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Unearthed Footage From Jay Z Debuting "Takeover" At Summer Jam 2001 Is Like A Hip Hop Holy Grail Quest

*Presses Play on The Blueprint Track 1 - The Rulers Back*

*Blows the dust off my keyboard*

It takes quite a bit for me to go QWERTY on the people these days. A combination of business/money, time, logistics and internet attrition makes the art of blogging a very different undertaking than what it was for me back from 2009 to 2016. But every now and then I get struck with some inspiration to dust off the laptop and tickle the keys. And funny enough, if you look back at a lot of my one-off blogs over the years, its almost exclusively when theres big hip hop news. The death of DMX, the Drake/Pusha beef, the Eminem and MGK battle, debating Jay Z and Young Thug, all just a couple examples of the things that brings thing fingers out of retirement. Ya motha's ass being another example, but thats another story for another day. 

Theres a reason rap music gets me to remember my Barstool login. Because for a guy my age - 37 years old, born in 1985 - living through the Golden Era of Rap Music completely shaped the person who I was today. I was fuckin 8 years old seeing Nuthin But A G Thang clocking in at number 3 on the MTV Top 100 Videos of 1993. I'll never forget that little kid dancing in the video where they perfectly timed his hand to go with "Its like THIS..."

That dude is probably about 30 years old right now. I hope he's hittin switches on bitches like hes been fixed with hydraulics. 

And that launched me into Snoop and Pac and Warren G and the early 90s West Coast Dominance…which eventually led to Biggie and Puff and Bad Boy taking back control for the East Coast…and then eventually the South would rise and they had Got Somethin To Say, and all of these regional styles would combine to create an atmosphere where rap music was basically like sports. I rooted for rappers the way I root for players. I was loyal to record labels the way I'm loyal to teams. If there was such a thing as Fantasy Rap, I would have been drafting my team every year with a Mel Kiper esque breakdown of whos selling records, whos got the best flow, whos got the best punchlines and word play, and whos got the most hits. I would have been drafting rappers like Steve Berman in the Dre Day video

Now, that love and loyalty towards certain rappers only grew more passionate as I got older and was able to understand more of the music, the industry, and the world. So while I was Coming of Age, asking A Million And One Questions just hoping to learn Where I'm From, who was Friend or Foe, and pretending I Know What Girls Like, Jay Z rose to prominence. And by the time he dropped Vol 2 with like 7 smash hit commercial singles, I was a 13 year old transracial boy. That is to say, I was born in a white body, and while it was not that I didnt think it was cool to be white, its just that I did think it was cool to be black. Basketball, rap music, and UPN9, all a cracker knows. I have vivid memories of watching Malcolm and Eddie, In The House with LL Cool J and The Wayans Brothers while listening to the Makaveli album, while playing basketball on a mini hoop in my room wearing JumpSoles because one day I wanted to dunk

All of this leads us on a collision course with Shawn Carter…Jay Z…Jigga Man….HOV becoming the best and most successful rapper in the game while I was in my most formative years. The New York Times once did a study that basically said the vast majority of you musical taste develops from 13 to 16, and so if you do some quick math, born in 1985, plus 10, add another 3, plus 6, carry the one…that means my most important years of my musical brain's life was 1998 to 2001. PEAK Hov meets PEAK KFC. When I already had Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime in my system, Jay Z then drops Vol 2…Hard Knock Life, Vol 3, The Dynasty collab album…and then…the one…The Blueprint. Just imagine this KFC:

"Sex, murder, and mayhem, romance for the street…Man and I'll tell ya, it'll be the bestseller" - Jay Z - Kevin Clancy

singing Money Cash Hoes and Money Aint A Thang. Then morphing into this KFC, listening to So Ghetto on Vol 3 with Primo, and Just Blaze on the Dynasty Intro:

"This is food for thought, you do the dishes" - Jay Z - Kevin Clancy

and finally arriving at this KFC…my Final Form:

"I am a hustla baby, I'll sell water to a well" - Jay Z - Kevin Clancy

wearing the preeminent Sean John shirt - the one with the rubber script across the chest - with a pair of XXXXXL grey sweats on that I must have borrowed from the Big Dick Meme Guy, Jumpman Pro Quicks on the feet, trying to teach my teammate…"Poppy"…how to run our most basic basketball plays. His name was Dennis, I think he was Hatian, he called himself Poppy, and he let us know by wearing a rhinestone headband that spelled out his name. He and I…were wearing the same clothes. You understand how absurd that makes me feel? It makes me feel patently ridiculous. The only other feeling I get from looking at the picture? The feeling of satisfaction remembering how I cracked my back on that classroom seat in the bottom left. Perfect height, perfect sturdiness, arched my whole shit on that backrest and felt my spine go off like a strip of firecrackers CLICKITY CLICK CLACK POW! 

