The scheduled performances of two hip-hop artists at a Florida Gulf Coast University concert caused Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott to speak out against the event, but some students said Thursday his opinion will not stop them from attending.
Solo artists Kendrick Lamar and Ludacris are slated to perform at Eaglepalooza, an annual concert sponsored by the university. Concert organizers plan to hold the event Nov. 24 at county-owned JetBlue Park, though that has not yet been made official.
Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott has publicly denounced the concert because of the artists’ use of language in their songs, particularly the “N-word.”
Scott said he doesn’t understand why the university would want to allow those performers on stage at a county facility because it is “common knowledge that certain hip-hop acts tend to incite or end up in violence.”
He said Ludacris’ use of lyrics such as “caskets,” “lead showers” and “disturbing the peace” in his songs “are contrary to what we stand for.”
“We all scratch our heads and wonder why we have this inner city violence,” Scott said, adding people are “mimicking the lyrics.”
Kayla McDuffie, 18, a student at FGCU, said she does not think there is anything in those artists’ lyrics that will lead to violence at the concert.
“You can take anything out of context. It depends on the state of mind that you are listening with,” McDuffie said. “Two people can listen to the same song and get different emotions from it.”
She said she feels safe at FGCU events and plans to attend Eaglepalooza.
“Everyone is excited because (Kendrick Lamar) is such a big deal,” she said. “He’s on top of the charts. He’s everywhere.”
J. Michael Rollo, vice president of student affairs at the university, said students look forward to the event every year.
“It’s a big event on this campus and they are very excited about the acts that have been selected,” he said.
Students who serve on the FGCU Programming Board, which receives funding from a portion of an activity and service fee that all students pay in their tuition, come up with a list of potential Eaglepalooza artists. The board then consults with an outside agency to book acts for the concert.
FGCU officials conduct performance history checks on the artists but do not reject any of them based on lyrical content, Rollo said.
“The university does not get into censoring what the students listen to,” Rollo said. “It’s really more about safety.”
Two of the last seven Eaglepalooza concerts have been held at Germain Arena, according to the university.
Germain Arena did enter into conversations with FGCU about hosting the concert again this year, according to Sammy Wallace, vice president of event programming for the venue. But he said the university’s decision to switch to JetBlue Park was due to logistics, not safety.
“It really became more of an issue with the dates,” he said.
Wallace, who has been in his position for five years, said Germain Arena has had “no issues” with any FGCU events it has hosted — hip-hop or otherwise.
“They have been safe,” Wallace said.
Sidney Hollowell, 20, a student at FGCU, said he wants to see Kendrick Lamar in person and “does not care” about what Scott thinks.
“It’s music. It’s due to interpretation,” Hollowell said. “No offense to the sheriff, but I highly doubt he listens to Kendrick.”
Music is a big part of Hollowell’s life. That afternoon, he brought his acoustic guitar with him to a music club meeting on the second floor balcony of the student union. He jammed a bit with a couple of his friends, including Brad Talbot, who said he doesn’t plan to attend Eaglepalooza.
Talbot, 19, does not listen to rap music and dislikes the lyrics. He said he did not agree with the sheriff’s approach, however.
“We’re adults. It’s a matter of what we want more than a matter of what he thinks,” Talbot said.