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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Ludacris @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest

July 2, 2014

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It’s easier, and perhaps more fitting, to describe Ludacris as an entertainer rather than a rapper, given his acting career, his entrepreneurial interests and his frequent collaborations with other artists on monster party jams. It is also accurate considering these extracurricular pursuits have presumably kept the Atlanta native from releasing an album since 2010’s Battle of the Sexes.  But with the promise of a new release to come this year and an army of hits behind him, Ludacris packed the Miller Lite Oasis and proceeded to remind Summerfest that though it’s been awhile, he’s still here.

By 9 p.m., an impressive crowd had formed, making it impossible to find a spot in front of the stage. Those who already had were perched atop the bleachers, or moving in and out of the throng (if they could). The crowd seemed happy to spend an hour dancing to pre-recorded jukebox hits like the actually-good “Collard Greens” by Schoolboy Q and the actually-very-terrible dubstep remixes of DMX and Notorious B.I.G.

Patience, however, pays off. When Ludacris took the stage promptly at 10 p.m., complete with a drummer, bassist and guitarist, his showmanship and style had the crowd’s full attention. Live, his considerable verbal deftness was jaw dropping.  His sinuous, push-pull rap style stole the show, and his speed made hits like “What’s Your Fantasy?” and “Moneymaker” feel fresh and exhilarating. Stomping, strutting and asking (several times), “Any beautiful-ass ladies in the house tonight?,” Ludacris worked the crowd with the natural ease of an entertainer, yes—but also a seasoned rap artist who knows what an audience wants.

Parading through his hits including “My Chick Bad,” “Area Codes” (R.I.P. Nate Dogg) and older staples like “Blueberry Yum Yum,” he also included the verses he’s contributed to hits like Usher’s “Yeah” and Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart.” While it was slightly odd to hear half of a familiar song, the absence of the pop star singers proved a point: We were probably just listening for Ludacris, anyway. While the large crowd was obviously more into the samples of these hits than many of Ludacris’s own songs, it didn’t seem to matter much what he played, as long as he kept playing it. Closing with “Move, Bitch” and “Get Back,” he ended on a high note, reminding his crowd that if they’d forgotten him, maybe they really don’t know him like that.