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Ludacris:Theater Of The Mind

Ludacris
Theater of the Mind
(DTP/DEF JAM)

Ludacris seemingly has it all: five platinum discs, Best Rap Album and Best Song Grammy wins (for his 2006 LP, Release Therapy, and its lead single, “Moneymaker”), a boutique record label (Disturbing Tha Peace), a social-networking site (wemix.com), and movie credits. But what Luda wants most is a spot on rap’s ever-changing top five list. With his Hollywood star rising (he has two films, RocknRolla and Max Payne, being released within weeks of his latest LP), though, the public’s perception is that he’s too caught up getting that movie money to care about bars. Quite the contrary. Luda is focused. So focused that he draws on his newfound movie-star career as the basis for his art-themed sixth album, Theater of the Mind, which bills its guests not as features, but as co-stars.

As far as concept albums go, Theater of the Mind has lofty goals, but, for the most part, Luda delivers by bringing aboard a solid cast of artists and personalities. First, there’s the comedic “Everybody Hates Chris,” complete with hilarious commentary by Chris Rock, which sets Luda up to steal the show with his humorous punch lines (“Still counting, still climbing the charts/Rappers still talking shit like they was rhyming in farts”). Then Spike Lee intros “Do the Right Thing,” and the DTP captain takes hip-hop artists to task, urging his peers to stop selling negativity. But rappers are walking contradictions, so Luda naturally comes back with the haunting “Southern Gangsta”—a play on BET’s “American Gangster” series, narrated by Ving Rhames—where ’Cris professes, “I got gangsters that’ll rearrange your whole face/And put you on ice, now that’s a cold case.” Expanding on his performance-art concept, Luda enters the ring, literally, with Floyd Mayweather in his corner, on “Undisputed,” where the Pretty Boy coaches ’Cris on how to maneuver around his opponents in the rap game.

There are many moments, however, when the album’s theme doesn’t stick. Songs like the Swizz Beatz–produced “Nasty Girl,” with its lush pianos and bright synths, and the T-Pain–assisted “One More Drink” seem to exist on their own accord and don’t have much to do with theater, film or television. Elsewhere, he’s just straight reaching—“What Them Girls Like,” for instance, where, despite taking a cue from 2000’s Mel Gibson chick flick What Women Want, there’s no real solid connection established between the film and the actual song. “Wish You Would” is equally disconnected, but with onetime sparring partner T.I. on board, it’s enough to overlook any thematic shortcomings as they verbally taunt their haters. The same goes for “MVP,” which surprisingly finds DJ Premier supplying his signature dose of East Coast boom-bap drums and a scratched hook for Luda to lyrically black out on: “He goin’ down in history ’cause he don’t sleep/And he the first Southern rapper on a Premo beat!” The wordplay culminates on “Last of a Dying Breed.” Guest starring Lil Wayne, the track is a robust operatic affair, complete with epic trumpets and chunky kicks, and finds Ludacris staking his claim as one of the greats with the album’s most resounding rhyme couplet, “Top five, damn right, but really it just hit me/That three of your top five is scared to fuck wit’ me.

Successfully pulling off a cohesive album concept is a tall order—especially in an era when radio singles and ringtone jingles are needed to help move units. While Ludacris doesn’t exactly stay in character the entire time, he does achieve his overall goal of positioning himself one step closer to that coveted title of G.O.A.T. —PAUL CANTOR

  • Casey

    Even if movies are a theme, I don’t think this was meant to be a concept album. Criticizing songs because they don’t have anything to do with movies seems unfair to me.

    • J-Killer15

      No I think it was fair. If you’re going to announce that each song is going to have it’s own theme then you have to live up to the hype. That’s like if Jay made records that had nothing to do with the life of a drug dealer, but puts it on American Gangster. That’s like Joe Budden putting a “happy” song on Padded Room when it’s just suppose to be about how crazy he is.

      With all that being said, Theater of the Mind is easily Top 5 Album of the Year.

  • Deezy

    Casey,

    I definitely agree.

  • Gerod

    I’m feelin this album and that’s some crazy shit to me…cuz I never bump a Ludacris album all the way through. But all the joints I’ve heard are crissssss (no pun intended).

    But for real, that Chris Rock commentary had me rollin lol

  • 619

    I gotta say this is the best album outta the South this year, and I heard Jeezy, T.I., and Wayne’s shit. ‘M.V.P.’ was proper with DJ Premier, ‘Do The Right Thing’, ‘Undisputed’, ‘Everybody Hates Cris’,
    were all proper. ‘Southern Gangsta’ was cool but coulda done without Ross. Shit Luda even got Wayne to put down the autotune on ‘Last Of A Dying Breed’. Nobody else could do that, Luda’s saving hip-hop. HAHAHAHA!

  • http://www.justice.gov.za GO-Getta’

    Should ‘ve given him xxl 4 album cover.

  • drox

    Top five, damn right, but really it just hit me/That three of your top five is scared to fuck wit’ me.”
    this is sick…. luda is the best no matter how many of u haterz doubt it. It aint bout the south and all that bullshit… luda’s for Hip-Hop!

  • dan99

    It gonna be better than ye’s album fo sho. Surprised that the article didn’t talk about the song wit jay and nas.

  • kengel55

    yoyoyo hold up ludacris only sounds good nowadays when hes featured on hit songs or remixs his new songs all the same garbage no heart anymore hes old stuff actually meant sumthing now hes just like wayne at least we got to listen to real music from jeezy until em and chamillionaire drop some crazy shit that will blow everyone away and thats 4real

    • 619

      Real music from Jeezy? Half his album was R&B shit. How can you even compare Jeezy’s album to Luda’s? Jeezy’s album was garbage, he had like two good songs on the whole thing. I listen to a lot of good albums from under the radar type artsits this year that you probably slept on, but as far as commercial shit, Luda got the album of the year.

  • larata9

    havent heard luds album if u want music to ride ur whip Get that E-40 its a banger