Ludaversal (to be released March 31, 2015)
Did Ludacris really fall off?
I mean, I’ve see a lot of you Facebook philosophers waxing nostalgic about the glory days of Chris Bridges, back when he ruled rap in mid 2000s. In those days, he didn’t really get his due as being one of the most consistent — and successful — rappers of the era. His sales were always strong, and his verses were always show-stealers. Even Luda’s final album Battle of the Sexes, a collaborative album that was hastily cobbled into a solo joint, saw its share of success.
Since that album, Luda’s musical forays have been fleeting — a guest verse here, a mixtape there — while he instead focused on Hollywood.
I wouldn’t say Luda fell off. His mind just hasn’t been on his music.
But don’t think Luda hasn’t heard the whispers. Ludaversal, Luda’s eight major-label release, is a clear attempt to silence the haters and ascend to the top of rap once more. And to do that, he’s determined to show you that he’s still got bars.
Luda’s lyrical talents were often brushed off by rap elitists who saw him as merely a party rapper. Well, their kufis are on too tight — Luda had bars and, when focused, he could stand toe-to-toe with legends. On the album intro, it’s clear Luda’s got a chip on his shoulder: “They saying Luda don’t want it no more/I’m as hungry as the first day.” His double-time flow is still potent, rattling off punchlines like a Knockout Kings cheat code. He’s “leaving rappers confused like will.i.am’s barber” on “Beast Mode” while sending out warning shots on “Call Ya Bluff”: “Four years off getting Hollywood checks, but you n****s want beef and you looking like steak.”
I told y’all Luda has been listening.
Ludaversal shines brightest when Luda’s allowed to ramble with his stream of consciousness flow. It serves him well next to Big KRIT on “Come and See Me,” where the pair try to come up with the most ridiculous ways to brag about their cars. It’s almost like two kids on the porch exaggerating about how fancy their rides will be when they grow up.
Where the album doesn’t hold up, however, is when Luda tries to regain mainstream fame. Although Ludacris penned some of the biggest radio hits of the 2000s, his attempts to mimic that success here don’t work out. “Get Lit” is radio-ready and mildly entertaining — the usual story about liquor n’ gettin’ laid — but it’s not creative or memorable enough to make a splash on most playlists. Luda also seems to be going through the motions on the melancholy “Good Lovin’.” It’s the kind of cut Luda could crank out in his sleep a decade ago. Today, it just sounds, well, sleepy.
Luda’s one weakness is that his albums always tend to be wildly inconsistent. That’s still the case with Ludaversal. While is older albums were filled with radio bangers, a few solid album cuts and not much else, the reverse is true here — strong album cuts are supported by some surprisingly heartfelt material, like “Ocean Skies,” a dedication to his now-deceased father. “Ocean Skies” talks about his father’s struggles with alcoholism, but focuses on the man, not the bottle. It’s too bad we didn’t get more of that, and less of dull Top 40 stuff like “Not Long” with Usher.
Minus the mainstream appeal, Ludaversal is pretty much like the majority of Luda’s discography — a few really good tracks crammed between skippable filler.
Did Luda fall off? Not really. But some longtime fans might have demanded a little bit more.
Best tracks: “Beast Mode,” “Come and See Mee,” “Ludaversal”
3.5 stars out of 5