In hip-hop, the window to capitalize on fame and notoriety is small. Artists are often disposable commodities with a limited shelf-life. Even hip-hop gods Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and Rakim are no longer relevant to the current generation. The way to counter this slide into obscurity is by bombarding the market — or as Ludacris puts it on the “Made You Look Remix,” putting “more shit on the street than evicted tenants.”
Since he made the transition from disc jockey to emcee in the late ‘90s, Cris Lova Lover has dropped an album a year, blessed countless guest appearances and even hit up Hollywood. For Luda, dominating hip-hop has been a two-front war — assault clubs with raucous jams like “Yeah” and “Stand Up” and lock down the streets with “Stomp” and “Blow it Out.” But the quantity has come at a cost, and Luda’s releases usually contain six or so memorable joints blended with uninspired filler. On Red Light District, the debaucheries of marijuana, sex and sin provide the perfect backdrop. But like a trip to Amsterdam, the album is a blurry haze with only a few sobering moments.
After trading verses with T.I., the self-crowned “King of the South,” on the original version of “Stomp,” Luda can’t help but sprinkle subliminal shots throughout the ridiculous banger “Get Back.” Moving beyond Luda’s petty rap squabbles, the most damaging shot is aimed at Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly on “Number One Spot”: “Hi, Mr. O’Reilly/ Hope all is well/ kiss the plaintiff and the wifey.” Besides venting on enemies and right-wing monsters, Luda leaves plenty of room for up-tempo bangers like “Pass Out” and the throwback joint “Virgo.” Without a doubt the highlight of the album is the Timbaland-assisted “The Potion,” which should push Luda to multi-platinum status. The beat is worth every penny the six-figure producer commands.
Amsterdam provides the theme for Red Light District. After just 30 seconds of the over-synthesized beat and echo effects put on Luda’s voice on the proverbial weed track, “Blueberry Yum Yum,” I wondered if he has ever inhaled the sticky green. He takes his domestic pimp game popularized on “Area Codes” and goes international with “Pimpin All Over the World.” The latter lyrically and sonically trumps the original, but the track is nothing more than a recycled remix.
Like the rest of Ludacris’s albums, Red Light District lacks a distinctive quality and will only remembered by the singles and the videos. Can anyone name all of Luda’s LPs without consulting the Internet? Probably not, but when the mainstream comes knocking, you better make your paper before America’s collective attention turns elsewhere. It ain’t the universe, it’s the Ludaverse. Enjoy it while it lasts.