The Red Light District

Artist: LudacrisTitle: The Red Light DistrictRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone

When you’re a rap superstar in the vein of Ludacris, life seemingly becomes one big party; money flows in with ease, girls drop to their knees at the sight of you, weed piles up by the dime bag, and gallons of liquor equal endless good times. Whether this is completely true or not is only known to Luda and his crew, but, throughout the course of his fourth album, The Red Light District (DTP/Def Jam), these perks of life are extensively covered as Luda draws parallels between his native grounds of Atlanta and the carefree Red Light section of infamous Amsterdam. Rhyming about life’s finer things has always been the witty MC’s strength, making The Red Light District a by-the-book exercise in formulas already familiar to his fans.

Despite a few signs of growth, Ludacris’ latest is basically more of the same from one of the game’s more entertaining voices. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as Luda continues to craft addictive numbers that transcend nationwide tastes and should bump in any Hip-hop fan’s speakers. KLC provides forceful horns and strings for Luda to issue angry commands on the rowdy “Get Back,” while DJ Green Lantern turns the Austin Powers theme music (Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova”) into a fierce instrumental as Luda fires off confident boasts at all naysayers, including his highly-publicized enemy Bill O’Reilly. Jim Crow member Polo shows off his production skills on the laidback “Pimpin’ All Around The World,” and playful organs elevate the generic money dedication “Large Amounts” into Rewind worthy material. Ludacris is at his best, however, on the scorching “Potion,” as Timbaland concocts an insane blend of tribal percussion and ambient sound effects for our host to declare, “5’8 but still a big shot, plus I got a big cock/ Get clean everyday, stay fresher than what’s in a Zip Loc/ Tell your man to kick rocks, when I make my pit stops I’m in, then its hard to get me out like I’m a slip knot.”

Thankfully, Ludacris opts to take some artistic chances on The Red Light District, and the results are successful. Nas checks in on the nostalgic “Virgo” to glide over Doug E. Fresh’s vintage beatbox skills, while L.T. Mo’s lively Left Coast creation fits Luda and DJ Quik’s back-and-forth verses like a glove on “Spur of the Moment.” Newcomer Voodoo turns Teena Marie’s “Portuguese Love” into a haunting backdrop on “Child of the Night,” as Nate Dogg’s hook nicely anchors Luda’s introspection, confessing, “I admit to being caught by many foolish distractions, and I’m forced to pay the price as a result of my actions.”

DMX’s generic chorus and Ice Drake’s tired bells do little to help the weak ‘Put Your Money.” Besides this disposable inclusion, though, The Red Light District plays through with steady enjoyment. The main problem that plagues the record is Ludacris’ complacency, resting in a comfort zone that too many others have established residence in since he first asked listeners “What’s Your Fantasy?” Still, while many may try to duplicate his style, Ludacris is a one-of-a-kind MC in today’s rap landscape, delivering verses with signature flash and punchline prowess. For that, The Red Light District chalks up another victory for Luda.