I'm a household name, with game spitting outta my mouth at all times, I spit it out and about, and spit outta the south, until they recognize the danger signs, So feel a tingle in yo's-spine, by the way I talk And it's pimpin' in my blood, you can tell by the way I walk Ooh lawd, more styles than a barber shop, call the cops People in the way wanna baller block Little do they know that I'm callin' shots And I'm not to be [expletive] with If you see me comin' 'round the corner, then duck quick, perpetrators can [vulgarity]
In case the author of them isn't a "household name" to you, the lyrics above are by Ludacris, a rap artist scheduled to appear at N.C. State University's homecoming concert October 1.
Ludacris, born Chris Bridges, isn't just foul-mouthed. The Atlanta-born rapper's lyrics are misogynistic (multiple references to women as "b----es" and "hos," and one track in which Ludacris boasts of killing a "b----" who talks too much), glorify gun violence (his "Get The [expletive] Back" contains "kill a man – let his brains hang," and "cut his [expletive] head off"), and are, shall we say, tolerant on drug and alcohol abuse (too many references to count, but including cocaine and marijuana).
Ah, you say. Now, in the finest tradition of conservative commentary, the writer will express outrage over this vulgar stuff and cite statistics showing that rap music warps children's minds, degrades women, and encourages thuggery.
True, rap is fairly accused of all these things, and there are studies to back that up. But opposing Ludacris on vulgarity alone is hypocritical, as anyone recalling my enthusiasm for the Violent Femmes or David Bowie's "Pablo Picasso" in the 1980s can attest. Ludacris can perform as he pleases, vulgar or no – that's why we have a First Amendment. And forget worrying about the "example" Ludacris provides for N.C. State students: those weak-minded enough to put Ludaris's lyrics into action are hopeless anyway; put a group of Nazis in charge of N.C. State and the same students would merrily burn Jewish-authored textbooks.
No, the problem with bringing Ludacris to N.C. State is what that invitation says about the university — my university — and what it stands for. While Ludacris has a right to call women "b----es" and "hos," should N.C. State pay him to do so, and provide him a forum to do it? Does N.C. State, whose mission statement calls for providing "leadership for intellectual, cultural, social, economic, and technological development within the state..." advance that mission an iota by bringing Ludacris to campus? How does the rapper's degradation of women fit with N.C. State's policy on sexual harassment, which forbids, among other verbal naughtiness, language that demeans women on the basis of sex?
Ludacris does not represent N.C. State, or what N.C. State supposedly stands for, and the university shouldn't associate itself with him, even by giving him a stage and cutting him a check. It's that simple, and it's the same feeling, one thinks, that led students at Atlanta's Spellman College to remove the equally misogynistic rapper Nelly from a campus bone-marrow drive and petition Black Entertainment Television to cease showing some of his videos.
There are those who might say: If you don't like Ludacris, don't buy a ticket. But that facially libertarian response ignores that N.C. State is an educational institution, one that either advances North Carolina's culture and intellect, as it claims, or promotes Ludacris, who has no apparent connection with the school or the state and offers only the lesson that vulgarity can bring big money. A truly free-market response to N.C. State is, rather than doing nothing, telling N.C. State respectfully but firmly that as alumni, students, or taxpayers, we don’t think Ludacris is what N.C. State should be about.
Should N.C. State take no more into consideration, when booking entertainment, then popularity? Is it responsible for no more, when considering whom to invite to campus, than a downtown club? Sadly, as matters stand, N.C. State's answer appears to be, "No."