Real dirty, real gritty: SuperJam knows you like to move

by Ryan Snyder

“Ladies, if you 18 and up, got good credit and ain’t got no diseases, make some noooiiise!” That’s the battle cry of the 102 JAMZ SuperJam, simultaneously one of the most widely anticipated and contentious yearly events in not just the city of Greensboro, but the greater Triad area altogether. With every swinging Richard on the Greensboro police force in uniform, the massive rap show drew more than 16,000 fans within the confines of the Greensboro Coliseum and roughly twice that amount to the after-parties.

While event detractors debate that SuperJam is a waste of public resources and magnet for petty crime, a better conversation would have been whether it’s an accurate barometer for currency in hip hop. Given one of the primo set times, Plies is not the greatest rapper; he’s hardly even a good one. He’s “real,” though. Just look at his album titles. He’s so real that he actually doesn’t need to be able to spit anything resembling a thought-provoking rhyme or push his flow to incite the SuperJam crowd. Granted, this event has never been known for featuring the headphone-jam kind of hip hop where provocative, insightful lyrics are usually a prerequisite.

Plies peppered his set of AutoTune-era mini-hits “Shawty” and “Hypnotized” with whatever hip-hop trope and clich’ passing through his stream of consciousness he deemed controversial enough to further rouse the already unruly crowd. “F**k the police” was a pretty controversial and inflammatory thing to say… back in 1988, but commercial hip hop today is so far removed from the days of “NWA vs The Police Department” that Plies just sounded like he has nothing else to say. As far as he’s concerned, however, those feelings probably are genuine and the extent of his disquisition on social justice at the same time.

So why am I wasting so many words on such an insignificant rapper? It has to be underscored that Plies’ set superseded that of one of the most all-around gifted young emcees to hit hip-hop in years. It was criminal in and of itself that Bobby Ray Simmons, AKA BoB, should have to yield stage time to a tried and unproven rapper like Plies, but limiting Simmons’ set to a scant 15 minutes in the process was indefensible. Even former Kanye West DJ A-Trak had alluded to BoB being the most talked-out hip-hop artist in 2010 on his Twitter feed earlier in the day.

It should also be noted that this set wasn’t the quintessential BoB show, but the Bobby Ray show, that of his vastly more commercial material from his Billboard Top 200 No. 1 album B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray Simmons. Still, Simmons dominated the stage for the short amount of time he was given, though fans of his more abstract and interesting mixtapes were surely disappointed by the set list. His performance was still one of the best of the evening regardless, even if he didn’t get to pick up an instrument. Ricco Barrino introduced him and later guested for the Bruno Mars’ vocal spot on his No. 1 single “Nothin’ On You” amidst some of his other notable hits “Airplanes,” “Bet I Bust” and the one that started it all for him, “Haterz Everywhere.”

The rest of the night was hit or miss, though hedging toward the hit side. Without a real album to his credit, it was hard to put a finger on Waka Flocka Flame’s chaotic performance. It can best be summed up as boisterous foolery, with two dozen people on stage and no rhyme or reason dictating its course. Yet when I look back to the performers who most left their impression on me, Waka Flocka is right there. To sum it up, it was a beastly and fiery show by a guy with one foot still on the street. He’s such an enigma in music that his name was spelled no less than three different ways on SuperJam promo material, but the man himself is too gangsta to really care, along with too hard to ever drop a punchline. In the long run, that’s not his game, though neither is performing. He’s a singles and mixtape rapper who’s got a great flow, voice and delivery, and brings pure fire to the mic, on top of some awesome beats, but he’s never going to be known as a lyricist or even a great performer. Hell, he might even be Plies in three years.

There’s not much to be said about headliner Ludacris other than if it weren’t for him, performance ethic would have been at a premium. The veteran gave everything expected of him and as hot as Plies, Waka Flocka and Party Boyz tracks might sound on the radio, their music loses a lot when translated from CD to stage.

So is SuperJam worth the hassle? For a lot of people looking to simply throw down it clearly was, but as a pure celebration of hip-hop music for the discerning fan, it’s less than satisfying as a whole. If there is work to be done, start by giving BoB a longer set.