Flames of the Torch

“That’s hip-hop,” said Jermaine Cole, president of Haraya. “It’s nothing new.”

Cole was speaking of the harsh language used by rappers and other hip-hop artists, such as Juelz Santana and Ludacris, both of whom will be performing at St. John’s as part of the Spring Weekend festivities in April.

Although both artists have offensive lyrics, with Ludacris’ being the most controversial, both were approved by Public Safety and Student Life, even after review of their respective lyrics. However, it appears that some members of the administration have never heard Ludacris’ lyrics.

“I haven’t personally heard any of the songs, so I can’t speak as to what any of the lyrics are,” said Darren Morton, associate dean of students. “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 [Ludacris’] agent, has talked through any of those concerns,” Morton added.

Ludacris’ lyrics, for anyone who has yet to experience his musical offerings, are highly offensive and extremely controversial. He has been made famous by songs such as “Move Bitch,” “P-Poppin'” and “Get the F*** Back.” Not only is the language harsh, but he has often been called misogynistic.

Often referring to women as bitches and hoes, Ludacris goes so far as to call a number of his female characters prostitutes, such as in the song “She Said.”

Ironic then that he would be allowed to perform at a Catholic university. Especially when “The Vagina Monologues,” a program that promotes female empowerment and awareness of women’s issues, was recently rejected by the school’s administration.

Although Morton was not involved in the decision regarding “The Vagina Monologues,” he speculated at the reason for one’s acceptance while the other was denied.

“The difference I think is probably the ability of the artists to alter or change what their performances are,” Morton said. “I would think, and from what I remember, [with] ‘The Vagina Monologues’ there was no altering, there was no changing.”

Yet Morton went on to admit that although there are limits to what Ludacris can say, thanks to the contract and its multiple addendums, they have no control over him once he sets foot on the stage. And after Papoose broke his contract during last year’s “Urban Music Fest,” using a number of expletives in his set, there is little reason for the University to believe that their contracts have any real influence over the performers’ language.

With so many strikes against the idea, one is left wondering what drove the decision. It would appear that money is the driving force. Why else would the University spend $85,000 on a single performer? The only explanation is that they expect great returns.

Which further begs the question, what is more important to the University, maintaining their stance on appropriate programming and their Catholic identity, or the bottom line?

One would hope that an institution of higher learning would put more value in maintaining its moral stance, but that does not seem to be happening at St. John’s.

It seems curious that the administration would maintain a position of complacent ignorance when they seemed so actively opposed to “The Vagina Monologues” just three months ago.