The FleetCenter in Boston welcomed a number of today's biggest hip-hop acts to town last night (Oct. 29) as radio station WJMN (Jam'n 94.5) hosted Monster Jam 2001. The event, sold-out well in advance

The FleetCenter in Boston welcomed a number of today's biggest hip-hop acts to town last night (Oct. 29) as radio station WJMN (Jam'n 94.5) hosted Monster Jam 2001. The event, sold-out well in advance, featured appearances by P. Diddy, Eve, Missy Elliott, City High, Craig David, Fabolous, and Nate Dogg, as well as long-dormant trio Bell Biv Devoe.

After a performance of the National Anthem by the Berklee College of Music Choir, U.K. sensation Craig David opened the show with a five-song set that included his hit "Fill Me In" and a cover of P. Diddy's "Bad Boy for Life," accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. The spare performance contrasted with his well-produced dancefloor tracks, and especially stood out within the arena rap show.

"I'm really excited by doing things that are slightly off-the-wall," David told Billboard.com later. "If everyone's going on with lots of dancers, I'm going on with just me -- I want to be the opposite of everything that's going on. Acoustically, it allows people to hear the songs; for me, great music is having songs at the forefront, with no production to it."

David admitted that the cheating-girlfriend lyric of "Fill Me In" does dip into autobiographical territory. "I was creeping around, though I never got caught," he said. "But I guess I sang this song nationwide -- now I [got busted] big time." The artist is returning to the U.K. today for an appearance at the MTV Europe Video Awards and to continue work on his second album.

Fabolous followed David, appearing for a short set. The rapper has found success this year with a number of collaborations, including guest raps on Lil Mo's "Superwoman" and Mariah Carey's "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life." Now, he has a hit of his own with his debut single "Can't Deny It" featuring Nate Dogg, who joined him onstage.

"I like collaborating with other artists -- it helps music a lot, bringing together different people, different cultures," the rapper said. "Just like Nate Dogg and I are the West Coast/East Coast; [the collaboration] brings it all together." Fabolous will embark on a tour later this year and start working on his next album in early 2002.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was an appearance from Boston's own Bell Biv Devoe, who are gearing up for their first studio album in eight years. The set, "BBD," features collaborations with Rockwilder, Heavy D, Donnell Jones, and former New Edition-mate Ralph Tresvant, and is due out Dec. 18 from Universal. "We didn't miss a beat this time around. It's still hip-hop smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop feel appeal," Ronnie DeVoe said, referencing the group's 1990 tagline.

Hip-hop renaissance woman Missy Elliott, braving a cold, appeared with a live band and dancers and performed a number of her hits. She flipped the typical misogynistic stereotypes on her latest single, "One Minute Man." Said Elliott, "I didn't necessarily make this record just for the ladies, I made it for
the guys who are so happy to get it."

Eve followed with a set that included her hit "Let Me Blow Ya Mind." Speaking of her recent participation in the all-star cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," she noted, "It was great to see rock, rap, R&B come together for a great cause. It's a great song and perfect for what's going on now, with the terrorism, and for the epidemic of AIDS in Africa. It was a great song to do, and it felt good to do something positive and show people that we do care."

As a member of the rap collective Ruff Ryders, Eve contributes a track, "You, Me, and She" (a cover of classic R&B group Mtume's 1984 cut "You, Me, and He") to the label's upcoming third compilation set. She will return to the studio next month to work on her third solo album, and has plans to launch a clothing line, Bombshell.

City High's set included the trio's recent hits "What Would You Do" and "Caramel." The video for the latter, which features Eve, pays homage to the 1985 film "Weird Science," vocalist Robby Pardlo said backstage. The group is about to head to Europe with Ozomatli to tour in support of its debut album. "What Would You Do" is riding high a top-10 single in the U.K.

P. Diddy closed the show with a lengthy set. Elaborate fireworks filled the arena as Diddy and his entourage, all decked out in Boston Celtics jerseys, performed Bad Boy evergreens, including "It's All About the Benjamins" and "Mo Money Mo Problems," plus material from his latest album such as "D-I-D-D-Y" and "Bad Boy for Life."

Diddy's act epitomized the display of patriotism that swept the show. In particular, it paid tribute to the victims of terrorism with video clips and the apropos "I'll Be Missing You." In lieu of a moment of silence, Diddy requested that the audience honor victims with 10 seconds of noise.

Once Diddy left, the audience learned that the remaining headliner, DMX, would not be appearing, which appeared to be last-minute news even to those organizing the concert. Bubba Sparxxx was a similar no-show, a fact only discovered earlier that day.

Proceeds from the event raised $25,000 for Project Bread, which feeds needy families throughout Massachusetts.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print