St. John’s recently announced the lineup for their second annual spring concert, “Just Press Play II.” Part of Spring Weekend, performers include pop groups Hellogoodbye and Boys Like Girls, along with headliner Ludacris.
Additionally, Haraya will be hosting their annual “Black Music Fest” the same weekend, featuring rap artist Juelz Santana.
Ludacris was chosen out of a list of approved artists after a survey conducted by Student Life determined which artists students wanted to see. According to Darren Morton, associate dean of students, Ludacris’ contract has not yet been signed by his management team, but no problems are expected and the artist is already being listed as the main performer of the show.
Following the Student Life survey, the artist underwent a series of approvals, according to Morton.
“We have Public Safety do a clearance check, which is really a kind of criminal check, and they also look at [the artists'] lyrics too,” Morton said. “We get that clearance from them as it pertains to safety and then from that list we try to go after the artists as they were ranked based on whether they’re available or not and if they’re in our price range.”
Ludacris passed all levels of approval and was in the University’s price range, costing approximately $85,000, according to Morton.
“I think it’s slightly more [than last year's headlining act], but it’s not astronomically more,” Morton said.
While cost was not an issue for the University, some students have raised issue with the content of the rapper’s songs, citing their offensive nature, with tunes such as “Move Bitch,” “Ho,” and “P-Poppin’” containing numerous expletives and misogynistic lyrics.
Morton, however, stated that part of Ludacris’ contract concerns his lyrics and in effect censors him.
“We know that lyrics are pretty controversial across the whole music industry,” Morton said. “What we do is we have a rider, we have our mission compliance addendum to the contract and we also ask them to perform their radio edited versions.”
If the rapper breaks contract and performs any songs or words not approved by the University, there are a number of actions that can be taken, Morton said. The University has the option, because of the addendums to the contract, to either stop the show or refuse or reduce payment after the performance has ended.
Last year at Urban Music Fest, which featured Elephant Man and Papoose, one of the artists reneged on his agreement. Papoose, during his set, swore numerous times, effectively breaking his contract with the University. Following the performance, the University negotiated with Papoose’s agent, and a reduced payment was offered as penalty, according to Morton.
“The position of the administration is that we will safeguard the Catholic identity of the institution and we’re mindful of that,” Morton said. “At the same time we’re also mindful of trying to balance some of the interests of the students as well. It’s not an exact science but we’re trying to do the best that we can to have a balanced performance, balanced lectures.”
However, while administration is trying to protect the Catholic identity of the University, some have never heard the musical offerings of the artists being presented, putting them at a disadvantage in the approval process.
“I haven’t personally heard any of the songs, so I can’t speak as to what any of the lyrics are,” Morton said. “I guess I would have to hear it.
“I’m sure that some of those kinds of things are restricted in his contract and I’m sure that [Director of Campus Activities Damien Duchamp], in negotiation with his agent, has talked through any of those concerns,” Morton added.
Along with Ludacris’ controversial reputation, rapper Juelz Santana’s songs also contain numerous expletives and offensive content.
Headlining this year’s “Black Music Fest”, which has returned to its original moniker after being billed as “Urban Music Fest” last year, Santana has been deemed appropriate for the student body, being approved by all levels of administration.
According to Haraya President Jermaine Cole, Santana’s lyrics are neither offensive nor controversial, though he admits that the language may be harsh, stating, “That’s hip-hop. It’s nothing new.
“If [the administration] didn’t want that performance then they wouldn’t approve it,” Cole added.
Santana will be kicking off the weekend of concerts on April 20, while Ludacris will headline the April 21 concert.