For the class of '06, the flyest prom ever

Assistant principal Alonzo Randall is pacing in the foyer, obsessively glancing at his cellphone, waiting for… well, he’s not supposed to say. Randall is keeping a prom night secret from the senior class of Eastern High. “I’ve been keeping this to myself for three weeks,” the brawny administrator says as students from the Northeast Washington school parade past him, an oblivious blur of body glitter, silk, spangles and loose-fitting suits.

It’s Friday night at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, a hub of prom season activity, and the scene resembles something out of a rap video: the stretch SUVs on the circular driveway, the girls flashing skin, the guys wearing their stylish sunglasses at night, doing their best to look as if they’ve been outfitted by Yves St. Laurent and accessorized by Jacob the Jeweler.

Inside the Embassy Room, where a makeshift red felt “carpet” lines the entryway and the balloon arches are done up in sky blue and white (Eastern’s colors), the hip-hop song “I’m N Love (Wit a Stripper)” is thumping over the sound system. It’s a curious choice for a prom night playlist, but it’s basically just background noise. The dance floor is empty; all the kids are milling around or sitting at tables, picking at food from the dinner buffet. Nobody appears to be interested in making the first move under the ballroom’s gigantic chandelier.

Randall thinks he has a pretty good idea about what might get the party started, though, and when his phone finally rings, he begins the countdown.

“Ten minutes,” he says. “It’s going to be hot.”

Just after 11 p.m., Randall briefly addresses the students before giving way to a radio deejay named II Face the Wild Boy from WKYS (93.9 FM), who summons Eastern senior Jessica Jones. Having won a contest through the station, Jones has been made up and fed and driven to the prom in a classic Rolls-Royce. But wait, there’s more, the jock says. Something about a date for Jones, who came to the prom without one, having shared the ride in the Rolls with her good friend Charnice Robinson. “We’ve got a little somethin’ somethin’ for you,” Wild Boy says. “Make some noise for Yung Joc!”

Thus begins the pandemonium, as students shriek and rush to the front of the ballroom, where the ascendant Atlanta rapper has materialized to perform his hit single, “It’s Goin’ Down.”

Your mileage may vary, but prom memories are typically made up of fashion decisions that tend to look exponentially more ridiculous as time passes, plus all that angst suffered in getting a date and then figuring out how to finance the night. However, sometimes you go to a prom and a five-minute concert breaks out, and that becomes the headline.

And so Eastern High’s 2006 senior prom will go down as the night Yung Joc (pronounced “young jock”) surprised the roughly 200 promgoers when he stopped by to perform the song that currently sits atop Billboard’s national R&B/hip-hop chart. “It’s Goin’ Down” isn’t exactly “Always and Forever,” as Joc raps of selling dope, being pursued by the FBI and having a pistol in his lap; but still.

Memories. Nothing more than promotional-tour-meets-prom memories. In a raspy drawl, the 23-year-old entertainer (real name: Jasiel Robinson) tells the kids at the end of his performance that his new album, “New Joc City,” comes out Tuesday.) “I was, like, shocked,” says Jones, the contest winner. “It’s a night I’m always going to remember.”

Says Janay Allen, another senior: “I was like, ‘What? Yung Joc?! Whatever; you’re playing.’ But he came out, and I was like, ‘It’s really Yung Joc!’ It was such a big surprise. I was already happy when I came to the prom, but that made me happier.”

The idea of bringing a major-label recording artist to a high school prom attended by roughly 200 students isn’t necessarily new; record companies have been doing it sporadically for at least a few years. The impact on an artist’s career is debatable, though there are bound to be small-scale fan-loyalty benefits and a slight bump in localized buzz. But with Joc’s single in heavy rotation across the country, his album is already expected to make a lofty entry onto the Billboard Top 200 upon its release next week, most likely in the Top 5.

Joc wound up at the Eastern dance because he was in town Friday for a concert at Love, and WKYS was looking to do some sort of promotion, and Joc’s camp was amenable to crashing a prom, and Eastern’s happened to be scheduled for Friday at a building about five minutes from the WKYS studios.

“We want to give our listeners stuff they can’t get anywhere else,” says Derrick Brown, the program director for WKYS. “Stuff that money can’t buy.” (Sort of, anyway: Tickets to the prom were $80 per student.) Wearing a Sean John T-shirt and embroidered jeans, along with thousands of dollars’ worth of diamond jewelry—a massive diamond crucifix, a diamond-encrusted watch, a diamond tennis bracelet, a diamond ring, etc.—Joc says he’s now performed at two proms this year, and he’d gladly do more.

“I don’t care if I have a No. 1 record; it’s just a pleasure to be in a situation like this,” he says. “These kids, they seemed to enjoy me, and I enjoyed them.” He left a few minutes later.

Says Harve Pierre, the general manager of Sean “Diddy” Combs’s Bad Boy Records, whose new Bad Boy South imprint is releasing Joc’s album: “We try to do things like this if we can. Joc likes to reach out to people and get to the fans.”

But there is at least one problem with playing at a prom: Eastern’s Class of 2007 will probably expect Diddy himself to perform.

“We definitely appreciate Yung Joc coming to our prom,” says Randall, the assistant principal. “It was really cool. But the administrator for the senior class next year will definitely have to step it up a notch. This is going to be hard to top.”


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