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J.A.M. Awards @ The Hammerstein Ballroom (NYC)

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Jam Master Jay is still rocking. Last night (Nov. 30) the first annual J.A.M. (Justice, Arts & Music) Awards & Concert were held in the late, great Run-DMC DJ’s honor in New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom. They key word is concert with the numerous and varied musical guests eclipsing the few awards given out. Nevertheless, the event showcased the respect Jam Master Jay still commands while handing out awards in the name of justice, art and music award winners chosen by the Jam Master Jay Foundation for Music’s Board Members.Approaching the Hammerstein there was not too much of the commotion or fanfare associated with such events from those waiting to get it. Rather, it seemed like folks were there to sincerely honor JMJ rather than profile and pose. Inside, the atmosphere wasn’t any more exciting, at least to start. The mixed crowd ranged from b-boys and corporate types to hipsters and thugs.  The festivities were supposed to kick off at 8:30pm but lights darkened at 9pm with two projectors screening Jam Master Jay (JMJ) hyping a crowd before the evening’s host, JMJ’s wife Terry C. Mizell and DMC opened the festivities. After thanking everyone for coming out and an impassioned DMC stressing the positive Hip-Hop can bring, the show began. Kid Capri was introduced and proceeded to rip the wheels of steel. Effortlessly flowing through 90’s jams from the likes of Das-Efx, Onyx, Ol Dirty Bastard and Black Sheep, the storied DJ got the crowd amped. De La Soul’s P.A. Pasemaster Mase quickly jumped in after Capri’s set and introduced De La Soul to the stage. Running through joints like “Buddy” and “Stakes is High,” the Long Island trio kept the crowd motivated. Mobb Deep was up next, and that’s when the nights, stumble began. After the DJ got the crown to chant “Free Prodigy,” there was awkwards silence before he asked “Soundman, where we at?”Then, when the sound got worked out, the stage was rushed by Prodigy, Big Noyd (who got busy) and a number of Mobb Deep “valets” in tow. Oh yeah, Havoc didn’t make it while it seemed like the valets on stage and the crowd sung the lyrics louder than Prodigy himself. Running through Mobb hits like “Give Up the Goods,” and “Quiet Storm” as well as his own “Keep it Thoro,” got the crowd excited, and “Shook Ones, Part 2” garnered the biggest ovation. Also, after bigging up JMJ, Prodigy did manage to let the audience know HNIC Part 2 is dropping in February. After Prodigy’s set the first award of the night was finally presented by dead prez’ M1 and Stic.man. Stic also managed to inform the crowd that he has a new album dropping before announcing the winner of J.A.M. Social Justice Award to Chuck D. The Public Enemy frontman was not present but his longtime manager accepted the award on his behalf. Noting that it was JMJ that introduced Chuck to Rick Rubin, he also poignantly asked “Where is the justice for Jam Master Jay and his family?” The rest of the show was unfortunately mired by long awkward pauses between energetic sets. World renowned battle DJ Mista Sinista got busy to the crowd’s delight and was followed Rev **ahem** DJ Run making an appearance to introduce EPMD. DJ Scratch held down the turntables while Erick and Parrish flowed through hits like “It’s My Thang,” “You Gots to Chill” and “So Watcha Sayin’.” After Scratch caught wreck with his Superman routine, EPMD went into “Rampage” with LL Cool entering stage right to deliver his verse to the ladies in attendanc’s delight, of course. (story continues below)(Juelz Santana, not LL Cool J)Snoop Dogg followed next wearing gold chains and an Adidas track jacket. With DJ Battlecat holding him down he went into a rendition of Run-DMC’s “Sucka MC’s”. He was flawless, not flubbing a single line a la Lupe Fiasco. DMC entered to finish off the song and despite his diminished voice rocked the crowd. Snoop then went on to keep it “old school” running through hits like “Deep Cover,” “Let Me Ride” and “Gin & Juice” before finishing up with “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”Really the show could have ended here. But there were more acts, and only one awarded had been presented so far. Bumpy Knuckles and Q-Tip then presentend the J.A.M. Award in the category of Art to graffiti legend LEE Quinones who graciously accepted the honor with his you song in tow. Marley Marl then stepped to the podium with Biz Markie, who easily gets the freshest cat in the house award due to his rocking an ill sheepskin coat with the matching hat. The Juice Crew tandem introduced BK’s M.O.P. who proceeded to run through their gems like “Cold as Ice” and the “Put It in the Air (Remix)”.The strangest performance of the night went to Everlast. Yep, the House of Pain white guy, though he was looking more like Johnny Cash meets Elvis. His singing rendition of Slick Rick’s “Children Story” was interesting to say the least. Some dude was on the keyboards and DJ Muggs was looking serious on the decks. “Jump Around” got the most applause. Of course. Terry Mizell came out with her and JMJ’s children to present a Foundation Commitment award to Ivan Taback before dead prez sparked some life into the crowd by performing “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop.” Again, in case we forgot, Stic.man reminded us of his album. Papoose tried to get the crowd amped but with midnight fast approaching it was an uphill battle. Also worth noting was Pap’s spitting of a lot of guntalk—though, he was in no way the only culprit—on a night to honor a man who was shot dead. Hip-Hop doesn’t feel censorship but it even felt awkward when earlier during his set PMD spit “Don’t get too close because you might get shot.” Anway, when Pap kicked his verse from Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It (Remix)” there was a spark but that diminished when he performed “Alphabetic Slaughter” for the millionth time and went through the entire alphabet. Jim Jones was next and his set wasn’t too inspired. Juelz Santana came through with the assist and they ran through cuts like “Pin the Tail,” his “Walk It Out” verse (not the best choice for this crowd) but Capo then walked off before even finishing “We Fly High.” The result was a smatter of boos before Raekwon the Chef finally hit the stage.

Those with plenty of patience were in for a treat as Raekwon came through with Cappadonna and half of a Staten Island project. Starting off with “C.R.E.A.M” he then cruised through Only Built 4 Cuban Linx heaters like “Glaciers of Ice” and Incarcerated Scarfaces.” Shallah Rae always is always perched on a soap box and he waxed poetic on “taking it back to when Adidas was $32” and how “Jam Master Jay saved my life.” He noted how though he only met JMJ once the energy he felt from him left Rae feeling like he had just spoken to a close uncle. The Clansmen finished his set kicking a his verse from 8 Diagrams’ “Take It Back.” By that time people were rushing the door to head home. With better organization between acts the J.A.M. Awards can only get better with time  and  can only help Jam Master Jay’s legacy thrive.

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