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safe (but really frequent) sex - it was
impossible to notice the similarities
between Ldacris's durable, echoing
voice and the timeless shout of Public
Enemy's Chuck D.
Both opening acts, P-Live and later
One.Be.Lo, were more reserved than
the headliner and struck to nice, if a bit
average and forced, verses. The dingy,
worn-in atmospherics toward the end of
One.Be.Lo's set in particular acted as
a nice calm before the storm. With no
DJ's on stage, the openers had Hill in
a more intimate light, certainly fitting
both acts' status as local and largely
But any impact either opener had
was washed away by the seismic
crowd roar as Ludacris leap-frogged
from hit to hit in the blistering open-
ing minutes of his set
With such a bulletproof career as
a singles artist (though his last two
albums have shown a startling focus),
he had an arsenal of hysterical party
hits from which to choose.
He tore through his two best
soundtrack appearances, "Act A
Fool" from "2 Fast 2 Furious" and
"Area Codes" from "Rush Hour 2."
He could have easily omitted these
two and picked from a glut of songs
he left on the shelf this night ("Roll
Out," "Fat Rabbit," "Blow It Out").
He offered snippets of others'
hit singles (Ciara's "Oh," Usher's
"Yeah!") and gave a collage of his
notorious guest verses.
The up-tempo numbers slayed the
already famished crowd, Ludacris's
voice reverberating exquisitely over
SKYLAB-blips from the Neptunes on
the thrashing "Southern Hospitality."
In easily the night's most intoxicating
moment, the dually sleazy and irresist-
ibly gallivanting Ludacris changed a
famed couplet from the song to "U of
M girls gimme U of M head."
You could've howled in disgust but
for most, this was what Ludacris was
expected to bring. And he brought it
Hill's delirious shift from bastion
of "high art" to "popular music" is
what let the audience see the man
who once referred to himself as the
"abominable ho-man" in an ornate,
gorgeous venue that's one of the
world's acoustic gems.
Keep in mind that Dylan, and
INXS played Hill in decades past.
Not to belabor the point, but as much
as Ludacris is irreverent, astute and
utterly memorable, he's also com-
pletely a possession of this genera-
tion. Hill is made for international
orchestras. Hill is made for Ben
Folds. Hill is made for Ludacris.
Weak as the middle section of
his set was - the mid-tempo, even
ballad-like joints like "Splash Water-
falls" drained the crowd's energy
just as destructively as Shawnna's
overlong stint on stage - Ludacris
still prowled the sparse, lonely even,
stage and never let dips in the crowd's
activity stunt his ego.
The "big ideas" surrounding rap
right now - who's listening, who
goes to concerts, where rap shows
can be held, old and black and young
and white - are vital and impor-
tant, but with a show like last night's
it's damn near refreshing to find that
Rakim's old adage still holds: It's
not where you're from, it's where
Courtesy of Sony
Left: Cartoonist Aaron McGruder will produce "The Boondocks" series on Cartoon Network. Right: Animated renditions of "Boondocks" characters Riley, Huey
STRAIGHT OUTTA. BOONDOCKS'
AARON MCGRUDER'S CONTROVERSIAL COMIC BECOMES ADULT SWIM SERIES
By Emily Beam
Daily Arts Writer
Cartoonist Aaron McGruder sees
himself as "a satirist and an entertain-
er." The creator of "The Boondocks"
didn't want - and certainly didn't
expect - to be considered a leading
advocate for the black community.
"I've done nothing to earn that title of
being spokesman for anybody, other
than tell some jokes and draw some
pictures," McGruder said.
Speaking about what his work on
"The Boondocks" actually accom-
plishe-, he explained, "I don't think it
really makes a difference, to be hon-
est. I think we're past that point where
someone can get on and say something
and wake people up."
Is the self-described "angriest black
man in America" modest, jaded or
just realistic? Regardless, the dispar-
ity between how he and the rest of the
country views his work is clear.
McGruder shrugs off the idea that
he's doing much more than keeping
readers entertained through politically
and socially charged humor - judging
his success by whether he keeps get-
ting paid. "I personally don't want to
mislead people into thinking that I'm a
political leader or that my show or my
strip is a political movement. It's not."
In the eyes of fans and critics, how-
ever, McGruder has done far more than
just make them laugh. "The Boon-
docks" runs in more than 350 papers
nationwide, but its controversial and
blunt humor have led to dozens of
editors banning it from their papers.
The strip has served as a platform for
McGruder to take on racism, U.S. for-
eign policy and public figures ranging
from Santa Claus to R. Kelly. When
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice requested he include her in his
strip, he readily complied, writing a
series of cartoons in which Huey and
Riley try to spark romance in Rice's
life. "Maybe if there was a man in the
world who Condoleezza truly loved,
she wouldn't be so hell-bent to destroy
it," Huey says. That particular story-
line convinced The Washington Post to
suspend his strip for a week.
