March 29, 2007

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

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Ludacris and DJ Green Lantern, two of hip hop’s most notable artists, team up to produce The Truth Shall Set You Free. Unfortunately, The Truth is that this collaboration is not what it could have been. The album is saved, however, by the unmistakable voice and rhythm of rapper Ludacris with the production work of DJ Green Lantern, commonly referred to as The Evil Genius.

Several of the classic mixtape pitfalls plague otherwise satisfying efforts of instrumental work and lyrical prowess. Five pointless interludes, including a Ludacris interview from Hot 97, are simply filler, hyping up the mixtape and the album it promotes (Luda’s Release Therapy). These tracks clearly require no effort by the artists, and do not benefit the listener at all.

Additionally, while DJ scratching can add color to a record, some of Green Lantern’s scratches cause discontinuity, and drown out Luda’s voice, as on “He Man.” Other scratches, such as on “More, More, More” rewind the track back for an unnecessary repetition of Luda’s or another featured rapper’s words. This is disappointing because most of these beats are actually pretty hot as stand-alone instrumentals.

Another sign that ’Cris should stay out of the mixtape game is his inability to do justice to a beat that Jay-Z had already dominated on “U Don’t Know,” from his Blueprint. Luda’s use of familiar instrumentals, such as those of Dem Franchise Boys’ “Lean Wit It Rock Wit It” and 50 Cent’s “Piggy Bank” is surprising coming from a previously original artist like ’Cris. Luda’s flow usually matches perfectly with his music, but, as evidenced by The Truth, this is harder to accomplish when the beat is already imprinted in listener’s minds as a different song.

’Cris rycyles vocal samples on “Supastar Boy,” “Jump Off The G4” and others, which becomes a major deficiency of the album. Luda and GL come uncharacteristically uninventive with these samples, which take away from the generally impressive work they did on this mixtape.

The all-star guest list significantly helps the album. The Neptunes arguably provide the album’s best beat on “Shakedown.” Likewise, the energy and enthusiasm of Busta Rhymes call out to Luda on “In The Ghetto (Remix),” sparking ’Cris to cook up his best lyricism on the album. Vocal assistance from Young Buck, Scarface, David Banner and others also pump up the volume.

Overall, this mixtape is worth listening to and pleases the ears. The hard drums, quick moving hi-hats and eerie synths make heads bang and necks snap on songs such as “Just Bought Me A Plane.” Likewise, Luda’s unique wit and incredible flow keep listeners thinking, as always.

The album is nice, but these hip hop giants could have certainly churned out a much better product. The Truth hurts sometimes.