At the Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber, Luda and Snoop were on the dais. Early in his bit Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson said, “Wow, Ludacris and Snoop Dogg are here! If I was 38, I’d be freaking out right now.” The joke was very funny, but the fact that they were mentioned together like that was really noteworthy. It was assurance that Ludacris had longevity and had become peers with the rappers he came up under. Plus, his presence there for Justin, a pop star, was proof that Luda had bridged the gap between two generations and genres of music listeners (his duet with Bieber, “Baby,” has over a billion views on YouTube). All things considered, it spoke volumes about Ludacris... and it only took a few seconds.
Ludacris’ ability to get the attention of such a diverse audience has really been years in making. And while he is just as recognized for movies as music now days, the latter is how he got everyone’s attention in the first place. With the release of his Ludaversal album earlier this week and his Furious 7 movieset to hit theaters Friday, AllHipHop.com decided to pay homage to one of rap’s greats by ranking all nine of his studio albums.
So “Move over; Luda got something to say!”
9). Battle of the Sexes- Ludacris first billed this as a collaboration with Shawnna, but after she parted ways with DTP, it became all his own. Considering he enlisted help from many other female emcees and the name of the release, it led many to believe it was going to be a battle between men and women (i.e. Ice Cube and Yo-Yo’s “It’s a Man’s World” for a full album) In actuality, it turned out to be a playlist for strip clubs and dance parties. Luda is and always has been great at rowdy rhymes, but he’s capable of more. And to add insult to injury (from a guy’s perspective), most men don’t get to see women as alluring as Nikki B get down like she did in the “How Low” video.
8). Release Therapy- Arguably his most polarizing album, this set of songs found Ludacris seemingly at a crossroads. Everything about the album was darker than his previous work, and even the sex-inspired stanzas on songs like “Money Maker” and “Girls Gone Wild” sounded forced. Instead, he traded his comedy and cornrows for a mature perspective on topics ranging from the music business to runaway pre-teen girls. It was often overwhelming, especially coming from Luda, but it was great to hear him challenge himself when he really didn’t have to. And for that, it was good to seem him win a Grammy [Best Rap Album, 2007] for his efforts.
7). Incognegro-Chris Bridges’ debut was recorded and released independently. Not only did it sell 50,000 copies, it was also repackaged (with a few tweaks) for his first major-label release a year later. The business acumen he showed initially though by releasing it on his own Disturbing tha Peace imprint coupled with raps dope enough to complete with the pros was was just a preview of things to come. Chris Lova Lova on Atlanta’s Hot 97.5 would soon be a thing of the past because Ludacris was destined for critical and commercial success on the national airwaves.
6). The Red Light District- Luda sounded a bit like he was on auto-pilot this go round in the sense that lots of the project revisited old territory, yet no one could really blame him. On “Intro” he even said, “And last album, they don’t like me to tell this / Debuted at #1 and sold more records than Elvis.” But that doesn’t mean ceased to amaze, his flow was still intact and one of the most incredible ones in the rap game. From bodying outside the box tracks from Timbaland (“The Potion”) to the iconic beat-boxing of Doug E. Fresh (“Virgo”) and everything in between, Luda’s rapping never sounded out of place. And that’s a real rarity, even among rappers with great technical abilities.
5). Word of Mouf- There were many highlights on this release, but not quite enough to justify the album clocking in at just under eighty minutes. The horns on “Rollout (My Business)” were as lively as Luda’s personality, and the introspection that records like “Growing Pains” and “Cold Outside” had were a great way to hear the more thoughtful side of him. However, after the solid Nate Dogg and Mystikal assists on “Area Codes” and “Move B***h” respectively and the outstanding “Saturday (Oooh! Oooh!),” it was a lot of the same themes on wax recycled: women, weed, and wildin’ out.
4). Theater of the Mind- While the theatrical concept of this project got lost in the execution, it was only a small misstep because Ludacris’ energy more than made up for it. He also seemed more focused than ever on establishing himself as a top-tier lyricist. The culmination of those two things resulted in, among other things, the former radio DJ besting Lil‘ Wayne at the peak of his powers, spitting stellar bars over a DJ Premier beat, and holding his own alongside Jay Z and Nas. At the end of “Everybody Hates Chris,” Chris Rock even humorously reminded everyone why, despite his success on the silver screen, Ludacris was still better at rapping than acting.
3). Ludaversal- Credible comeback albums have eluded some of rap’s best artists, see Kingdom Come and Relapse, but this one didn’t disappoint. Luda’s depiction of fame and fortune was less about flashiness than it was showing how far he had come (“This Has Been My World”). And his demonstration of sheer skill was more about pleasing fans, than just shutting up haters (“Beast Mode”). The album artwork, Ludacris’ ’93 Acura parked next to his private plane, was a perfect symbol of it all. Or, in other words, if success is a journey and not a destination, Ludacris was determined to get as much out of the entire trip as possible.
2). Back for the First Time- Scarface definitely made a great move when he signed Ludacris to Def Jam South. The charisma that he brought to Hip-Hop had a universal appeal that captured the attention of both underground and mainstream rap fans. And of the new material added to First Time, “Southern Hospitality” was the album’s strongest addition and best cut overall. It was Andre 3000’s “The South got something to say” moment in song form for the next class of emcees below the Mason-Dixon.
1). Chicken-N-Beer- The fourth album in Ludacris’ discography was a great balance of serious and silly. And it was all a bit more personal. For example, after Bill O’ Riley got him dropped from a Pepsi ad campaign, Luda used music found here to fire back. He also continued to show depth in his rhymes, whether reminiscing on adolescence in “Diamond in the Back” or chronicling his come up in rap on “Eyebrows Down,” listeners learned more about Ludacris than they ever had before. And last but not least, this album had Mr. Bridges’ first number 1 record: the Kanye West-produced classic, “Stand Up.”
And the debate begins! What’s your favorite Ludacris album? Let us know in the comments section!