Live Review: Ludacris - Cal State, Northridge
Mon, 13 Oct 2008 06:58:11
Ludacris's show at Cal State Northridge resembled Snoop Dogg's cameo in Old School. However, instead of Snoop's stoney, subdued flow and B.A. Pimpology, the students got Ludacris's commanding cadence and Masters in bombastic showmanship. Even though Will Ferrell didn't run across the stage naked, Tyrese did make a fully clothed appearance. The college erected the stage in the middle of their main quad, and underneath a bright San Fernando Valley sun, Ludacris transformed the setting into his classroom. He schooled the audience with a combination of fiery raps and inimitable rhymes. Class was in session, and Professor Ludacris had all eyes on him.
The actor and rapper has a certain panache that few of his peers have. He's also got an acute sense of humor that makes his live performances vibrant. Despite no beer on tap, there was enough free Red Bull to fuel a campus riot, but the crowd was more amped by the music. Now, Northridge is probably more known for its adult film output than anything else, but the scene was quite studious to say the least. It transcended any cliques, and it seemed like every lunch table—from the jocks to the nerds—had strong representation.
Ludacris kicked off the show with "Southern Fried." His quick cadence ignited one hilarious, sharp rhyme after another. Lyrically, he jabbed everything in his path and followed through with a massive hook that got the crowd chanting. The track's beat brandished a snaky distorted synth line that pulsated more like an arena rock tune than a club banger. As the crowd pumped their fists, it was clear that Ludacris came to rock Northridge, and he didn't disappoint during the hour of hits that followed. After "Southern Fried," he asked DJ JC, "You think they're real Ludacris fans? Let's take them back to the Dirty South real quick." With that, JC fired up "Act A Fool," and Ludacris's voice burnt right through the buoyant beats, as the audience screamed along.
He's always had a way with words, and the next song could've been a modern poetry lesson. Ludacris joked, "I forgot how fine the damn ladies were in these parts! Guess what I got?" Of course, the answer came in the form of his big hit "[Hoes in Different] Area Codes." The song sparked the loudest sing-a-long up to that point. Ludacris also dropped lines from Usher's "Yeah," and the grinding and gyrating hit a high point from the largely female crowd. "Pimpin' All Over the World" allowed Ludacris to showcase his laidback side, as he crescendoed from a super smooth groove into another arena-ready hook. Most importantly, Ludacris knew how to work the crowd. Bouncing his arm up and down, he magically made the kids move at the same time. He had a live presence that few rappers can conjure, and despite no props or backdrop of his own, his voice, style and swagger simply stole everyone's attention.
It doesn't hurt that he's got a bevy of hit songs that everyone in attendance knew word-for-word. Ludacris was all smiles on "What's Your Fantasy," during which Tyrese dropped some flavor alongside Ludacris's longtime collaborator, Lil' Fate. Other big numbers, "Stand Up" and "Rollout" proved just as fresh and fun as they were when Ludacris first dropped them on the masses. His new single, "Undisputed," from Theater of the Mind (11/25/08), hit hard, and it showed the rapper's progression, while preserving his essence. Ludacris is certainly a showman, but he's got an infectious sense of rhythm as well. That's what makes him so interesting.
However, now more than ever, Ludacris seems like a rocker. Clad in black sagging Levi's and a black t-shirt with a gothic figure a la Nightmare Before Christmas on it, he looked more ready for Warped Tour than Rock the Bells. Big Basher, "Move Bitch" could be on a KoRn record, but it's still Southern hip hop at its finest. Ludacris has masterfully found a middle ground between big rock n' roll charisma and dirty hip hop charm. He slid across the stage more like Axl Rose than Kanye West. He's also got a tangible energy that kids connect with. From the throng of girls chanting "Luda," it was clear that even though Lil Wayne looks like a rock star, Ludacris really could be one.