Ludacris will get plenty of Duke's "southern hospitality" Sept. 24, as the good-times rapper has agreed to grace the stage of Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first major concert there in almost a decade.
Duke University Union President Jonathan Bigelow said the University has secured an "airtight" oral agreement with the Atlanta-based rapper, known for such hits as "What's Your Fantasy," "Area Codes" and "Act a Fool." His next album, Chicken and Beer, will hit stores next month, roughly coinciding with the concert.
Despite the rapper's profane lyrics and occasional bouts with controversy, Bigelow said Ludacris's immense popularity among college students and boisterous persona make him an ideal choice.
"Ludacris offers a major attraction, with a fresh option from traditional college rock availability," Bigelow said. "Ludacris plays the type of music that Duke doesn't see a lot of."
Tickets are not yet on sale, but Bigelow said prices will be $20 in advance for Duke students, who will have the first right of refusal on prime seating. Total capacity will be about 4,500 for the concert, and Bigelow expects a mixture of students and other young people from the surrounding area.
Other acts that were considered for the concert but abandoned because of scheduling issues were Bob Dylan and a combined set of Ben Harper and G-Love and Special Sauce, said senior Dylan Ashbrook, chair of major attractions for the Union. Early fall is typically inconvenient for rock acts because summer tours are just ending and winter tours are yet to get underway.
Budgetary constraints and the needs of the athletic department also influenced the Union's decision, Ashbrook said.
Bigelow acknowledged that security would be a major consideration for the Ludacris concert, and that it would have been "virtually impossible" for the rapper to perform outdoors on a quadrangle--for instance, on the Last Day of Classes.
Partly owing to this worry, some administrators were querulous when they heard that Ludacris would be performing on campus.
Who? Who? was Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta's reaction, he said. "Then I consulted my expert on all such matters, my 22-year-old daughter, who said, 'They're a cool hip-hop group.'"
"We're dealing with administrators who are by and large middle-aged, who don't listen to this type of music," Bigelow said. "There were some people who had no idea who Ludacris was. Everyone had security concerns.... A lot of those concerns translated into specific security measures [which are still being negotiated]."
A successful and safe concert could portend a return to the musical glory days of Cameron, which last hosted a major concert in 1996. The athletic department's decision to reopen the venerable arena to bands came in 2002, after a long-standing moratorium on concerts due to the availability of the stadium, protection for its new floor and overall expense.
Now, Bigelow and others are trying to restore Cameron's musical reputation.
"When I hear that James Madison University brought Ludacris and is able to bring musical acts in their large venues, it's a shame that Duke hasn't been able to do this for the last few years," he said. Icons of the 1960s and 1970s like the Grateful Dead, Dylan and Bruce Springsteen all packed the house to make Cameron one of the prime venues in North Carolina, but a combination of scheduling difficulties and the arrival of newer, larger stadiums in the Triangle had made Cameron an afterthought, at best, for most major bands.
Ludacris may lack the classic rock pedigree of the Dead and Dylan, but his live show is described by Ashbrook in the timeless language of popular music.
"He's exciting, he's loud--it's going to be awesome."
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