In case you hadn’t realized, it’s clear that the ideal genre for a college show is hip-hop. Think of the string of recent A&O shows: Nas, Method Man, Lupe Fiasco. The reason for this is fairly obvious: The average noteworthy hip-hop act is more popular than, say, an equivalent indie rock act. The flipside is that if you happen to be unfamiliar with a hip-hop act, the enjoyment factor decreases significantly.
Enter Two-9, Ludacris’ opener at A&O Ball on Saturday. The group is a “rap collective,” but not in the sense that Wu-Tang Clan, a collection of vibrant personalities eloquently expressing themselves in concert, is. Instead, they’re a bunch of dudes jumping around stage taking their shirts off and yelling incomprehensible lyrics. They represent another strain in the post-Odd Future/Chief Keef era of rappers who shout angry dismissals of society, but without the originality or talent. Every song sounded like a mashup of “All Gold Everything” and “I Don’t Like.”
But to a certain extent, who cares? All that was required from this opener was something fun for drunken Northwestern students to jump around to, and most of the bass-heavy beats accomplished this. The definite highlight was a song the Internet tells me is called “Guess Who;” the lyrics consist almost solely of the line, “Guess who fuckin’ yo’ bitch?” It’s awesome. Most students obviously came to the show solely for Luda, so the audience grew exponentially in size over the course of Two-9’s set. Weirdly enough, even though it seemed apparent from the moment Two-9 started playing that there were too many people on stage, more guys kept coming out! Some of them had long luscious hair, and some of them looked like Pryzbylewski from The Wire, but none of them had any obvious purpose.
Anticipation steadily built during the minutes between Two-9 and Ludacris, and it became clear that the main event would blow the opener out of the water. And so he did, because Ludacris is almost a perfect choice for a college concert. These are kids who grew up jamming to his early 2000’s hits, and the mixture of swagger and humor in Luda’s songs seems very “college,” somehow. You’d never mention Ludacris in a conversation of greatest MCs ever, but there’s a reason that he’s had such a successful career. The full band he brought with him reflected a level of dedicated professionalism, and the bottom line is that he’s a funny, charismatic performer whose music is fun to dance to.
One major moment of displacement, however, occurred when Ludacris ceded the floor to his DJ for a few minutes, just like he had to the rest of his live band earlier in the show. The man quickly tore through a medley of recent pop hits. Expected songs like “Harlem Shake” and “Levels” were represented, but weirdly, so was “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I loved it, but if not for the climactic encore of “Move Bitch,” I might’ve left a Ludacris concert with Nirvana stuck in my head.
With a repertoire of popular hits that had nostalgic value while still retaining their party-friendliness, Ludacris made for an awesome act to help usher in the spring.