Ludacris delivers a mixtape of hits to 39,400 fans at NYS Fair (concert review, photos)

Ludacris shouts out the “315” during “Area Codes” at the New York State Fair’s Suburban Park stage on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.

Ludacris played the New York State Fair like a mixtape of his greatest hits.

The Grammy-winning rapper drew 39,400 fans to the NYS Fair’s Suburban Park stage on Thursday night, and it’s easy to see why. He’s a showman with a DJ’s knowledge of how to work a crowd through a wide variety of songs and tempos, ranging from southern hip-hop and crunk to pop and forgotten favorites.

Luda stepped on stage at 8:08 p.m. after a fun hype video of news and sports personalities saying the word “ludicrous,” hilariously culminating in a clip of Rick Moranis in “Spaceballs” saying “Ludicrous speed, go!” And then he displayed his ludicrously fast flow by kicking off his hour-long set with 2003′s rapid-fire “Southern Fried.”

It was just one of many instances where he transitioned from one song to the next perfectly. Like a disc jockey doing wordplay, he would go from “Area Codes,” his anthem about “hoes in different area codes” (with repeated shout-outs to the “315″ of Central New York), to his lesser known 1999 song “Ho.” Later on, he’d perform his verse from Fergie’s “Glamorous” and repeat the outro (”If you ain’t got no money, take yo’ broke ass home”) slower and slower until reaching the tempo of another song referencing money: “Money Maker,” of course.

He’d make the playlist rise and fall, dropping the “Yeah!” (Usher’s 2004 smash hit featuring Ludacris and Lil Jon) after the more personal “Growing Pains” with onstage guest Lil Fate DTP (of Luda’s hip-hop collective Disturbing Tha Peace. He’d add a little romance with “Lovers & Friends” (his other big collaboration with Usher and Lil Jon) after the R-rated “One Minute Man” (Missy Elliott’s 2001 song featuring Ludacris).

Ludacris performed at the New York State Fair’s Suburban Park Thursday, August 31, 2023.

Ludacris only performed a verse and chorus for most songs, keeping the party moving — again, like a DJ. When he let his own disc jockey, DJ Infamous Talk2Me, briefly take over with a mix of hip-hop hits highlighted by two DMX songs, Ludacris quickly came back on stage to make sure everyone would stay standing up. So he performed “Stand Up”: Hell yeah, hey DJ, bring that back.

Luda also name-dropped the “Fast and Furious” movies he’s acted in (as Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) before performing “Act a Fool” (with footage from the films playing on the screen behind him), patted himself on the back for recently getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and featured more of his all-star collaborations like “Welcome to Atlanta” (with Jermaine Dupri), “Oh” (with Ciara), “All I Do is Win” (with DJ Khaled), and “Baby” (with Justin Bieber). He also marked the 50th anniversary of hip-hop and his rightful place as one of the biggest stars in the genre.

It would’ve all seemed like bragging, but it’s just facts. He proved it when he tested the crowd’s memory with the song that first put him on the map, 2000′s “What’s Your Fantasy.” It was the only song he performed in its entirety, and it’s just as infectious now as it was two decades ago.

“These are real Day 1 Ludacris fans,” he remarked. “They know every word.”

It was the fourth largest crowd in NYS Fair concert history, with nearly 8,000 more fans than came to see Ludacris at Chevy Court in 2018. Only country star Lainey Wilson and fellow rappers Nelly and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie have pulled in bigger crowds.

Ludacris closed the night with “Move Bitch” and “Get Back,” again performing small portions of each track to leave the fans wanting more. So here’s hoping he gets back to the New York State Fair again soon.

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