Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ludacris Concert Review

[Before we begin, I wanted to inform you that I just inherited a digital camera from my mom and stepdad. I illegally toted this camera into the concert with me and, right in the face of security guards who could have seized said camera, snapped focused, clear, composed shots of the concert. From my third row spot, with no zoom to get between us, I captured Lil’ Fate’s askew Braves cap, Luda’s sharp new fade, and those ridiculous rhinestone-bedazzled t-shirts rappers are wearing these days; and I did it all for you, gentle reader. However, I don’t have a USB wire to hook this camera into the computer, and I’ve been holding the column off until I get one. Then I stopped caring. This is the story without my photos.]

From the hallowed dome of Tulane’s McAlister Auditorium last week, I took in what I can now say is one of the great live shows in all of hip-hop, Ludacris. Because of Tulane’s poor promotion of the event, it snuck up on me faster than the whole realizing-I-would-now-rather-do-Christina-than-Britney thing. In the span of one week, I went from learning he was coming to New Orleans to finding out, due to my mysterious connection, that I would be in the third row for a paltry twenty bucks.


But before I could enjoy the over-accentuating drawl of a man whom I always likened to a drunken Chuck D, I would have to endure the unintentional comedy of opening act rappers:

A. J-Dawg and Young Gabe- These are two fellows whose banger “Money” is in light rotation on local radio. I’m pretty sure both of them were incorrectly holding the microphones and talking over a CD of their song. Thankfully, they only performed that one single, but it felt longer than a hip-hop “Hey Jude”--less na na, more terrible. By the way, a rapper called J-Dawg performing a song called “Money” is like a dog named Spot licking his balls, only a little less original. Seriously, the refrain is “DJ got the sound bumpin’.” Does he?

B. Roach Clipse- More of the college indie-rap variety than any of the other performers, Roach Clipse is a St. Louis trio made up of a scruffy, Rakim-influenced causcasian who took all the verses, a skeezier white boy who yelled the choruses, and a bespectacled African-American who did nothing but bob his head. They also said their own name a lot. The crowd basically looked at its collective watch while the main dude boasted what were admittedly intricate verses, only to be belittled by his buddy who would yell something like, “Roach Clipse/Jump around/We’re gonna show you how to get down.” On one song their backing track was messed up, and the snare made the speakers’ tweeders crack. Most people winced, but I thought it sounded kind of cool and avant-garde. I like that I have more friends on Myspace than them.

C. Dizzy- I actually like this guy. No joke. He opened with his song “Downtown,” which is both an ode to the part of N.O. he reps and an occasion for a Vanessa Carlton sample that played well to the irony-soaked college crowd. He kept time expertly with the music and genuinely seemed happy to be there. He smiled a lot. His DJ kept shouting Dizzy’s Myspace, which is the cumbersome Because, you know, Dizzy is also known as “Raw D.I.,” which is pretty much irrelevant. Anyway, Dizzy has his first real album coming out this fall, and it’s probably going to bring him a wider audience.

plaintive- (adj.) any artist affiliated with Gorillaz for Skrilla Entertainment

D. Gator- It’s doubtful that these guys were originally on the bill, but Luda was running late, and they went on to kill some time. (According to my mysterious connections, the Tulane entertainment group was held up at the Atlanta airport because Ludacris’ friend Arby got lost, and he wouldn’t leave without this tool, despite the fact that the school was giving him $70,000.) Gator performed a few songs that were generally centered around the topic of flossin’. The main dude’s (the main dude, not the guy wearing sunglasses and a t-shirt emblazoned “Da Goonz”) performance was noteworthy for promoting his store on Canal Street—“where you can get all that Fendi, Prada, and BBC gear”—as much or more than his music. I don’t remember much else about these guys.


Finally, after self-indulgent problems with the DJ’s levels—“Can I get the lights turned down, goddammit?” “I need my monitors up.”—Ludacris chanted the first couplet of “Game Got Switched” and emerged to a flood (hardy-har) of cheers.

For the next hour-and-a-half he and his DTP weed carrier Lil’ Fate performed about fifteen singles—even the ones that suck (“Splash Waterfalls,” “Act a Fool”)—and it’s not until you hear them all in a row that you appreciate his longevity and consistency in the game. His technique was as good as could be expected: considering that his end-of-line emphases were built for multi-tracking, he kept his breath formidably. But more importantly, he kept his charisma.

During a live show, the lines that separate a superstar like Ludacris from, say, his crunchy-looking friend Lil’ Fate (as opposed to medium-sized destiny?) are obvious. From the first song, Luda controlled the crowd, trading compliments with gentle derision. While he seemed genuinely proud that some people knew every line, he also led into “Stand Up” by humiliating some girl in the front who was “Still fuckin’ sitting down after all this shit. You know what she has to do?” He also did the obligatory rapper thing in which he simultaneously complimented and excoriated white people for coming to hip-hop shows. Which is nice.

Meanwhile, Lil’ Fate’s only contribution in this arena was something like, “I don’t know…I fuckin’…I fuckin’ think this side was louder” during the which-side-is-louder stall tactic. It’s tough being a back-up and he was better than most, by which I mean he didn’t completely irritate the shit out of me. All I’m saying is that there’s a difference between him and a captivating, multi-millionaire double-threat.

Mixed in with the hits were verses from some of Luda’s more memorable guest spots and remixes. These choices were somehow obvious (“Yeah!”), unnecessary (“Lovers and Friends”), and negligent. (I really wanted some “Made You Look Remix” or “You Don’t Have to Call Remix,” but I guess “I’m getting head straight up like Alfalfa” might not work live.) Each of these features only lasted about twelve bars or so though, so it just felt like lagniappe for an already consistent setlist. Dude even played "Ho," which was pretty durned exciting.

Some time after the smug DJ solo, in response to crowd demand, Luda tried a freestyle. It definitely wasn’t extemporaneous, but he faked it well and even added the line, “I’m gettin’ two-lane head from a Tulane head,” which the audience loved. I guess rappers who play colleges store these lines somewhere. Schools like Ball St. are gimmies, but I’d like to find his notes on Valparasio.

By the way, the DJ was tolerable but not great. He played too much with turning pieces of choruses a capella, and his settings were way too loud. On some of the bass-heavier tracks, I actually felt a breeze from the speakers, and it took about six hours for my ears to stop ringing afterwards. On the bright side, he flipped the third verse of “What’s Your Fantasy?” with the beat of “Kryptonite” and mashed the end of “Move Bitch” with “It’s Goin’ Down,” which I would have enjoyed had I not been slapped in the face by someone’s fake motorcycle handlebar.

A personal favorite moment involved a Randy Jackson-looking Tulane official who was standing just off-stage grousing at the show’s profanity and lewdness. ‘Cris made note of this at some point and taunted him during “Pussy-Poppin’.” It was subtle, but as he headed into the chorus, he turned around and locked his eyes on the dude while popping his p’s. I didn’t see the gentleman after that. Ludacris obviously knew who he was there to please and took care of that business admirably.


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