As any college student in the Boston-area can tell you, April marks the arrival of college’s spring concert season. It is not uncommon for a concert or two to take place every weekend in April as students utilize old friends and past connections at other schools and travel to nearby campuses after buying their tickets.
This past Saturday on April 25, MIT added Chicago- native, hip hop artist and rapper Lupe Fiasco to the long list of college spring concert performers when the MIT Undergraduate Association Events Committee introduced the headliner for MIT’s 2015 SpringFest. Held at the MIT Johnson Ice Rink located right off of the Kresge Oval on central campus, SpringFest this year charged MIT students, faculty and staff only $15 per ticket and other local college students $25, but the Cambridge-based academic institution cost reported $130,000 cost with $75,000 of that total allocated specifically to Fiasco’s performance. Though pricey, Fiasco proved this past weekend that his performance was well worth the price tag.
Despite a relatively tame crowd and heavy security at the venue, Fiasco did not hesitate to engage the audience of local college students from the minute he stepped foot onstage. Fiasco walked out casually and comfortably amongst cheers and screams of those in the audience. In between spitting eloquently thought-out lyrics and poetic rhymes that referenced his rough childhood upbringing, broken relationships that have left personal wounds and performing through fame, Fiasco often took several minutes in between songs to personally connect with the audience through extensive eye contact and hand gestures as if engaging in a face-to-face discussion with each and every person there.
From the very beginning of his onstage appearance, Fiasco communicated his gratefulness in being allowed to perform at MIT, a place where he admitted that he felt he was among a group of the nation’s smartest individuals.
Of the several sentiments that Fiasco conveyed to the crowd amid his set, Fiasco repeatedly addressed the idea of college. Stating that his one regret in life was not attending college and receiving an advanced degree, Fiasco mentioned that the one school that he always admired from a young age was MIT due to the numerous influential individuals that have been produced from the university, such as Noam Chomsky, who currently teaches in the Linguistics Department. He was kindly received by all, and the gesture reaffirmed Fiasco’s humble nature as a performer despite his international success.
While the focus was very much on Fiasco, who danced, jumped and pranced about onstage throughout his entire set, Fiasco was not alone in his performance at SpringFest as he went up on stage accompanied by a DJ who actively spun Fiasco’s best-known tracks such as “Battle Scars” live throughout the duration of the show.
To further promote education, Fiasco invigorated the crowd with references to the nerd culture that is obviously prevalent at MIT. Fiasco even went as far as to survey the students in the crowd for their majors in the middle of his set, signaling the stage crew to stop the music briefly so that he could see who was studying math, computer science, mechanical engineering and more. Moments such as these personally connected individuals in the audience. The performer also serenaded the female ‘nerds’ in the crowd during his rendition of his song “Out Of My Head,” which features fellow singer Trey Songz. One female concertgoer was even fortunate enough to be gestured to repeatedly by Fiasco as he pointed and sung directly to her after motioning for her to move closer to the front of the stage.
Fiasco did not seem to notice nor care that only a few hundred people were in attendance. The Grammy award-winning artist demonstrated that he could keep his lyrics flowing perfectly in timed, harmonious rhythm as Fiasco occasionally rapped without a backing track after the music cut out. During his performance of his most successful hit single to date “The Show Goes On” of of his third studio album “Lasers,” Fiasco injected an effortless shot of energy that reverberated throughout all concertgoers in the venue as he took his water bottle and splashed water onto those in the crowd before tossing it into the audience. Fiasco’s immense stage presence, high entertainment value, personal connection with the crowd and overall humble persona further legitimized him as one of the most respected and talented rappers currently active in the music industry.
The lighting and special effects during SpringFest were expectedly minimal, although the stage towered above concert attendees. Since the venue is typically used as an ice rink during the year, not all concertgoers preferred to stand in front of the stage. Some students opted for a more relaxed experience and chose to sit along the back wall in the arena seats that lined the far side of the rink. Those who decided to go for a more typical concert experience and stand toward the middle and sides of the stage were fortunate enough to not deal with any unruly concertgoers. Though the middle of the crowd was more aggressive than the rest, nothing too crazy or out of hand occurred throughout the duration of the night, allowing concert attendees to feel at ease and really appreciate Fiasco’s music without worry or distraction.
Several lucky fans were fortunate enough to meet Fiasco behind the venue after the concert ended relatively early at around 10 p.m. The friendly post-concert interaction with Fiasco made the event all the more personal for the 15 or so people who patiently waited as he took the time to cordially meet everyone and shake hands, sign shirts and albums, take pictures and even hug awaiting fans.
MIT’s SpringFest with Fiasco proved to be a feel-good concert. By encouraging academics and making an effort to personally connect with concertgoers and dedicated fans, Fiasco solidified his place as a true performer and gracious artist, showing that the real “Superstar” of the night was truly Fiasco himself.
Photo Courtesy of Lupe Fiasco