Hip-Hop Forever at Madison Square Garden.
On Friday September 15th, HOT 97 and WBLS joined forces to bring hip-hop royalty to Madison Square Garden for the “Hip-Hop Forever” show. Funk Flex orchestrated a lineup of greatness from open to close for a sold out crowd of rap fans from all generations.
The show was kicked off by Flex and Ebro who vibed out to a DJ-set consisting of everything from old-school classics to modern drill anthems. Before the first act even stepped on stage Flex had the crowd dancing and holding up their phone lights for rappers who have passed on. WBLS DJ Fred “Bugsy” Buggs brought out his confidants Kool DJ Red Alert and Chuck Chillout who were presented with lifetime achievement awards celebrating their more than 40 years on hip-hop radio.
After the celebration, dancehall icon Sean Paul took the stage to kick off the show for an expertly choreographed performance of banger after banger. Following Sean Paul was the duo that Funk Flex dubbed “the greatest rap duo,” EPMD. Emcees Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith tore the paint off of MSG with an incredible display of lyrical mastery and energy. EPMD performed a headline worthy set that would’ve stolen the show at any other concert.A barrage of special guests popped out during a special Funk Flex set, Coi Leray, Lola Brooke, CL Smooth, French Montana, Greg Nice, and Teejay all took the stage despite none of them being on the advertised lineup. The surprises didn’t stop there, Jadakiss and Fabolous joined Mary J. Blige to close out the show. Method Man even came out after the Wu-Tang Clan set to perform “You’re All I Need” alongside Queen Mary.
The last three sets of the night were absolutely jam packed and star studded. The entire Wu-Tang Clan opened their set with “Protect Ya Neck” a song they don’t often perform. The RZA, Ghostface, U-God, Young Dirty Bastard, Method Man and the rest of the clan brought the energy. Meth was popping champagne bottles and jumping on speakers nearly 30 years after performing at HOT 97’s first ever Summer Jam making for a full circle moment.
After the Wu-Tang Clan came Diddy. Puff was truly in his element, he had a smile from ear to ear for the entirety of his performance. On the same day as Diddy’s “Love Album” he performed a 20-minute set of throwbacks and new music to a roaring MSG crowd.
Closing out the night was Mary J Blige, who brought out rapper after rapper to perform alongside her. The whole Garden was chanting “Mary! Mary! Mary!” and screaming along with the Queen.
Hip-Hop took over the Garden on September 15th, 2023 to celebrate 50 years of a genre that changed the lives of everybody in attendance. Hip-hop brought together thousands of fans from all backgrounds, generations, and walks of life to witness some of the greatest to ever do it, do it in one place.