RapReview Of The Week

[Theater of the Mind] Ludacris :: Theater of the Mind
DTP/Def Jam

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Yeah! Now this is what they call poetry in motion
My soul BLEEDS on the paper, heart SCREAMS with emotion
It's my daily devotion, that verses stay deeper than the ocean
So hip-hop you owe me a promotion!
Yeah I do a lilttle boastin and braggin
What's all the commotion and naggin about?
Cause I'm still the champ in the South?
Cause rappers get in the booth and I keep draggin 'em out?
Well they fired! And these pink slips, I'm handin 'em out
Cause this is "Theater of the Mind," consider it a sign
of what's to come next, my money's just fine
Bank filled with DUMB checks! Terrorist threat flow
Proceed to drop bombs like Mr. Funk Flex
But I don't do it for the money, I do it from the heart
I do it with the beatbox, I did it from the start
I do it for the deejays, I do it for the charts
The Van Gogh flow, Luda do it cause it's art!
I do it for the fans, I do it on command
I do it for the front row, I do it for the stands
I spit it for the hood, I do it for the block
And since nine years old I did it for hip-hop!"

Honestly for me this review could start and end right there. Ever since Luda first made his national debut with "Back For the First Time" he's been steadily improving as an artist and a lyricist. Happily his rise as a hip-hop heavyweight has coincided with his rise as a representative for hip-hop music and culture. He's gone to war with Bill O'Reilly over hip-hop artists being mainstream celebrities, started The Ludacris Foundation to help today's youth reach their goals, starred in a slew of Hollywood films from "2 Fast 2 Furious" to "Max Payne" and generally speaking he's given hip-hop a good name. Luda's even got a show on TV right now called "Battleground Earth" where he and Tommy Lee battle to see who can make their concert tour more eco-friendly. Some of you skeptics and naysayers are saying that's not a very gangsta thing for a hardcore rap artist to do, but those same critics wrote off Ice Cube when he filmed "Are We There Yet?" before he came back with "Raw Footage." Today's hip-hop artists are multimedia moguls, taking their moxie on wax straight to the bank with endorsements and guest appearances on NBC TV shows. Luda has taken every opportunity and made the most of it, and instead of softening up his lyrical flows to reach America he's spit so much humor and swagger that they crossed over to HIM.

Happily "Theater of the Mind" doesn't start and end with "I Do it For Hip-Hop" even though it damn well could. Wyldfyre The Truth laces the track with a powerfully poignant beat and guest stars Jay-Z and Nas drop some very thoughtful and respectful verses in support. If I had only one reason to own "Theater of the Mind" this song alone would suffice, and yet the overachieving Ludacris drops 14 tracks of saliva spit all over the vocal booth bringing you the truth. And what is Luda's truth? Turn on the lights and the cameras for some action on "Intro" and you'll hear it: "They give me sixteen bars on another nigga's song and you know that I'MA FUCKIN KILL IT." Okay some of you parents out there are scared when you hear Luda say things like that, so chill. Ask your kids to explain it to you - he's just saying he's one of the best out lyrically. Amazingly his career is still too young for him to be classified as one of the best all-time in rap but when it comes to putting out songs that have sharp punchlines, strong rhymes and a unified theme he's definitely top five in the mainstream pop scene - maybe top two. Even on singles like "What Them Girls Like" he still shines.

"Relax and take notes! While I put you up on game
Get a sweeter connect than if I put you up on 'caine
But you should grab yourself a seat, and a whiskey double
because the girls of the world ain't nothin but trouble!
They like a little danger, and might not admit it
But they on for the chase and they want us to come and get it
Plus they love a young thug that's overflowin with swag
And keeps his woman all draped in new Louis Vuitton bags
and Louis Vuitton pumps, now look at her walk to him
I like open toe straps but SG talk to 'em"

If you're a head who's paying attention the references to Notorious B.I.G. and Will Smith are obvious; hence Luda's confession that he does it for hip-hop even when he's making something pop. Beyond that though is the fact it's a crossover song with a POINT. Luda isn't just making up a new dance move for you to imitate or blowing up a ridiculous catch phrase he wants everybody to say, he's telling a tale about the female sex and what it takes to get next to them to get their attention. Ludacris has a point even when he has fun or he's just joking around. On the TrackMasters song "One More Drink" he and T-Pain both note that more intoxication equals more flirting, which is what often makes it so tempting to HAVE one more in the club. He even offers advice at the end for would be rivals: "People too picky these days damn it! Too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny. Have a couple of drinks and quit discriminating!" Good advice.

For those worried that Luda might crossover TOO MUCH don't worry about his focus on "Theater of the Mind." Southeast gets wreck when Rick Ross shows up on "Southern Gangsta." New Orleans gets love when Lil Wayne rolls through on "Last of a Dying Breed." Chicago brings it strong when Common joins the homey for "Do the Right Thang" co-starring Spike Lee (seriously). Compton's in the house when Luda decides to "Call Up the Homies" like The Game. And if you want the comedy (and lord knows Luda got jokes) Chris Rock guest stars on "Everybody Hates Chris." While Ludacris may be professing loudly to do it for hip-hop on his latest album, it's refreshing to know he can do it for hip-hop AND still do it for the mainstream who may not realize just how artful he really is. Luda deserves everything he's got coming his way right now and then some, and he doesn't look to be slowing down his hip-hop hustle any time soon.

Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10

Originally posted: December 2, 2008
source: www.RapReviews.com

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