BOULDER, Colorado — An affluent college town that sits at the halfway point between the East and West coasts has finally been annexed into the hip-hop nation, with a little help from a man with a huge head.
On Sunday night, Ludacris hit the stage of the sold-out Fox Theatre sporting a nylon skullcap that temporarily confined his trademark afro — an impressive ’do that appears in full plume on the cover of Word of Mouf, Cris’ second album. Shifting focus from his hair to his Hennessy, he dangled a full bottle of the stuff in front of the crowd like a baby’s play toy. It was an appropriately inebriated beginning to an evening of high-spirited homages to the rapper’s favorite things: women, weed and getting wild.
“Bob your head to the beat, damnit,” he instructed the packed house, a skin-revealing and sweaty mass that packed into the venue to catch a glimpse of the Atlanta rapper in his first headlining tour. “I know y’all don’t get shows like this out here very often, so we’ve got to make sure we get it right.”
Ludacris did just that during a 40-minute set that ranged from rowdy and reefer-mad (“Growing Pains,” “Catch Up”) to just plain raunchy (“What’s Your Fantasy”). Backed by DJ JC and flanked by a pair of massive bodyguards, Ludacris spit his way through material from his first major-label release, Back for the First Time, as well Word of Mouf, released last November. When Ludacris dropped the single “Saturday (Oooh Oooh!),” the fans showed their gratitude by flailing their arms, wagging their heads and jumping up and down in time with the bass and the beat.
As fitting a show in a university town, the evening was not without its educational moments: “Once upon a time there was a little boy in Georgia,” Cris began, adopting a mock storytime voice and relaying a little tale about a young MC who finally made it big. “He got a little bit of change in his pocket, started turning up on TV a bit, and finally started traveling from city to city. Well, you know what that brings.”
Ludacris was referring, of course, to women — a point made with heart-pumping clarity in “Area Codes,” a song that showcases his knack for wordplay and his easy but tough stand-up-comedian-style stage persona. Even the uniformed officers who’d been hired to work the show couldn’t help but crack smiles when Cris warned listeners they were “about to enter the ho-zone layer.”
DJ JC seized the opportunity to learn the crowd. In a warm-up set, he chastised aspiring young hip-hop heads who failed to recognize tracks from artists like the Black Sheep and the Furious Five.
“Y’all are young, you don’t know nothing,” he said playfully. “You probably think Nelly is old school.”
JC also demonstrated a deep love for vinyl by scratching his turntables with body parts ranging from fingers to cheeks to lips, at one point using an impressively extended tongue to move the wax beneath the needle.
“It looks like I’m having fun up here, huh?” he asked the crowd. “That’s just because of how much I love hip-hop.”
No matter where you were sitting, it looked like everyone — crowd and performers alike — shared his feeling.
Read about all of the shows we’ve recently covered in Tour Reports.