It took nearly 40 years for the Video Music Awards to settle on Newark, New Jersey, as its location. In honor of this year’s award show home, the powers-that-be chose to honor the state by collecting an odd assortment of Jersey’s most iconic rappers — Naughty by Nature, Queen Latifah, Redman, Fetty Wap, and Wyclef Jean — to deliver the finale for this year’s show.
To be transparent, I was born and raised in the middling state of New Jersey and even I’m bewildered by this hodgepodge of musicians hailing from three different eras of hip-hop closing out the same show where Lil Nas X, Shawn Mendes, and Normani performed. Alone, they’ve all contributed to the fabric of hip-hop, but together in 2019 it looks like someone gave their inebriated uncle the aux cord at a Labor Day BBQ in Asbury Park.
Naughty By Nature performed “O.P.P.” to a room full of people that weren’t born when it was a hit. Fetty Wap ran through “Trap Queen” for a crowd that was definitely alive and thriving when the Paterson rapper was beginning his now-legendary 2014-2015 run. Then Wyclef started walking on his hands. It was a mixed, chaotic, but ultimately worthwhile bag. All it was missing was Zach Braff DJing a quick Garden State soundtrack set.