BLOG: Who Made 2008′s Best “Traditional Mainstream Hip-Hop” album?

Unlike the mix genre selections that the Grammy board makes, I didn’t just conjure up this “traditional mainstream hip-hop album” category to make space for my MC of choice. I pretty much based my winner on the fact that he’s a mainstream MC who is constantly overlooked in a field of experimental rappers. With Kanye West tapping his inner Anita Baker this go ’round, Lil Wayne galloping the galaxy as a rap/rock hybrid with triple stack styrofoam cups and T.I. walking the fine line of gangsta and a gentleman, Ludacris stands as the only hip-hop beacon of light in the Hollywood world of rap.

This isn’t because Luda is the wild wordsmith that someone who is six albums deep should be heralded as; it’s more about the packaging of his product. With Theater of The Mind, Luda made the effort of producing a concept album that doesn’t come off as contrite and confused. It’s fun enough to catch your ear with bouncy bass heavy beats, yet attacks the issues at hand concerning the controversies he’s been in the last year or so. And yeah, if you call a spat with T.I. and a denouncing from the President-elect as light PR work, I would agree, but Lil Flip still hasn’t recovered from Tip’s drilling of his career (jury is still out on Shawty Lo) and Obama can ether you with the raise of an eyebrow, so understand the level Luda was dealing with.

The fact that his album is overrun with “co-stars” isn’t as much of a concern since most albums today are guest heavy. I make the case for traditional being his bed of beats are early 90s neck snap worthy. What mainstream rapper has more than one track with live cuts and scratches on the hooks? I kept thinking this was a glorified mixtape, with all the jigga-jigga action. Being partial to dope DJ skills, I say this is the winning formula for Luda as he raps strong until the DJ’s jabs cut him off. He constantly digs into a track vocally, the stressing of words and sonic boom of his voice commands attention, even if he’s not killing it on the lyrical miracle cool whip shit. His street appeal isn’t on level 10. Luda’s gangsterism status isn’t up there either. It’s just he attacks every time he spits, so at least he’s heard on some, “that was a dope line” shit.

Ok, he has a T-Pain joint, yes, but it’s ill and creative. He has a Chris Brown one too, but who doesn’t (even Nas ((who I’m not counting as mainstream)) did it with C. Breezy)? To me, Luda balances it all out with a DJ Premier throwback track, thick with sliced up rap quotables, “MVP” is a gem. The Nas and Jay love fest “I Do It For Hip-Hop” gets by with the topic being relevant (I think Nas’ verse gets overlooked) to today’s fake rap cats. Yet, I think Theater of The Mind scores with me ‘cus of the feeling I get when I hear the album as a whole. It reminds me of a Redman album (we so need a new one right now), just that 90s aura. Is that a good thing? Fuck it if it ain’t. I like the album on some hip-hop shit. -DT

Commence the slaughter daughters…

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  • Jova

    Ludacris came out with a very dope album. One of my favirite cuts is #11 with Lil’ Wayne. Beats goes hard and Luda outshines Wayne on this one.

  • Sir francis


  • REAL TALK 08

    BEST MAINSTREAM Hip Hop ALBUM OF 2008! far TiP!..”Paper Trail” was a monster hit…..”Whatever U like” alone made Ti a Hip/Pop Titan!


    i agree with you about luda and what you said about redman. they only problem with that luda joint it could have been shorter. he could have dropped nasty girl and contagious. i was messing with muddy waters and doc’s the name 2000 over this holiday weekend and i was like. man i never realized redman can really spit and he is right under camron for funny ass skits on a album. red should name his new album Is ReDmaN DeAd?

    • Worley

      Get with Whut? Thee Album. Better yet, Dare Iz a Darkside. Redman went in on his second album. That n*gga said so much wild sh*t I knew he could never top it. And he hasn’t since.


    Yeah, that Dare Iz went hard, and it went gold. It had my shit, “Can’t Wait” and “Basically.”

    Luda’s TOTM is solid. You can’t front on dude after all these albums and no real pause in between.

    • tony grand$

      His only gold album……& arguably his best. Altho Muddy was hella bumpin.

      Fuck it, that niggas catalogue is bizzy.

      These youngstas need to step their rap game knowledge up!

  • amar

    def a toss up between ludacris and tip…luda’s is fun and creative as usual (even more so), but tip comes out with mainstream mixed with lyrical

    i’d prolly give it to luda too, cause it’s so creative. And “MVP” def trumps ti’s lyrical. The song with lil wayne is actually pretty good too

  • Emperor Doom

    Top rap albums this year were Theater of the Mind and L.A.X. Not paper trail

  • Shawty J

    Ludacris and T.I. dropped my favorite albums of the year. I was definitely digging Theater of the Mind though, it has high replay value.

  • http://XXLmag LB

    R.E.D AND LUDA ARE SIMILAR RAPPERS!! they deliver all the time with punch lines!! all redman albums tight, but dont sleep on that MALPRATICE!!

  • Pierzy

    I was honestly surprised by how strong Luda’s album was…

  • Og Bobby J

    TI had the best mainstream album. Followed by Wayne (lollipop, a milli, mrs officer nonsense, got money)

    Best hip hop album tho…statik selektah stick 2 the script.

  • Vicious Seiger

    Calling Dr. Reggie Noble, Calling Dr. Reggie Noble…. we need a funk doctor in the ER with Dr. Bridges. In case of another “Blackout” please notify Dr. Clifford Smith that Dr. Noble may need his assistance.

  • Incilin

    “Luda made the effort of producing a concept album that doesn’t come off as contrite and confused.”

    Guess what, it isn’t consistent either. After a few tracks, Luda pretty much abandoned the whole concept. Tell me how songs like “Contagious” or “Nasty Girl” have to do with the larger concept of the album? In fact, tell me the difference between a lot of the tracks on TOTM and most other Luda albums, or hip hop albums in general.

  • Penelope Rodriguez

    Now I feel bad about passing up on Luda’s album…I should have gotten it at Best Buy two weeks ago!!!