This year at MetLife Stadium on June 12, Hot 97’s Summer Jam is bringing all the heat to the Greater New York Area with a sick lineup of artists and producers. Summer Jam 2022’s lineup includes Fivio Foreign, Dreamdoll, Shenseea, Yung Bleu, Lil Baby, and even a special tribute for the late DJ Kay Slay from New York’s own Papoose. Just looking at the lineup for the Festival Stage and Main Stage, this isn’t an event that you’ll want to miss.
“We have so many amazing moments happening at Summer Jam this year. This is probably the first one from top to bottom that I am thoroughly excited about – and when I say top to bottom, I mean from the festival on down,” Hot 97’s SVP of Artist and Talent Relations TT Torrez disclosed during our ZOOM interview. “It’s just going to be an amazing show.”
Torrez says this year’s Hot 97 Summer Jam will be “a cultural moment for hip-hop” that’ll be chock full of surprises and each year has a more dynamic moment than the one before. “You’re just never going to know what’s going to happen at Summer Jam. With the lineup this year, you have such a mixture of both Gen Z artists and millennial artists, and something for the OG’s. I feel like it’s a combination of all three that people are really going to be excited about,” she added.
Ahead of this year’s Summer Jam festivities, we caught up with Torrez about some of the surprises to come at MetLife Stadium, her thoughts on Black femcees today, and how Hot 97 continues to support women of color in the music industry.
ESSENCE: How has your involvement in Summer Jam led you to this point in your career, and what were some of the challenges putting everything together this year?
TT Torrez: I grew into this role. Normally, two people handle the stages. One would do the festival stage and the other person would handle the bookings for the stadium stage. Over the course of the years, I’ve kind of evolved into curating both stages with the help of my entire team but it’s a lot of work. I start planning a year in advance, requesting artists, putting it together, foreseeing who’s hot, looking at streams, what the market is saying, where the kids are going, and what the millennials and the OGs like. Summer Jam is the blueprint to what you see happening now in the festival space. We started that trend, having all those artists on one stage and pop-outs and all of that. We were like the original hip-hop festival.
It’s just about taking the time and following up. It’s a lot of work, but it’s about dotting your Is, crossing your Ts, and making sure that everything gets done in a timely manner. Obviously, we all are facing challenges. We are in a society right now where you have inflation that’s taking over, gas prices are through the roof, and people are still battling COVID. Of course, you have all those obstacles in front of you, but Summer Jam has always been resilient in terms of just pushing through and showing that we are here for the people and nothing is going to stop us. This is a night for you to just let all of that go and enjoy yourself. You ever have one of those moments where you just want to let go of the stress and just have a good fucking time and dance on tables? That’s what Summer Jam is going to bring.
ESSENCE: Who were some of the amazing women beside you that helped you to put Summer Jam together this year?
Torrez: I keep a group of amazing women around me. I’m all about women’s empowerment. I think it’s very important to have women on your team, particularly women of color. We know how to juggle it all and we get the motherfucking job done. Shout out to Jennifer Mundy, our integrated marketing director. This is her first year here at Hot 97 and she’s doing such an amazing job. She comes from the Diageo and spirits brand so she lends a different element to what we’re trying to do.
Shout out to Gwynet Charles-Bryant, head of our sales and she’s amazing. Melissa Gabriel who’s been helping out on an influencer side, and Tai Mari on a digital side who’s been helping. Shout out to Chanel Green, our PR person. I have such an amazing staff of women and I mean, we’re full of women over here, okay. Full of it.
ESSENCE: When it comes to women both behind-the-scenes or on-camera talent, why is it so important to give Black women and women of color their flowers?
Torrez: Like I said, Black women get the job done. I watched my mother raise eight children on her own as a single parent. She’s the strongest Black woman I know and we are the matriarchs of our family. We are the ones who prop our husbands up, we are the ones who make sure our children get off to school safely and that they have a meal in their belly, no matter how hard we got to scrape to get it. It is very important that you empower women, especially women of color, but you also understand what they bring to the table. That’s that resilience, execution, [and] getting the job done.
If you look at all of these huge things that are happening in the culture behind the scenes with artists, the majority of them now have a team of Black women. They have a team of women starting to push and they understand that if you want to get the job done, you’ve got to hire. It’s so funny. Someone said to me the other day, they’re like, “You’re a mom, right?” And I was like, “Yeah.” They were like, “I can tell because you get the job done.” Because we have no choice. It’s no folding. We get the job done.
