MUSIC REVIEW; A sizzlin’ Jam session; West, Ashanti put the hip into

MUSIC REVIEW; A sizzlin’ Jam session; West, Ashanti put the hip into

Christopher Blagg

Every so often an artist comes along whose sheer talent makes the competition’s efforts pointless. This is exactly what hip-hop megastar Kanye West did to his peers last night at the 2004 Summer Jam. The poor fellas didn’t know what hit ’em.

Touring in support of his brilliant debut album “College Dropout,” West put on a hip-hop tour de force of epic proportions. There actually were 11 other MTV-saturated hip-hop and r & b performers on the bill, but they became irrelevant when West took the stage. From the sheer volume of the crowd’s roar at his entrance, it was made abundantly clear whom the audience had been waiting for. West’s set was refreshingly devoid of a towel-waving entourage or excessive crowd-warming antics. With just a keyboard player and DJ in tow, West delivered an avalanche of hits, including the singles he produced for other stars such as Jay-Z and Ludacris.

Still, it was the “College Dropout” tunes that delivered the goods in full. Whether ripping into the brilliantly sarcastic bounce of “We Don’t Care” or waxing poetic on materialism and racism on “All Falls Down,” West was in complete control of the 16,000 strong crowd. Saving the best for last, West tore through the gospel crunch of the redemptive “Jesus Walks,” before blowing up the crowd with the thrilling Rocky-esque underdog anthem “Through the Wire.”

Other artists did actually perform, and some even managed to put on quite a show of their own. Up and coming St. Louis rapper Murphy Lee injected a loverman’s attitude into the mostly thugged out “gangsta” proceedings. Club burners like the joyous shake of “Hold Up” and the remixed slide of “Air Force One” were bonafide roof- shakers.

Gospel singer turned hip-hop impresario Mario Winans had the unfortunate task of playing after West. Considering he has only one hit, the P. Diddy-assisted “I Don’t Wanna Know,” this was an unfair gaffe in scheduling.

Ja Rule was probably the biggest-selling act appearing at the Summer Jam, but his mediocre flow, irritating monotone and ridiculous shirt-peeling antics proved more annoying than entertaining. A surprise guest appearance by the lovely Ashanti buoyed Ja Rule’s rather tiresome set with the duet “Always On Time.”

Despite her set-saving guest spot, it was the literate, passionate rhymes of Mr. West that were being imitated by the satisfied throngs leaving the Tweeter Center.

Caption: TIMELY: A surprise appearance by Ashanti buoyed Ja Rule’s set with the duet `Always on Time’ last night. Staff photos by Jon Hill

Caption: SING IT! Ja Rule, left, and Kayne West entertain at Summer Jam 2004.

Copyright 2004

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