Ludacris commands a lot of respect but very little praise. A huge personality that, with the passing of ODB, may have the best punch lines in hip-hop (only Devin comes to mind as a true rival), Ludacris has never quite produced anything with more to say than “Move, bitch.” But his above-average beats and his ability to be a constant source of entertainment have always saved his records from disaster, even if they don’t show up on many best-of lists. Release Therapy is a risk for him, forsaking much of the comedy of earlier albums (a star for every time it made me laugh) and making a “statement” of a kind. Like War and Peace or Sweat and Suit, this is Release and Therapy.
Surprisingly, it’s the therapy part that comes off better, because his heart just doesn’t seem to be in the party side. The Neptunes-produced single “Money Maker,” sounds like it was made by a focus group. “Girls Gone Wild” finds Luda rapping exactly like Eminem. And the less said about “End of the Night” the better. It’s not that this first half is horrible; countless hip-hop party records far worse than this have been released in the past month. But an entertainer such as Luda can do this in his sleep, or at least it has always seemed like he could.
The second half redeems the record somewhat, beginning with “Woozy,” a much better slow jam featuring R. Kelly. Then it’s time for Luda to preach. “Tell It Like It Is” is a decent industry track, although it sounds more like it came from the West Coast than the South. “War With God” is the dis track (which Luda said is actually about him); “Do Your Time” is self-explanatory; “Runaway Love” is about violence against women; and “Slap” actually gets political. Of these tracks, only “Slap” is a total failure, due to bad electric guitars and a repetitive chorus. He closes the record with “Freedom of Preach,” the album’s best song and the strongest case that the ATL emcee should continue expanding his horizons into making conscious statements.
Always a force on the microphone, arguably a disappointment on the screen, Luda has officially entered his “transition stage” as an artist. I hope it will produce better records than this uneven offering.
Label: http://www.defjam.com/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/ludacris