By this point in this Jay Z KFC blog saga, its summer time 2001. In a few short months, the world would forever change on September 11, 2001. The World Trade Centers would fall on the same day that Hov dropped The Blueprint. "Rumor has it, the Blueprint, Classic. Couldn't even be stopped by Bin Laden" But before that fateful day, though, June 28 2001 was one of the most important concerts in Hip Hop history. Hot 97s "Summer Jam." An annual summertime rap concert that was always a who's who of the hip hop world. Now by this point, I had attended the Up In Smoke tour as a 15 year old at the Meadowlands, the first place I had ever smoked a blunt. And I had attended a free DMX and The Lox "Concert" that just turned into a stampede at a football field in Mount Vernon. As much as I LOVED hip hop and R&B, after those two experiences and enough self awareness deep down inside me somewhere, I knew Summer Jam was not for me. I was wearing Willie Esco shirts, Rocawear jeans, and an Enyce (Pronounced Eh-Knee-chay I dont care what anybody says) terrycloth bucket hat trying to learn how to breakdance, but even I wouldnt even dream of going to Summer Jam. Straight up, I was afraid of going to that concert. It was like the Puerto Rican Day Parade times a billion. So I stayed home on June 28th, 2001, and while I cant say I regret it because of all the aforementioned reasons, what unfolded at that concert was fucking legendary. Jay took over that festival-style concert and made it his own show. Rocking a Latrell Sprewell jersey, he had guest appearances ranging from Missy, Ja Rule, and EPMD to fucking MICHAEL JACKSON:

which, by all accounts from everyone who was there, including Jay and DJ Premier, they say it was the loudest they had ever heard a crowd react. 

Whats wild about that Summer Jam though, is MJ coming out was not the most memorable event from that concert. That title belongs to Hov debuting his new song at the time, The Takeover. And now we've finally now arrived at the reason I wrote this blog in the first place. 1300 words in to arrive at the moment that changed hip hop and Jay Z forever and inspired me to blog again. Up until this point, unless you were one of the 15,000 people there that day who saw Jay perform Takeover and diss Mobb Deep and Nas, you had probably never seen footage of that event. You heard tale of it. You maybe heard some audio of it. But for the last 20 years, nobody had seen Jay performing the song that launched probably the most high profile beef in rap history. It was up there with waiting for Dr. Dre to drop Detox. Or talking about what if Jay and Big actually got to form The Commission or what if Jay Ja and DMX formed Murder Incorporated. It was a part of mythical rap folklore. Until yesterday:

To me? This footage right here? This is like The Holy Grail in Hip Hop. People on Indiana Jones, Da Vinci Code type Grail Quests to see this with their own two eyes. And somehow, 21 years after the fact, HipHopVCR dot com (?????) unearths the video. This is like the rap equivalent of if they just suddenly found footage of Wilt scoring 100 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Its like The Zapruder Film of Rap: the only copy and the only evidence of one of the nastiest murders of all time. 

I've watched it over and over looking at every little piece of it, analyzing all the details of that performance. You have to remember that at this point in time, the Blueprint wasnt out and so neither was The Takeover. So nobody in that crowd had EVER HEARD THAT SONG. By this point in 2001, if you're at a Jay Z concert, everyone wanted to hear I Just Wanna Love U and Big Pimpin and shit. And ordinarily when your favorite artist hits you with the new unreleased music at the concert, thats when you go to the bathroom or get a beer. But Jay hit the crowd with Takeover RIGHT at the top of his set. Before changing into the Latrell Sprewell jersey later in the show, he kicked things off rocking a Malik Sealy St. John's basketball jersey (these are the details that make this video such a perfect time capsule), and he performed his verse from the Best of Me remix. Then, cut right to the chase, and immediately launched into the beef saying "This is one of the songs for rappers who be yappin." The beat drops - with the Kanye-touched version of the Doors "Five To One" sample - and Hov goes off. Again, an entirely new song, nobody has ever heard - but Jay enunciates every. single. line. so perfectly - basically almost performing acapella - ensuring the crowd is understanding exactly everything he is saying and who he's saying it about. The audience picking up on what is unfolding, going berserk for certain punchlines, and then absolutely losing their minds for the Mobb Deep ballerina pictures on the Summer Jam Screen. The crew on stage reacting like the 2000 Dunk Contest when Vince Carter put his arm in the rim. Reacting like an NFL locker room when they see a David Blaine magic trick. Holding their heads and running away because they had never seen anything like it. Jay Z turning "The Summer Jam Screen" into a living, breathing character in Hip Hop History. More or less ending Mobb Deep's career with verse 1, and throwing a haymaker at Nas with verse 2. Very reminiscent of another battle rap classic, when White Zinfandel AKA Young Unsweetened AKA KFC ended Tiko Texas with Verse 1 of Second Round Ti.K.O and then torched Dave Portnoy in Verse 2:

