June 21, 2022

Untold Stories From The First Ever Summer Jam: 28 Years Later

Summer Jam
Untold Stories From The First Ever Summer Jam: 28 Years Later

The First Ever Summer Jam.

On June 21, 1994 – the first ever Summer Jam took place at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This was the first-ever all hip-hop arena show to take place and was hosted by HOT 97, the first all hip-hop radio station in New York City.

This was two years before the GRAMMY’s would give out an award for Best Rap Album and long before hip-hop was respected by popular culture.

The lineup for that show was Black Moon, Gang Starr, Nas, Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest, Arrested Development, SWV, and the Wu-Tang Clan.

On HOT 97’s newest podcast “Summer Jam: Through The Years” it was revealed by Summer Jam producer and head of Trevanna Entertainment Carl Freed that the show was hosted in East Rutherford, NJ because Madison Square Garden was not willing to host an all hip-hop event. Freed also divulged that the show sold out almost immediately.

In the planning stages for the original Summer Jam, many other names were considered, the most interesting one being “Hood Stock.” 

Also mentioned on “Summer Jam: Through The Years” was the fact that the Wu-Tang Clan left their green room bloodied and broken. Freed explained that no guns or weapons were drawn but the Staten Island group had a bit of a fight backstage. However, an unexpected artist’s security team did have some issues involving weapons.

28 years ago the trajectory of hip-hop changed and both HOT 97 and Summer Jam played a major role in legitimizing the genre. Having the first major all hip-hip show near the birthplace of rap was also incredibly significant. Imagine if the first all hip-hop event took place in Ohio or Las Vegas, it just wouldn’t have the legacy that Summer Jam carries. On top of that, the “East coast, West coast” beef was still very prominent in 1994, so it was important that the first show of this magnitude took place in the New York area, with mostly New York artists.

There were some out of town performers on the inaugural Summer Jam lineup, like Arrested Development and Gang Starr. Speech from Arrested Development revealed on Summer Jam: Through the Years that the group was booed during the first Summer Jam! Speech inferred that it was because Arrested Development was not from New York. He added “we had done shows in New York, and gotten love in New York, but this was different.” 

Relive or learn more about the first ever Summer Jam by listening to Summer Jam: Through The Years, hosted by Laura Stylez! The first episode about 1994 features Ralph McDaniels of Video Music Box, Speech from Arrested Development, WBLS DJ Bugsy Buggs, and so much more!

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