To the Editor:
Whoa, Nelly! This spring, the Bucknell University Concert Committee has chosen Grammy-award winning artist Nelly to perform as the main act in the Gerhard Fieldhouse on Friday, April 13. The Concert Committee is excited to bring such a major act to campus.
Although the committee has received a great deal of support and excitement surrounding the upcoming show, we have also received some negative reactions, primarily from faculty who are offended by the choice. Issues of gender, race, pornography and mistreatment of women have been raised surrounding one of Nelly’s many videos, made for his 2003 song “Tip Drill.”
In an open forum last spring the Concert Committee hosted a panel discussion that included faculty, students and staff discussing programming content as it related to speakers, concerts and other entertainment brought to campus. The Committee decided to host this event after much faculty reaction to concerts such as Ludacris, T-Pain and Ke$ha. While certainly an enlightening discussion, it quickly became evident that there are no easy solutions when the issue of “offensive content” is debated. The committee was asked to and agreed to host post-concert discussions so the campus community could have the opportunity to share reactions to any given show.
In looking at Top 40 artists or specifically the hip-hop genre, it is difficult if not impossible to find an artist without content issues that are deemed offensive to one person or another. Most of the artists have some content skeleton in their closet. Certainly with little to no radio play, and not even mentioned in a quick Google search of Nelly songs, most Bucknell students (or the public at large) don’t know “Tip Drill.” It most definitely is not a the defining song in his career.
When considering the Nelly invitation for the spring concert, the Concert Committee looked at his amazing award winning career, including his BET Best New Artist Award and his MTV Best Rap Video of the Year Award. Additionally, in June 2002, Nelly dropped the album “Nellyville,” featuring chart-topping hits such as “Hot in Herre,” “Air Force Ones” and “Dilemma,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard music charts. Nelly would go on to win three Grammy awards for this album including Best Rap Solo Performance (Male), Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Nelly has been nominated for a Grammy nine additional times. Nelly has released four more albums since “Nellyville” and songs such as “Over and Over” and “Just a Dream.” Billboard named Nelly the No. 3 top Artist of the Decade (2000-2009). In addition to his music ventures, Nelly has appeared on television and in two films. He co-starred in 2005’s “The Longest Yard” and has starred on TV shows such as “90210” and “CSI:NY.”
The Concert Committee also considered Nelly’s success as a philanthropist and entrepreneur. One of Nelly’s most significant contributions has been his dedication to philanthropy. Nelly runs the 4Sho4Kids Foundation which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with development disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome and children born addicted to drugs. The foundation assists families by providing educational classes and healthcare resources in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He also started the “Jes Us 4 Jackie” in 2003 to help raise awareness about bone marrow transplants for African Americans and other minorities. Nelly began the campaign after his sister Jackie was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003. She later lost her battle with cancer in 2005. Nelly has participated in other philanthropic efforts and continues to emphasize his commitment to charity. Nelly has had multiple shoe contracts with brands such as Nike and Reebok. He was also a part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats until 2010. Nelly is also the owner of two clothing brands, Apple Bottoms and Vokal. His brand Apple Bottoms promotes positive messages towards women’s body issues, emphasizing that clothes should fit the woman, not vice versa.
Acknowledging the complexity of content in today’s culture, the committee is prepared to respond to concerns and will host a post-concert open forum. We are asking, however, why this task falls solely on our shoulders. If the Concert Committee is asked to host open forums to progress campus climate in a positive direction, shouldn’t faculty, staff and other student groups be held to the same standards when speakers, politicians
, and other groups are invited to campus and deliver messages not universally accepted? Or is the real question this: is an open forum required to process and debate every controversial event?
– The Bucknell Concert Committee