DJ Enuff and Megan Ryte are gearing up for Hot 97s Summer Jam 2016 and they are both understandably turnt for what promises to be another stellar concert in keeping with what is already a proud hip-hop tradition. Ryte has been at Hot 97 for a year, and the radio personality was well aware of that tradition before she ever actually joined the brand.
“I used to come up here and literally beg Flex to put me on the radio and stuff like that,” she shares. “So knowing and paying attention to Summer Jam every single year and now actually being a part of it and watching it [come] together is incredible.”
Enuff is a veteran of the Summer Jam experience and he’s come to understand that the annual show can be a great barometer for what’s going to be the most talked-about tracks during the warmer months.
“I’m using Summer Jam as a tool,” says Enuff. “Every year, people want to know what the breakout song of the summer is. Every year, our bosses are like ‘You can’t judge it by a few hundred people in attendance,’ but when you have those fans screaming or cheering on a certain song—especially if you didn’t expect it to be one of the hits—that’s something I’m looking for, the excitement on that side.”
The headliners for this year’s show include Future, Pusha T, Bryson Tiller, Young Thug, Big Sean, DJ Khaled and more, but the most intriguing part of Summer Jam is always the stars you didn’t know were going to be there. The “…And Friends” addendum has come to mean a bevy of guest appearances.
“I’ve only been here for a year but what I know about Summer Jam is the ‘And Friends’ is crazy!” laughs Megan. “We don’t even know—just seeing who shows up is exciting for me.” And managing a show that has so many unscripted moments is no easy feat. Enuff gives props to Hot 97s Ebro Darden for managing the madness.
“I call Ebro the ‘Mad Scientist,’” says Enuff. “I’ve seen him put together an entire run of show and it’s not easy to get done. You have to wear this crazy mad scientist hat and you have to piece it all together. Sometimes you might not hear the biggest names because they’ve been snuck into a surprise performance. We know what we’re doing and we put on the best show ever.”
And Ryte has learned the ropes of managing Summer Jam—so she won’t be as stunned by the huge event this time around.
“I got here last April so I was here two months [before Summer Jam.] From the day I got here, we were already in Summer Jam mode. Being in front of 55,000 people is a different feeling and I didn’t understand it until I walked out on that stage.”
The magnitude of the event echoes the weight that Hot 97 still carries for many fans. The brand has stabilized following a flurry of changes in 2014–including the departures of mainstays Angie Martinez and Cipha Sounds–and has withstood criticism from some that the radio no longer breaks artists. It’s that kind of criticism that Enuff thinks is ill-founded. He believes that Hot 97 is still breaking records and artists–and yes, those artists sometimes even come from New York City.
“Desiigner was a kid who came out of Brooklyn, we jumped on the record as fast as we could and we championed it. [G.O.O.D. Music’s] Steven Victor heard us playing it in rotation and that’s why they signed him. To know that he’s Kanye’s right-hand man and works with G.O.O.D. Music; to know those factors—it makes me feel like we’re still on top of our game. We use the internet as a tool. People have opinions—so what? When Hot 97 would break records back in the day and ask the people their opinions, they would trash them. Six months later, it’s ‘We love it!’
Hot 97 is still a conduit and Summer Jam is still a hip-hop staple and Enuff says that, despite whatever changes maybe happening in the culture, some things remain how they’ve always been.
“People always worry about these changes and I think its unnecessary. I think summer Jam the brand is so incredible—I’ve never seen one wack Summer Jam. Even when some of the greatest artists left, it still went on. No one is bigger than the logo. I used to hear that from Lyor Cohen back in the day when he’d talk about Def Jam. That’s how I feel about Summer Jam. Nobody is bigger than Summer Jam. Summer Jam is the street—there’s something about the energy. The party starts on the train and in the cars and people tailgating in the parking lot. This thing goes on all day and people prep all week!”