October 9, 2003

Ludacris: Disturbing More Than tha' Peace

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Chris Bridges, aka Ludacris, is back with a vengeance on his third solo effort, Chicken and Beer. The only problem is: it’s not quite clear who the subject of all his rage happens to be.

Normally playful and magnetically fun-loving, Luda has a newly cultivated aggressive edge on Chicken. And it just doesn’t seem right.

The creator of such hip-hop hilarity as “Rollout,” “What’s Your Fantasy,” and “Ho” just doesn’t pull off the pissed-off, adversarial attitude that’s worked so well for his colleagues of late. Ludacris hasn’t been shot nine times like 50 Cent, but for some reason he seems just as scarred.

This is certainly a departure from his last album, Word of Mouf (2001), which is arguably the funniest and funest album in hip-hop history.

The one adversary Ludacris has acquired is Fox News analyst Bill O’Reilly, who effectively dissuaded Pepsi from giving the rapper an endorsement deal a year ago. O’Reilly and Pepsi — the only rivals actually named by Ludacris on the album — are alluded to several times.

Absent from O’Reilly, Ludacris’s anger is never directed towards anyone in particular, but instead seems to be a not-so-novel device for showing off his unique wordplay abilities.

However, this ploy loses its saltiness early in the album and we’re left wishing that there was some comic relief on an otherwise coldhearted album. The one answer to this desire, would be the (much) less-than-hysterical interludes. Yet again, one of Ludacris’s staples — some of the most amusing interludes ever are on Word of Mouf — is lost in the strangely altered formula of Chicken.

Still, Ludacris is not totally off his game and shines on several tracks.

The heavily rotated “Stand Up” finds Luda at his club-banging best. The infectious beat, provided by bounce-extraordinaire Kanye West, can’t help but snap your neck. At the same time, Ludacris rides the beat as only he can, providing some of the album’s most memorable moments.

“Hip Hop Quotables” is the album’s lyrical highlight as Ludacris flows for three minutes straight, breaking only to laugh at himself once in a while.

“I own so many jerseys, I’m a throwback mess. I hit the cleaners and tell them I want a full court press,” he quips, adding, “From your car to a crap game, no one rolls with you. One of Mini Me’s shoes got more soul than you. So by the time you figure out why your record ain’t spinnin’, I’m in the strip club smoking, with President Clinton.”

“Hoes in my Room” benefits from the requisite Snoop Dogg guest appearance and Luda seems more playful with his pimp-buddy Snoop on board. The chorus — “Who let these hoes in my room?” — sets up a situation in which Ludacris walks into his hotel room, only to find a bunch of scantily-clad women crowding his humble resting spot. Snoop and Ludacris then discuss the merits of taking advantage of the situation, only to realize that “these hoes” just don’t deserve the costly price they charge for attention. Ludacris ultimately comes to the conclusion, “I know who let them in, It was Bill O’Reilly!” Classic Luda reasoning.

Several other joints, namely “Teamwork” and “P-Poppin’,” school us in the Dirty South King’s most recent fantasies and sexcapades. Thanks, but no thanks.

The sexually-driven songs tend to be overkill and in the case of “Teamwork,” the constant grunting is frightening.

Production is arguably the album’s biggest deficiency, as the entire LP seems to drone on with tedious beat after tedious beat. Save Kanye West’s refreshing contribution on “Stand Up,” such unknowns as Ron Browz, Zukhan Bey, and Ruh Anubis Yazid don’t bring any sort of heat to the effort.

In an era when production plays such a big role in an album’s success, it is surprising that Ludacris has not called upon bigger names for Chicken.

Ludacris also falls victim to one of hip-hop’s most unfortunate modern plagues by including any and everyone from his camp — Disturbing Tha Peace — on the album.

All of the album’s guest appearances — and I don’t mean to over generalize, but it’s true — are entirely forgettable. Even Snoop Dogg isn’t the Snoop we all love and the talentless Chingy, Lil Flip, and I-20 fall even shorter of the mark.

It’s hard to top an album like Word of Mouf, but Ludacris has more than failed by trying to be an artist he is not. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, much less forget about it entirely.

This album is not Ludacris’s best work and maybe that’s what has him so upset after all.

Archived article by Scott Jones