew restless because there were no special guests.

Enter Lil' Kim.

The black barbie hits the stage with T-Pain and gets the crowd hype with "Put Ya Lighters Up" and then goes into her latest single, "Download." The former Dancing With the Stars contestant didn't have on anything revealing and she kept it relatively classy. Maybe we've seen the last of the raunchy Kim Jones. Nonetheless, I was pleased she was there to save T-Pain's painful performance.

T-Pain also brought out DJ Khaled and Ace Hood. ::crickets:: We could have done without these two at Summer Jam, just my opinion.

After Pain left the stage defending his use of Auto-Tune because that's how he feeds his family, it was time for the final act of the night.

Jim Jones and Juelz Santana would assume the familiar position of closing out a Summer Jam show. But most people took the time during their performance to get a head start on leaving Giants Stadium. The crowd filed out like it was two minutes left in a 49-0 blowout.

They each performed their hits and briefly acknowledged Cam'Ron, who was rumored to be reuniting with the group at Summer Jam. But that didn't happen. Jones said they have love for Cam and he wouldn't be in attendance. So much for that reunion. They played "Touch It or Not" in his honor and at that point there was little hope for this final act.

But the DipSet crew, which had flooded the stage, managed to bring out Soulja Boy for the "Turn My Swag On" remix. A nice look for the show. You can say what you want about Soulja Boy, but that song is major. He earned that surprise spot.

Other cameo appearances during the last set included producer/singer Ryan Leslie [for "Precious" w/ Jones], Harlem's own, DJ Webstar and Ron Browz. Both had already performed during the pre-show concert in the parking lot, but they were back for the big stage.

Browz performed "Pop Champagne," where Santana gladly popped bottles for his own enjoyment.

And then a trio of females, did their best spoof of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" while Webstar, Jones and Santana performed "Dancing on Me."

At this point, nearly everyone was heading for the exit. The festivities began at 2:30 p.m. and the concert started at 6:30 p.m., so for many -- including myself -- this was an extremely long day.

Other notable surprises included Busta Rhymes and singer Jeremih during the Jadakiss set. Jeremih had the whole crowd singing along as he performed one of Hot 97's most played songs, "Birthday Sex."

Then in a red jump-suit came the always energetic Busa-Bus who joined Jada for "Respect My Conglomerate." It would have been hot to see Busta do some classic tracks from his glory days, but I guess that would have been asking too much.

And of course, the Jadakiss performance wouldn't have been complete without fellow D-Block members, Sheek Louch and Styles P.

Also helping the weak Summer Jam lineup to prevail were guests appearances by Method Man and Redman during the Mary J. Blige portion of the show. Mary and Meth reunited for their hip-hop anthem "You're All I Need." Nice moment.

Mary gave it her all and took fans on a rollercoaster ride of hit songs. Her performance was among high spots in an otherwise mediocre show.

Other notable moments from the Summer Jam supporting casts, included the reggae set featuring Mavado, Serani and Elephant Man. The Hot 97 crowd appreciates reggae so this was a no-brainer. The trio has some of the hottest songs on the radio and not to much Elephant Man had a laundry list of hits that fans took pleasure in dancing to.

Pleasure P, Day26 and The-Dream also performed. Not much to talk about, except The-Dream provided the crowd with the first surprise bringing out Fabolous for "Throw It in the Bag."

Overall, Hot 97's Summer Jam delivered the surprises it is known for to end a seven-year run at the current Giants Stadium. It will be torn down at the end of the upcoming season. Where the concert be next year? More than likely, the new Giants Stadium right next door. See you there!

VIDEO: Drake wins runner-up award for best surprise at Summer Jam


Drake easily got the second loudest pop of the night when he came out during Young Jeezy's set at Summer Jam.

Unfortunately, Jay-Z would come out minutes later and completely steal the show.

However, Drake did his thing and gave nearly 50,000 fans exactly what they'd been waiting for.

Everyone had been asking if Drake was going to perform and it only seemed natural that he would be a surprise because "Best I Ever Had" is one of the hottest songs on Hot 97.

Check out a clip of Drizzy's first Summer Jam performance. I'm sure there will be plenty more down the road. This video is courtesy of M. Feenz. All photos and videos were shot by yours truly.  Click here to watch Jay-Z steal the show.