ESSENCE: When it comes to New York and Black women, obviously, we have to talk about DreamDoll. What are your thoughts on how well she represents New York and her career trajectory in the music industry?
Torrez: I love DreamDoll. First of all, she’s a nice person. I love her in real life as a human being. One thing that I noticed about her early on is her elevation, her desire to want to be better, perfecting her craft, elevating her bars and metaphors, staying in the studio, and constantly putting in the work. No one works harder than DreamDoll.
I have had a front-row seat to how hard that girl works. She will literally be on tour, do a show, pick up the bag, and go back on tour. If she has a 20-minute window, she’s squeezing something in between. That girl works really, really hard. That’s one thing I noticed about her. When I was curating the stage, I’m like, “Yo, this girl is really putting on for New York City.” She is just literally right there, and when I stay right there, I mean like out of this world. She’s right there. I think her being from the Bronx and having that swag and connecting with her, I’m just super-duper proud of her.
ESSENCE: Who are some of your personal favorite Black femcee rappers and singers out right now?
Torrez: My favorite rapper of all time is Remy Ma. Hands down, she’s a beast. Metaphors, punchlines, the way she writes her records, the way I see her cook up, the way I see her go toe-to-toe with men in this business – hands down, she’s my favorite rapper and one of my favorite human beings. I also love Lil’ Kim. She’s amazing, she’s an icon, and you got to give her her flowers. My girl Cardi B I absolutely adore her from the top down and her funny personality. Of course, I love what Megan [Thee Stallion] is doing for the culture and how she has been able to elevate throughout the years.
Tink is amazing. Asian Doll, Kash Doll, Flo Milli – all of these women have been contributing to the culture consistently. It’s so funny because I just was under Elliot Wilson’s page the other day because B.Dot put his top list of MCs for 2022. I’m like, “Well, damn, no mention of female rappers?” They have been putting on consistently these past few years. It’s amazing how these men have these huge platforms, but we’re the ones driving the culture. We’re the ones with the fashion that girls want to be like. We always get pushed to the back burner and not on these lists when half of them could go toe to toe with any male when it comes to spitting. I say all that to say stop playing. These girls are coming and they coming hard, so stop playing with them. They’re selling records as big as these guys are selling records.
ESSENCE: Besides Summer Jam, how have you and the Hot 97 team continued to build a safe space and platform for femcees and singers, specifically women of color and Black women in the game?
Torrez: I think throughout the years, we’ve always been who we are. We embrace a lot of artists early. That’s just who we are. A lot of our DJs discover them early in the club, they connect with them early. We always try to be that beacon, that outlet, that radio station, that hub for new artists with our Who’s Next platform. Whatever we do, we just try to be that voice for the culture, and we feel like we have to. Who other than us?
ESSENCE: Even though you can’t give away any surprises, can you tell me how excited you are for Papoose’s tribute to DJ Kay Slay?
Torrez: That is going so well. I’m looking at creative pieces right now. It’s so funny you said that. I just approved some [vocals] from this major artist who’s doing this opening piece creatively. We are really putting a lot of great resources together to make sure we honor our brother in a way that’s dignified and respectable, and we know it’s the Kay Slay way. So I’m really excited about that.
Shout out to my brother Papoose who has been working with me hand-in-hand on what Kay would like, the sound, the look, and how we’re memorializing him throughout the entire stadium. As you walk in, you’re going to see all these beautiful pieces. He’s family. He will forever be in our hearts. We’re devastated by his loss, but we going to hold him down. We love him and miss him. We going to do it up for you, Kay, the Kay Slay way; the Drama King way.
ESSENCE: What are some of your ultimate Summer Jam do’s and don’ts that you would give to first-timers?
Torrez: First of all, ladies, do not come to Summer Jam in those heels and walk through that parking lot in nine-inch heels, okay? Because I’ve seen shoes come off. Get you some nice, comfortable sneakers so you could dance and you could get sturdy and do what you do. The second thing I would say is to make sure your fit is right from head to toe because it is like a fashion show out there. Everybody be stunting. Get it together. Start shopping right now. Just come, be prepared to have a good time, dance, chill with your homegirls, sing along to your favorite artists. That’s what the day is really all about.