Hot 97’s DJ Camilo (photo used by permission).
New York City has barely seen a spring, but Summer Jam, the longest running and most preeminent festival in hip hop, is at its heels. Sponsored this year by Boost Mobile and XXL, and hosted by NYC’s Hot 97 Radio, the annual rap event hits New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on June 5th. Unlike one-off shows in tight venues, Summer Jam provides wide open spaces, sunshine and nonstop music, making it ample occasion to take in the scene, browse merch and bask in the omnipresence of green. In its 17-year history, the musical foray has featured legends like Biggie Smalls, Mobb Deep, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z and Nas; this year’s roster follows suit, with nearly every big name on Billboard among the lineup. Confirmed acts include Lil Wayne, Drake, Birdman, Young Money, Chris Brown, Dipset, Rick Ross, Fabolous, Lloyd Banks, Wiz Khalifa and Waka Flocka, but there’s always a surprise or two in the works (rappers come with an entourage). In fact, the show is renown for its unannounced guests; most notably, Michael Jackson.
DJ Camilo, host of “New at Two” on Hot 97, provides us with a preview of 2011’s installment.
BTR: What would you say is unique about the lineup this year?
Camilo: For one, having Chris Brown on the stage is gonna be great. Just cause it’s kind of his comeback after the situation he’s been through, then coming back into the public eye and getting trashed again. And he also dropped an album this year…It’s definitely going to be interesting having him on the stage. I also think there’s gonna be a lot of surprises. There’s been talk of Lloyd Banks bringing 50 Cent out as a guest, which would be huge because, prior to this Summer Jam, 50 hasn’t been able to perform. He’s been banned from Giants Stadium for like five or six years.
Camilo: Well, at the last show he performed at, there was a small incident where some chairs were thrown at him from the audience and then some chairs were thrown back into the crowd from the stage, so he got banned from the stadium. But now, with the new stadium, he’s free to perform so it could be a big surprise.
BTR: Who are you most excited to see?
Camilo: Probably Rick Ross because he’s had such a humongous year for himself…Right now, I feel like he’s got the streets on lock with his music. Whenever I play his tracks in a club, I can see the crowd get hyped, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing him on stage in front of 55,000 people.
BTR: Rick Ross had a lot of features on his last release. Do you anticipate he’ll bring out a few unexpected guests?
Camilo: It’s highly possible; that’s the great part about Summer Jam. You have all these big performers on the main list, but they bring out different people too. You might have Lloyd Banks bringing out Kanye West because they had a big record together this year… Dipset, well he could bring out anybody…Then you have Birdman, who runs Young Money, so someone like Nicki Minaj may not be on the bill, but there’s a huge possibility she’ll show up.
BTR: What’s the District 97 campaign about?
Camilo: Good question, you got me. [He laughs and discusses with fellow Hot 97 DJ, Mister Cee] Ah, it’s basically a petition to make Summer Jam a district of Jersey…With the event bringing together so many people in hip hop, we’ve got a drive going to create a ‘District 97.’ We need 50,000 signatures, so if Summer Jam sells out like it usually does, and we get 55,000 people in there, we should be able to reach our goal.
BTR: Given its distinct legacy, what does Summer Jam represent to hip hop?
Camilo: It’s an event the whole hip hop community looks forward to every year; the biggest hip hop event in the entire country. You know, rappers reference it in their music, and everyone always talks about what happened. With all the surprises that go down, people talk about it for the entire year…You’ll hear people say, ‘Oh, remember at Summer Jam? Remember when Jay-Z brought out Michael Jackson’? History happens.
BTR: Were you there when Michael Jackson showed up?
Camilo: I wasn’t there…I didn’t work for the station at the time. Back then I was just a fan.
BTR: How long have you been at Hot 97?
Camilo: About 10 years now
BTR: What’s been your most memorable Summer Jam experience?
Camilo: Last year because it was the first year I DJed; I spun between artist sets…Just going on that stage, standing there and looking at the crowd, with 55,000 faces looking back at you…You don’t forget that.
BTR: What’s been your favorite performance at the festival?
Camilo: That’s tough. Probably last year during DJ Khaled’s set. He literally brought every single artist out on stage with him, and everyone would perform minute pieces of songs…You were just like ‘Whoa, whoa.’ It was overkill.
BTR: How would you describe the hip hop scene in New York right now?
Camilo: Weird…You see a lot of artists not from New York making noise here…I mean, you still have that hardcore New York scene making hip hop, but they’re accepting a lot of rappers not from here too. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a little different.
BTR: What artist do you feel is doing the most for the genre?
Camilo: Probably Drake cause he’s so big but he’s still a lyrical guy, you know? He’s doing all the big numbers and every song’s a hit…At the end of the day, he’s a really big artist and that’s good for hip hop.
BTR: With the growth of internet radio, how does Hot 97 keep up?
Camilo: It’s tough…I have a show Monday through Friday at two o’clock called ‘New at Two,’ but it’s more than just that. It’s a 24-hour gig…You have to constantly be in the know because, with so much happening on the internet, you have to keep up. Like I’m constantly following all these artists on Twitter, because you’ll see someone like Wayne, at three in the morning, and he’ll tweet ‘I’m about to leak this track.’ My job is to get the music right when it drops, make sure it’s clean, and get it out first. You can’t sleep on it with the internet always live…It’s tiring, but somebody’s gotta do it.
BTR: So, what will you be doing this year at Summer Jam?
Camilo: Well, I got my little all-access pass so I’ll be backstage, I’ll be in the crowd, I’ll be on the stage..I’ve been assigned two or three DJ sets between acts so I’ll spin for about 10 minutes each set…Hot 97’s also gonna be broadcasting live backstage, so I’ll be there tweeting updates about what’s happening and talking to artists….Telling everyone listening on the radio what’s up.
BTR: Who would you like to see perform that hasn’t?
Camilo: Joell Ortiz. It’d be different, but he’s really influential in New York right now.
BTR: And lastly, what’s your drink of choice for the day?
Camilo: That one’s easy–Ciroc! Always, Ciroc and cranberry.
For the latest details on Summer Jam and hip hop, follow Camilo on Twitter: @djcamilo.