Monday, June 8, 2009

VIDEO: Jay-Z shuts down Summer Jam with "D.O.A."


Note: All photos and videos are courtesy of M. Feenz.

I predicted on that Jay-Z would be the biggest surprise of the night at Hot 97's Summer Jam concert and I was right.

It was pretty obvious with the way Hot 97 had suddenly premiered Jay-Z's newest single, "Death of Auto-Tune (D.O.A.)," just days before the show.

It was Young Jeezy who can get the credit for setting the stage Jay-Z.  He was performing "Put On" and suddenly it was time for Jay-Z's verse on the remix.  All of the nearly 50,000 people in attendance paused suddenly and then it was the moment everyone had been hoping to see -- Jay-Z stepped on stage to the loudest ovation of the night.

Standing there I could certainly feel the stadium shake as the crowd roared at the appearance of the greatest rapper in the game. [Yeah, I said it!]

After performing with Jeezy, it was time to gave the Summer Jam crowd his new single, which mostly everyone already knew in just a short period of time.  Jay-Z went into "D.O.A." as only the Jigga man could. The crowd was on his every word and in a classic Summer Jam moment, T-Pain [a.k.a. King Auto-Tune] came out on stage and stood next Jay-Z during the performance. They embraced briefly and T-Pain left the stage after quickly dancing around the stage.

The Jay-Z moment may not have been the closing of the show, but it was certainly the biggest performance of the night.  

Jay is back.  Get ready for The Blueprint 3, coming in September.

Check out the videos below courtesy of M. Feenz.  It was a moment that had to captured on camera.  Jay performing "D.O.A." and his verse on the "Put On" remix.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer Jam: Surprises should make this show one of the best

When I first heard the lineup for Hot 97's Summer Jam concert, I wasn't impressed.

But thinking about the surprises that are possible for this show, you have to be excited.

I got my money on Jay-Z being the biggest surprise of the night.  I think he'll join Mary J. Blige for "Can't Knock the Hustle." Not to mention, everyone is talking about his latest song, "Death of Autotune (D.O.A.)," which is slated to be on his upcoming album, "The Blueprint 3." In the song, produced by Kanye West and No ID, Jay makes it clear he's not feeling the Autotune voice enhancement tool used by several artists (notably T-Pain, Lil' Wayne and Ron Browz).

"I know we facing a recession, but the music y'all makin' gonna make it the great depression," Jay spits on the track.

Check out the song below:

Next to Jay, I think the biggest pop of the night will come courtesy of up and coming rapper, Drake.  

His single, "Best I Ever Had," is easily one of the biggest songs out right now.  You know more than 50,000 in Giants Stadium will be ready to sing-along with one of Hot 97's most played songs.

When I spoke to Hot 97 radio personality Cipha Sounds recently, he guaranteed multiple surprises. He said Drake was also one of the artists that people are constantly asking about. How could Hot 97 NOT put this man on the show!? (Click here to read the Summer Jam preview article feat. Cipha Sounds)

"The artists all do their best to bring out surprise guests," he said during a recent interview. "That's definitely a staple of Summer Jam. You never know what you're going to get."

The scheduled lineup for tonight's show includes Mary J. Blige, Jadakiss, T-Pain, The-Dream, Jim Jones, Juelz Santana, Pleasure P, and reggae artists, Mavado, Serani and Elephant Man.

Other notable surprise appearances will likely be Sheek Louch and Styles P, who will join their D-Block group leader, Jadakiss, on stage. R&B singers Jazmine Sullivan, Ne-Yo and Faith Evans may also join Jada. All three are featured on his latest album, "The Last Kiss."  (Sullivan on "Smoking Gun;" Ne-Yo on "By My Side;" and Faith on "Letter to B.I.G.") Lastly, I'm sure the always energetic Busta Rhymes will set the Summer Jam stage on fire when he joins Kiss to perform "Respect My Conglomerate," also on "The Last Kiss." Jada's set will probably be one of the best of the night.

T-Pain and The-Dream will probably take the awards for bringing out the most surprises.  Between the two of them they have done songs with nearly everyone in hip-hop. Maino will join T-Pain for "All the Above," and I'm sure Fabolous will pop out to perform "Throw It in the Bag" with The-Dream. However, I'm not too sure that we can expect surprise appearances from Kanye West and Mariah Carey, who were featured on The-Dream's latest album, "Love vs. Money." But who knows, anything can happen.