McGruder suggests that a lack of
black political leadership in the coun-
try may be why so many readers are
eager to assume that his satire on cur-
rent events and race relations makes
him a leading voice of black America.
"I really shun the idea that I have some
kind of job or some kind of leader-
ship role to play. It used to be we had
politicized entertainers and then actu-
al political leaders," McGruder said.
"James Brown could make a political
song, but he wasn't a political leader
and no one mistook him as such. With
the void in black political leadership,
we're too quick to turn to entertainers
to fill that void, and that's not neces-
sarily the best move to make."
On Nov. 6, McGruder will take on a
new role as executive producer of the
animated series, "The Boondocks,"
bringing the comic strip to Cartoon
Network's Adult Swim. It's a plan that
has been one of McGruder's goals since
"For six years we had one deal after
another fall through," he said. "The
strip is what keeps the property alive
and we were eventually able to find the
right home for it."
Moving from newspapers to late-
night cable television has provided
McGruder with more creative freedom
in both his strip and the show. "Self-
censoring is always a part of it. You're
just using common sense," he said.
Although indifferent to the public
perception of his strip and his show,
McGruder quickly dismisses those
who perceive him as unafraid of con-
troversy. "There's nothing I've ever
put out that a white corporation hasn't
permitted you to see," he said. "This
whole idea that I'm some crazy, fear-
less guy isn't coming from me. It's
coming from everyone else, but there's
no validity to it."
Besides providing the opportunity to
earn from DVD sales, McGruder sees
the show as a chance to shift toward
storytelling, inevitably toning down
some of the political commentary and
attacks on public figures that have been
largely responsible for both his strip's
success and its controversy. "The show
allows us to just tell stories about the
characters for a half hour," McGruder
said, "and that's something I always
wanted to do."
It is difficult to predict whether the
animated series will provide McGrud-
er with more airtime to continue his
attack on American society, or whether
the show is just a new distraction and
income source for a cartoonist trying
to hide that he's losing interest and
running out of things to comment on.
"I don't really have much to say any-
more. I've got nothing to say, to be
honest with you, because there isn't
anything I could say that would make
a difference," he said. "There's a lot
of political commentary in (the show),
but if I could get in front of a micro-
phone and tell America something ...
It wouldn't be anything. I do the show
so I don't have to do that kind of thing,
at least that's the hope - that the work
speaks for itself."
Actress Lewis's rock
project hits Blind Pig
By Amos Barshad
Daily Arts Writer
Juliette Lewis still speaks with her
trademark drawl, a quirk of an actress
once considered a hot Hollywood com-
modity in the '90s
- largely due to
such eccentrici- Juliette &
ties. But Lewis The Licks
has lost much of Tonight at 8 p.m.
her Hollywood At The Blind Pig
luster in recent
years and finds
herself mostly playing bit parts in com-
edies and making frequent trips to the
"I Love the '80s" studios. All of this
finds her here, traversing the country
in a tour bus with four sweaty dudes,
pushing her garage rock band, Juliette
& the Licks. Lewis insists that music is
a "natural extension" of her film career,
an alternative form of expression to
that of her day job.
In conversation, Lewis is affable and
It might seem easy to dismiss Lewis
musically, but even a cursory listen to
the band's first full-length album, You're
Speaking My Language, reveals that,
despite an abject absence of ingenuity,
it has its merits. In an industry where
bands like Jet top the international
charts and an army of Strokes clones
fills the country's rock clubs night after
night, there's no reason why a band
whose primary influence seems to be
The Hives shouldn't get a record deal.
The question, then, is whether Lewis
is banking on The Licks to become
her primary source of income any
time soon. Despite recent cinematic
travails, Lewis has several films lined.
up, including "The Darwin Awards"
and "The Fuck-Up." Still, none of
these are lead roles. Lewis sidesteps
the issue of the dearth of quality roles
for veteran actresses: "Hollywood is a
big fat machine, with all these inner
politics, and in independent film,
there's always a lot of opportunities.
But I'm not really old yet, so I don't
have that problem."
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*TWO THUMBS UP"
Courtesy of Fiddler
"Legwarmers and scrunchies were my favorite things to wear ...last week."
Lewis seems genuinely pleased with the
progress of her band, genuinely unencum-
bered by the hordes of writers just wait-
ing to lump the band's release with Don
Johnson's "Heartbeat" and Bruce Willis's
"The Return of Bruno."
"The press, they never get anything
right anyways. It's about the people and
the audience, so right now we're still
looking for an audience. I think it's
going good. It's going as it should for a
new rock band."
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