Due to my long time (and admitted) bias towards the East Coast, I've often made it no secret that I'm hard on Southern artists, and Ludacris was one of those artists at a time. I first heard him on a song called "Phat Rabbit" (which was on Timbaland's "Tim's Bio: From The Basement" album), and at the time, I wasn't too impressed. Next thing I know, I hear "What's Your Fantasy" all over the radio, and for some reason, I couldn't stand that song with a passion. My friend Kentyl kept recommending I give the guy a shot, but due to my strong sense of being selective (not to mention being hard on artists from the South), that was not going to happen. Well, things changed when I heard the Neptunes produced "Southern Hospitality" for the first time, and since then, I've been a big fan. He won me over with that one song and I've been a fan ever since. The man is simply charismatic on the mic, and he can switch things up in an interesting way, whether it's punchlines galore, social topics, humor (done the right way), etc. His presence on the mic, when backed by tight production that fits him, cannot be denied.
One thing I've often heard when Luda comes up in a discussion is that he doesn't have that one true classic in his discography, as he consistently delivers big singles/hits, but doesn't have his "Illmatic" or "Reasonable Doubt". Well, in one of my specialties, I'll be breaking down his discography.
Although I've never checked this out, this was independently released by Luda in 1999, and most of the songs ended up appearing on his studio debut album, which I'm about to cover now.
I bought this album three times over the years (please don't ask why, lol), and today, it still holds up. It's the album that made him a household name, and when you have an album that delivers with tight beats (courtesy of The Neptunes, Timbaland, Shondrae/Bangledesh, Organized Noize, just to name a few) and rhymes, with an effective Southern twist, you get GOOD results. Good way to start his career, and it goes without saying that "Southern Hospitality" sold me on this album.
Rating- 4 stars
5 favorite songs- Southern Hospitality, U Got A Problem, Game Got Switched, Stick Em Up (featuring UGK), and 1st and 10 (featuring I-20 & Fate Wilson)
This is the Luda album that holds the most nostalgic vibes with me (thanks to the hits "Rollout- My Business" and "Area Codes"), and a few people I know feel it's his best album (not to mention I also bought this three times just like his debut, lol). I wouldn't say it's his best (that pick is coming later), but it's indeed close. The production was still on point thanks to Organized Noize, Swizz Beatz, KLC, Shondrae/Bangledesh, Jazze Pha, as well as a few others, and Luda was still sharp on the mic. He essentially took what worked on his first album and got better in the process.
Rating- I recall initially giving this album 4.5 stars, but right now it's at a solid 4 stars. Things could change though.
5 favorite songs- Rollout (My Business), Block Lockdown, Area Codes, Get the F*** Back, and Coming 2 America
Luda continued to get bigger in hip hop, releasing his third album in 2003. At first I wasn't too crazy about this album, but after a few more plays over the years, I like it more than I did when it came out. Although no new ground was broken, Luda still came through on this album, and in what would become a trend starting with this album, he would begin things with an adrenaline laced intro (Southern Fried Intro starts things off SO RIGHT), from there, you get a very good album.
Rating- 4 stars
5 favorite songs- Southern Fried Intro (had to include this one), Stand Up, Hoes in my Room (featuring Snoop Dogg), Diamond in the Back, and Hip Hop Quotables
I initially bought this the week after it came out. Just a small fact to begin this one. This is a decent album, although it's a small step down from his first three albums (and his star continued to grow in the process). (Am I the only one who feels that DMX was sort of out of place on the hook of "Put Your Money"?) Now when I think about it, this *may* be his most underrated album in a sense.
Rating- 3.5 stars
5 favorite songs- Number One Spot, Get Back, Pimpin All Over The World, The Potion (Sidenote: For those who have seen Jay-Z's "Fade To Black" documentary, you'll note that the beat to this song was going to be given to Jay, possibly for "Dirt Off Your Shoulders".), and Two Miles an Hour
I've heard mixed feedback about this album. I have a friend Byrant who feels this is his second best album, and I respectively disagreed with him. The cutting of the braids brought about changes, and it's reflected in this album, and even though that's a good thing, that doesn't mean this is an excellent album overall. It is decent don't get me wrong, but he was capable of more. The highlights on this album are "Runaway Love" (featuring Mary J. Blige), "War With God", and "Do Your Time" (featuring Beanie Sigel, the late Pimp C, and C-Murder, all of whom were incarcerated at the time of the recording).
Rating- 3 stars
YES INDEED!!!!! This is my personal pick for Luda's best album (and of course it's my favorite from him). He described this album as "theatrical", and I agree with that 100 percent. I feel Ludacris was more focused on this album than his previous ones, and it showed, and it seemed that having a concept (guest artists serving as "co-stars", with the album being in the form of a "movie") inspired him to create something special. Speaking of guests, the lineup is VERY impressive, featuring Floyd "Money" Mayweather on the aggressive "Undisputed", the T.I. assisted "Wish You Would" (another sign that any beef between them was dead), The Game and Willy Northpole shine on "Call Up The Homies", Common comes through on "Do The Right Thing", which also features Spike Lee, and of course, the gem that is "I Do It For Hip Hop", featuring Nas and Jay-Z (I think Luda is probably the only artist to collaborate with Nas and Jay on the same track).
The R&B inspired tracks aren't too bad either, as "One More Drink" (featuring T-Pain), "What Them Girls Like" (featuring Chris Brown and Sean Garrett), "Nasty Girl" (featuring Plies, whom I'm not a fan of), and "Contagious" (featuring Jamie Foxx) are all good songs.
Two "artists" I'm NOT a fan of, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne appear on this album ("Southern Gangsta" and "Last of a Dying Breed, respectively), and needless to say, Ross literally adds NOTHING to "Southern Gangsta". I'll admit, the words Lil Wayne speak on "Last of a Dying Breed" aren't bad, it's his DELIVERY that's the problem and Luda of course saves it with his two tight verses.
Finally, "MVP", his first ever collaboration with the great DJ Premier is awesome, and "Everybody Hates Chris" (featuring spoken words from Chris Rock) is good too.
Wow, I did an impromptu brief dissection of this album, and it's clear that it's my favorite from Luda and the best album in his discography. Thumbs up for a job well done!
Rating- 4.5 stars
5 favorite songs- Undisputed, MVP, I Do It For Hip Hop, Do The Right Thing, and Call Up The Homies
And now we hit the "low point" of Luda's career, even in the midst of having two monster hits in the form of "My Chick Bad" (the original and remix) and "How Low". This was initially planned as a collaboration album with former Disturbing The Peace member Shawnna, but plans changed when she split from the team in 2009. Overall, I don't have too much to say about this album, other than it's totally forgettable and it's easily the worst album of his career.
Rating- 2 stars
In late 2011, he dropped his first mixtape in a while with "1.21 Gigawatts: Back For The First Time", and it was good. It'll likely pale in comparison to his next album "Ludaversal", which is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2013. I'll admit, my anticipation level is not as high as it was when it was first announced, but hopefully that'll change as we get more details about the album. I greatly respect Ludacris for his accomplishments in hip hop, as well as the charities he's a part of and what he does for his community.