But the video just brings to life a legend we had been told all these years. A true Urban Legend, a factual Tall Tale. And getting to see it only reinforced how fucking incredible of a moment that was in Hip Hop. Getting to watch that as a 37 year old instantly took me back to those days as a that gangly teenager in those pictures, thinking I was just like my favorite rappers, driving to the Wendy's parking lot in the Bronx to buy shitty overpriced weed from a guy named Shakes. Thinking I was moving WEIGHT over the bridge back to Westchester with a couple dime bags in my possession. Arguing with my friends about who won the biggest battle in rap history. Man, that was L I V I N. It was like, that, The Water Temple in the Ocarina of Time, and trying to get your dick wet for the first time. I wish I could go back to that moment for real instead of just in my head thanks to unearthing a youtube video. Maybe I'll go digging in the closet to see if I can dig up that infamous shiny denim Rocawear jacket

Pop that bad boy on and trying to recapture some of that time in my life when the only thing that mattered was how many mics my favorite album got in The Source before Benzino ruined it. 


You know what else getting to watch Takeover at Summer Jam 2001 with my own two eyes has done? It has only reminded me what I've always known all these years - and thats that anybody who still thinks Ether beat Takeover is an absolutely buffoon. There are certain elements of that feud that are important check marks in the win column for Nas, no doubt. For instance, the song title. "Ether" is the reason people think Ether won the battle. Turning that into a hip hop word, and eventually a pop culture word - to describe defeating anyone with your words, was a HUGE piece of the puzzle. Thats undeniable. Also undeniable that Jay's response - Super Ugly - fell flat (even though I think if you went back and judged those verses now, it looks much different. If you look at the way the rap world reacted to Pusha T's battle with Drake, and how rap fans gave him an overwhelming W for clowning him about his kids and his baby mama, Jay just did that times a thousand on Super Ugly. Talking about how both he and Allen Iverson fucked your kids' mom? WOOOO. I think it would be scored differently today) And then of course Jay Z's mom getting involved. One of the worst things to ever happen to any rapper. His mom essentially dragging Jay by the ear and forcing him to apologize is obviously the biggest L Jay took in this saga.

BUT, thats all ancillary shit when it comes to this battle. Takeover vs Ether is the meat and potatoes. And when you look at it strictly on those two songs and strictly on bars, Ether has like 2 important lines, and then, honestly…just a bunch of gay jokes. To me its "Eminem Murdered you on your own shit" "You pop shit, then apologize, ask Kiss" that matters. The rest is just lame gay jokes. Like a LOT of gay stuff. "Gay Z and Cockafella??" "Rockafeller died of AIDS" "I roc hoes you Roc Fellas" "You're a dick riding f*ggot" Really? Thats what the Illmatic lyricist comes up with? And what about complaining that Jay is misogynistic towards woman? In a rap battle? And probably a majority of rap fans say that he won? Excuse me, what?

Meanwhile I think Takeover is surgical. Factual. Truthful. Painful. "A spark when you started by now you just garbage," "A one hot album every 10 year average", "you was using it wrong, you made it a hot line I made it a hot song, "you aint get a coin then, I know who I paid god, Searchlight Publishing." Getting outrapped on Oochie Wally, "only so long fake thugs can pretend," "you aint live it you witnessed it" - these are all actual criticisms and descriptions of Nas sporadic career. Ether is mostly filled with just random rumors and innuendo or alleged behind-the-scenes stories that have little corroboration. Takeover is tangible realities that are either blatantly obvious or had been confirmed by outside parties. To me its not even close when you look at it logically and with the big picture of where both MCs were at, and where they ended up.

But I do have to admit, my favorite line of the entire saga is "You 36 and in a karate class?" Absolutely hysterical the way he delivers that line. I'll give Nas another check mark for that to make it a 50-50 draw. Which are truly the best hip hop beefs. In a rap battle when its so close you cant call, and neither rapper can be declared a winner…thats because the fans are the ones who get the W, walking away with 2 classic songs.