Another surprise that people have been talking about is if Cam'ron is going to join his former DipSet members -- Jim Jones and Juelz Santana -- on the Summer Jam stage. I would say if you want to make a statement, Summer Jam is the place to do it.  So why not?  Cam'ron's new album, "Crime Pays," hasn't made much noise, so he really needs this cameo appearance more than anyone.

The festivities start at 3 p.m. today with a pre-show festival featuring performances from Ron Browz ("Arab Money," "Jumpin Out the Windows," etc.), Asher Roth ("I Love College"), DJ Webstar ("Dancing on Me," "Chicken Noodle Soup") and GS Boyz ("Stanky Leg").

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Keyshia Cole brings down the house in Newark; Sexier side of Keri Hilson?

It's no coincidence that Keyshia Cole's latest album is entitled, "A Different Me."

If you check her out in concert you will get a much different Keyshia Cole than the one we were introduced to 2005.

I've seen Keyshia Cole in concert on a number of occasions, but tonight at the NJ Performing Arts Center she gave it her all and put on one hell of a performance.

She's an amazing singer, but we already knew that. What surprised me tonight was her stage presence and ability to do some dancing. Keyshia Cole dancing? Is this the same dude-bashing, finger-pointing and around the way chick that we came to embrace??

In her hour set, Keyshia did these hits from her first three albums:

"A Different Me": "Make Me Over," "Playa Cardz Right," "Please Don't Stop," "You Complete Me," "No Other," "Oh-oh, Yeah-yea," "Playa Cardz Right," "Brand New," "Thought You Should Know," "Trust"

"Just Like You": "Last Night," "Got to Get My Heart Back," "Let It Go," "I Remember," "Shoulda Let You Go," "Heaven Sent," "Didn't I Tell You,"

"The Way It Is": "Love," "I Changed My Mind," "I Should Have Cheated," "(I Just Want It) To Be Over"

Her supporting cast on this tour included Keri Hilson, The-Dream and Bobby Valentino.

Bobby V kicked off the show. If you were a few minutes late or if you decided to grab a drink outside, you may have missed his 20-minute set. The crowd, which was 85 percent female, was really into his performance, surprisingly. He performed popular hits "Slow Down," "Beep," "Pimpin' All Over the World" and "Tell Me." He also performed a new track -- "Hands on Me" -- from his third solo album, The Rebirth, and he gave fans a taste of his part on Lil Wayne's "Mrs. Officer."

The barely 5-foot-tall Bobby Valentino made sure to finish out strong by taking off his shirt to the delight of some of the ladies in the attendance. Who told him he was LL Cool J? He even did some grinding and humping the ground, for a few extra cheers.

Miss Keri Baby followed Bobby V and seemed to try to upstage him by getting a little freaky herself. Her performance on "Slow Dance" with one of her dancers was enough to make your mouth hang open in surprise. [watch below] Let's just say they were doing a lot more than "slow dancing." She definitely stole a page out of the book of Janet Jackson aka "Miss Jackson, if you're nasty." In addition, Hilson performed "Turnin' Me On," "Get Your Money Up," "Energy," "Intution" and "How Does It Feel." She also played with covering SWV's "Weak" and Mary J. Blige's "Take Me As I Am."

And speaking of covers, The-Dream was the final performer before the headliner and during his set he performed Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana." Nice job. The "radio killer" also performed hits from his first two albums including "Shawty is Da Shit," "Ditch That..," "My Love," "Fast Car," "I Love Your Girl," "Falsetto," "Rockin' That Shit" and "Take You Home 2 My Mama."

The Dream was probably the one performer that the show could have done without. His dancers stole most of his shine when they were on stage. He tried to get screams from the crowd by groping himself and grinding while laying on his back singing, "Falsetto."

There's no question that The Dream makes some hot songs. But fans in Newark were certainly not giving away any screams or panties to people who didn't deserve them - that includes The Dream. The strongest part of his show was when the stage filled with smoke for his performance of "Walking on the Moon."

Aside of The Dream's so-so performance, the show was great. If this concert is coming to a town near you, definitely check it out. It's worth it.