Rating: 3/5 stars
Pros: "Battle of the Sexes" is a return to Ludacris' strengths as a party and club rapper.
Cons: Nothing he hasn't done before.
Bottom Line: Ludacris makes an album sure to get heavy spins in the club.
I Know You Got A Man
Ludacris' new album Battle of the Sexes was supposed to be a duet album between him and Shawnna, a female rapper signed to his DTP label. So when Shawnna left the label last year in a contract dispute, Ludacris expanded the idea to collaborating with female rappers in general, with the idea to showcase a feminine perspective severely lacking in modern rap.
But while collaborations like "Hey Ho" talk about sexual double standards and "BOTS Radio" give relationship advice, the vast majority of this supposedly forward-thinking concept album is actually a return to Ludacris' roots. Hip-hop's premier jester tried to inject gravitas into his last few albums, dabbling in social consciousness and self-consciously trying to thrust himself into the conversation of 'great' rappers. He was Jim Carrey in "Truman Show" and "The Majestic".
Battle of the Sexes makes no such pretenses of artistic depth. It's an album revolving around partying, clubbing and sex. Over screwed and chopped samples and pulsing beats, Ludacris sweet-talks women ("I Know You Got A Man"), parties all night ("Party No Mo'", "I Do It All Night") and brings them back to his room ("Sex Room"). His tongue is planted firmly in cheek throughout: "Get your money right ladies, write your own checks / But don't call me after midnight unless we're having sex."
Free from trying to impress anybody or being something he is not, Ludacris is having the most fun he's had in a long time. His hit single "How Low" is designed for booty-shaking contests at a night-club. On "Sexting", he busts out a Tiger Woods impression and raps in text message abbreviations: "haha, omg, lol / kit, smiley faces, x and o's / l-m-f-a-o." And because Ludacris' style often works better over one verse than a whole song anyway, "Battle of the Sexes" still gives a good platform for female rappers both old (Lil' Kim, Eve) and young (Nikki Minaj, Diamond from Crime Mobb).
Returning to the same role he had played before on "Yes Man" didn't give Jim Carrey an Oscar, but the movie was one of the biggest hits of 2008. Similarly, an album like Battle of the Sexes won't win a Grammy, but judging from the popularity of its singles, especially in comparison to those of Theatre of the Mind, it is what the people want from Ludacris.