Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ludacris -- Theater of the Mind

Theater of the Mind

3/5 stars

Ludacris holds his own with some of the biggest names in rap.

Cons: His style is more suitable for singles than albums.

Bottom Line: If Ludacris wants to know why he isn't considered
a great rapper, Theater of the Mind is a good place to start.

Recommended Tracks:

Wish You Would

Do It for Hip-Hop

Over five albums and countless guest appearances, Ludacris reveled in being Ludacris. Never taking himself too seriously, he recounted a life of endless money, women and parties. He became the rapper every singer went to for hit features.

And while money and fame came easy, he found respect harder to come by. His new album Theatre of the Mind attempts to shape his legacy: "I'll be going down in rap as the MVP." He's following the lead of Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne -- if he keeps saying he's the best long enough, people might start believing him.

As a crowd-moving MC, he takes a back seat to no one. Not only is he funny and charismatic, but he can flow over almost any type of beat. He more than holds his own with two of today's biggest rappers -- T.I. ("Wish You Would") and Wayne ("Last of a Dying Breed") -- and two unquestioned legends -- Jay and Nas ("Do it for Hip-Hop").

But there's a difference between impressive on a track and on an album. That's why he has a feature on every full-length track save one. Like T-Pain, another hit-making mercenary, his albums tend to sound more like a collection of singles. His habit of using generic punch-lines to fill space ("So many acres that my crib look like Bermuda / So many diamonds my safe look like Kay Jewelers") doesn't help.

There are enough sure-fits hits, from the Jamaican-tinged "What Them Girls Like" to an ode to alcohol goggles on "One More Drink" and a Jamie Foxx-duet on "Contagious", that Ludacris will continue his streak of platinum albums. But the social commentary he began to showcase on "Runaway Love" is largely absent, as is any attempt to add depth to his musical persona.

Ludacris wants to know why he's not considered a great rapper. Theater of the Mind answers his question: rarely is so much talent used to say so little.

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