Ludacris – Theater Of The Mind
Release Date: November 24, 2008
Record Label: Def Jam/DTP
It was only a matter time before Chris Bridges, a.k.a. Ludacris, combined his two loves – hip-hop and cinema – into one record. Taking the themes of the movie industry and fusing them into his sixth album is pretty interesting, with Ludacris’ concept being that each track is a portrayal of a different scene in a movie. The thing with concepts is that when executed poorly, they’ll come off cheesy and unbearable. But with his seventh studio album, Theater of the Mind, Ludacris avoids the box office disaster.
Ludacris has a rather impressive back catalog. His last five albums have all been certified platinum, while his acting career is carrying along just as well. He was a supporting actor in the Best Picture Crash, and has starred in critically acclaimed movies such as Hustle & Flow. Yes, Luda has had quite the career and it wouldn’t come as any surprise if he just mailed it in on the new album and collected his paycheck. Instead he brings the heat on Theater, attempting to remind those in love with T.I. and Lil Wayne that he is still the king of the South.
Lyrically speaking, Ludacris offers up the witty puns and clever metaphors we’ve come to expect. Latest single, “One More Drink,” which features R&B hook-maker T-Pain, is similar in vibe and content to “Hoes In My Room,” a track featured on 2004’s Chicken N Beer. He boasts about his rep on “Undisputed,” and brags about his money with T.I. on “Wish You Would,” which features a sly beat.
“Southern Gangsta” is a different take on “American Gangster” from Jay-Z. Luda and other Southern rappers, including The Boss Rick Ross, smoothly rap over the slow, smoky beat. “Everybody Hates Chris” is interesting, as Ludacris explains why everyone is jealous of him. It’s a neat play off of the TV show of the same name, and even features Chris Rock in the intro and outro. The catchiest song belongs to “What Them Girls Like,” as it features an infectious hook sung by the dreamy Chris Brown.
While the first nine or ten tracks of Theater are the Luda tracks we expected, the final few tracks really take the album from good to really good. “Last Of A Dying Breed” is straight fire and brimstone. Featuring Lil Wayne (seriously whose album has he NOT appeared on?), Ludacris brings some of his strongest verses to date, as his flow spits hot fire. The combo of the Wyldfyer beat and the flow bring crushing results. “MVP” has a classic feel to it (and is the only track Ludacris appears by himself on), as Luda effortlessly breezes over a delicious DJ Premier joint. “I Do It For Hip Hop” is slick, as Luda, Nas, and Jay-Z explain their passions and priorities within the genre over a sleepy tune. Album closer, “Do The Right Thang,” is an eye-opener, featuring great production from 9th Wonder and great cameos from Spike Lee and Common.
In my mind, Ludacris is one of the more underrated artists in hip-hop. He is consistent, his lyrics, while not the greatest, are always well constructed, and his albums are always good for a sure-fire hit or two. But when Luda brings it like he does on the final four tracks, he is one of the best. Featuring 12 producers and 18 guests for the 14 tracks, you might think Theater would have too many cooks in the kitchen, but it sets up a nice, diverse flow and vibe throughout. Thanks to his furious flow, some great verses from featured artists like Nas, Common, and Weezy, and a strong finish, Ludacris’ Theater has achieved another blockbuster. Now we'll just wait for the sequel to get the green light.