A surprisingly large and uncommonly eclectic crowd crammed the rubber floor of Barton Hall on Sunday to experience one of Cornell’s finest musical offerings in recent memory. Fortunately, the acts didn’t disappoint.
The crowd, which was particularly raucous and altogether pumped for the evening, was served a smorgasbord of Chicken and Beer with a side of Wooden Leather, as Nappy Roots and Ludacris & Co. relentlessly moved the crowd for two and a half hours.
The event, sponsored by the Minority Concert Fund Advisory Board and Cornell Concert Commission, started in the standard hip-hop show fashion: A yet unnamed DJ comes out and gets the crowd hyped by playing the moment’s hottest club bangers; only to outdo himself by somehow combining the lyrics and production of seemingly incongruent songs.
In this case, Nappy Roots’s DJ B. Easy was doing the spinning and the mind-boggling mix involved the vocals of Da Band’s “Bad Boy This, Bad Boy That” and the production of the Neptunes’s “Frontin.”
The crowd slowly rose to a collective crescendo with subsequent soundings of 50 Cent’s “What up Gangsta” and Chingy’s “Holidae In.”
But like they say, nothing compares to the real thing.
And finally the DJ asked the crowd if it was ready and an overwhelming affirmative answer was met with the energetic entrance of the Nappy Roots.
Taking the stage with reckless abandon, throwing water on the closely positioned crowd, and chanting their lyrics in ear-piercing exuberance, America’s favorite country boys got the formidable crowd not just warmed up, but blazing.
The energy was undeniably unique and anyone involved would attest to the group’s ability to stir up the normally reluctant Cornell crowd. Beginning its set with a slew of little known new material off the recently released Wooden Leather LP, Nappy Roots maintained its and the crowd’s energy even though they were playing unheard songs.
Of course, the Nappy Roots are best known for several hits off their first album Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz, and they definitely saved the best for last.
Initially whetting the crowd’s appetite with an interactive version of the widely popular “Po’ Folks,” the Nappy Roots knew what they were doing keeping the club favorite “Aw Naw” for the set’s finale.
As the infectious, easily recognizable beat came through the speakers on either side of the stage, the crowd effectively imploded and the Nappy Roots had themselves a moment to remember.
The set ended with a birthday shout-out for B. Stille that involved the muscle-bound rapper playfully grooving to the “In Da Club” beat while the crowd chanted “Go B. Stille, it’s ya birthday.”
After a relatively short interlude, a nasal voice asked the Cornell crowd how it was doing. The unique voice belonged to none other than the King of Southern Rap’s Ludacris.
Hip-hop’s playful prince opened the headlining set with “Act a Fool” reviving much of the same energy the Nappy Roots had graciously left for him on stage.
Comprehensively covering his most loved tracks, rap’s most creative and hilarious lyricist provided the Cornell crowd with a veritable greatest hits set. The night’s only disappointment, then, was its brevity.
Following his opening offering with the similarly energy-saturated “Area Codes” Ludacris produced an excitement that wouldn’t diminish till the houselights were turned on.
Joined sporadically by his Disturbing Tha Peace posse mates, I-20, Fate Wilson and T Boi, Ludacris was surprisingly crowd-focused often asking the gathered throng genuine, albeit sexually explicit questions. At one point, one of his stagemates noticed a group of ladies in the far left bleachers sporting t-shirts that read “We (heart) Luda.”
In typical Ludacris fashion his response was, “Where y’all gonna be tonight?”
The crowd was in Luda’s pocket all evening and he gained momentum by flawlessly reciting his tongue-twisting vocals in such songs as “Roll Out” and “Welcome to Atlanta.”
Though often lagging behind his energy and appeal, Ludacris’s DTP mates did provide one of the set’s highlights.
Claiming that it was the first time he’d do so, Ludacris gave the spotlight over to I-20 midway through the set. The gutturally voiced artist then asked the crowd for its participation as he unveiled the first single off his soon-to-be released solo effort. The song, called “They Fightin in the Club,” was quickly accepted and had the masses collectively moving once again.
Ludacris continued his streak of unselfishness by allowing his DJ, JC, to wow the crowd with a striptease/scratching exhibition of the highest rate.
The headliner then took the Nappy Roots’s cue, ending his set with an explosive exclamation point.
As was often the case, Ludacris set up his final two songs by engaging in seemingly pointless conversation.
“Do you see those people over there sitting down? They sittin’ down at a Luda concert!” he mused.
“That’s just wrong,” replied Fate.
“You know what they should do?” and with that line Ludacris was off and running on his most recent hit, “Stand Up.”
The crowd, still not drained from the merciless pace of the night, responded with waving hands, thrown elbows, and all out hysteria.
After “Stand Up,” Ludacris somewhat abruptly thanked the crowd for its participation and walked backstage. The crowd, somehow expecting more, sat in uneasy silence.
Just as everyone expected the houselights to kill everyone’s buzz, the same nasal voice that began the set calmly said, “Oh yeah, I forgot one song.”
Again the timing was classic as Ludacris and friends ran back onstage for one last rush of energy, ending the night with the bass-saturated “Move B*tch.”
All together, it was a good night for Cornell and one that won’t soon be forgotten for its unlikely showing of energy and hip-hop passion.
The night’s vibe was probably best summed up backstage by the Nappy Roots’s Big V who said of Cornell, “This is probably one of the hardest campuses we’ve been to.”
And in hip-hop, that’s one of the highest compliments a show can receive. Maybe Ithaca isn’t so cold and boring after all.
Archived article by Scott Jones