Ludacris To Play Gitmo's Fourth of July 'Freedom Festival,' Irony Officially Dead

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First, a confession: I love Ludacris. I love Ludacris to a degree I cannot really defend, other than to say I am the right age for loving Ludacris, which is to say I was 16 years old when the song "Area Codes" dropped, which is to say I will likely always find both it and him brilliant and hilarious. (Also, this map.)

I even went out of my way to see Ludacris perform at SXSW's Interactive closing party in 2015, an event at which I was more visibly excited and engaged than maybe 98 percent of attendees, which is not actually saying that much if you have ever been to a private but admission-free rager overwhelmingly populated by tech dudes.

All of which leaves me curious as to the vibe, so to speak, at a rather different upcoming Ludacris performance. The Miami Herald reported today that the overgrown class clown of a rapper has been chosen to headline the annual Fourth of July "Freedom Festival" at Guantanamo Bay, a free event thrown for the less than 6,000 residents of the Navy base there. The Herald notes that this population is made up of "troops, Department of Defense contractors, Navy families and the last [79] war-on-terror detainees." (The original Herald story misidentified that number as 89.)

President Obama, you may recall, has been pledging to close the now 14-year-old military prison since before he was elected president, noting its well-documented history of detaining suspected terrorists indefinitely, without trial. As recently as February of this year, he presented Congress with a plan for transferring the remaining prisoners away from the facility, noting that the prison "is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law. This is about closing a chapter in our history."

That plan was met with near-instantaneous rejection by Republican members of Congress. In the waning months of the Obama administration, it seems likely that the complex issues surrounding the detention center and its closure will be passed on to the next inhabitant of the Oval Office, not unlike some sort of pesky, Rumsfeld-era STD.


For the time being, then, there remain more than 5,000 people residing at Guantanamo Bay -- and I'm certainly not here to say they don't deserve entertainment. On the contrary, if your work involves daily interaction with an institution the president actively refers to as a "stain," you should get all the free concerts you can take. Calling the annual taxpayer-funded Fourth of July event at a military prison Amnesty International once referred to as the Gulag of our times a "Freedom Festival," on the other hand, involves a degree of questionable judgment I can't really wrap my head around.

In any event, Ludacris is apparently the biggest name to visit said festival in over a decade: "Base residents couldn’t recall a show of this magnitude since Jimmy Buffett played the open-air Lyceum movie theater in December 2002," reports the Herald. Recent years have instead seen performances by smaller, pop-punkier fish like the Plain White Ts [insert your own offensive joke about cruel and unusual punishment here].

To summarize: If you are a person who loves fireworks and comical hip-hop songs about women's body parts and your area code is 21 (shout out Guantanamo Bay, Cuba), this year's Fourth of July just might be the free-est you've ever felt!

Unless, of course, you're a detainee: Organizers have assured the press that Windward Ferry Landing, the glorified parking lot from whence said freedom will be ringing, is too far away from the detention center for the prisoners to hear it.