Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Revisiting Ludacris' "Theater Of The Mind"

Before I head into Ludacris' "Theater Of The Mind," I have a small story if you don't mind. I wasn't a fan when I first heard him, which was on Timbaland's "Tim's Bio: Life From Da Basement" album. The song on that album was "Phat Rabbit," and at the time I thought it was decent, but nothing special. Then in 2000, I heard "What's Your Fantasy" for the first time and I couldn't stand that song; it's like each time I heard it I liked it less and less. It wasn't until I heard the Neptunes produced "Southern Hospitality" that I became a fan and followed his career ever since, clearly one of the nicest to emerge from the South, with the right dose of lyrical charisma and humor. Up to this point, his discography was mostly dope, ranging from excellent (his "Back For The First Time" debut and "Word Of Mouf"), very good ("Chicken & Beer" and "The Red Light District") and good/decent ("Release Therapy"), which brings us to 2008's "Theater Of The Mind." Prior to the release of the album, Luda stated that it would basically be a concept album, a "movie," with guests as "co-stars." Nothing wrong with that, as concept albums in hip hop can be a thing of audio beauty if done right. And with that being said, let's go to the movies!

Release date: November 24, 2008

1. Intro
Scored By: The Runners

"Theater Of The Mind" begins with a brief, but dope Runners produced banger. One thing Luda was good at was starting his albums with the most adrenaline laced intros possible, and he delivers that here. If I were to rate this particular into, it would earn a "4 out of 5" rating, or in this case "thumbs up."

2. Undisputed
Scored By Don Cannon
Co-Starring Floyd "Money" Mayweather

Holy shit! I mean, to say that THIS is a banger would be an understatement. After an adrenaline laced intro, we get that same vibe from Luda over this Don Cannon produced banger, complete with a NICE, well worked sample courtesy of Edwin Starr's "We'll Find A Way;" definitely one of Luda's top 5 best songs. He brings so many dope lines that I'd be listing the entire song if I were to name them all. This is one lyrical knockout blow to the competition, and speaking of knockouts, Mr. Floyd Mayweather, acting as Luda's "trainer," plays his role well and if there's anyone who knows about knocking out the competition, it's Mr. Mayweather. What a high powered start to this album.
*Thumbs Up*

3. Wish You Would
Scored By DJ Toomp and 8TRIK
Co-Starring T.I.

I dare you to step up to two of the Southern kings! Long after squashing the issues they had dating back to 2004 relating to Young Buck's "Stomp," Luda appeared on T.I.'s "Paper Trail" (also released in 2008), so T.I. comes through with Luda on this appropriately titled banger. 
*Thumbs Up*

4. One More Drink
Scored By Poke and Tone (Track Masters)
Co-Starring T-Pain

"Fun in the club, leading to other things" is the first thing that comes to mind when describing this song. It's good, and T-Pain, who was admittedly hot at this point, was the right man for the hook. I also have to post the hilarious video.
*Thumbs Up*

5. Call Up The Homies
Scored By Clinton Sparks and Kamau Georges
Co-Starring The Game and Willy Northpole

Luda, Game, and Willy all head to the West Coast, strapped and all, to live life to the fullest.
*Thumbs Up*

6. Southern Gangsta
Co-Starring Ving Rhames, Playaz Circle and Rick Ross

The best things about this song is Luda's verse, the voiceovers provided by actor Ving Rhames, and the dope beat provided by STREETRUNNER. Objectively, Rick Ross' verse was nothing we hadn't heard from him before even at this point in 2008; you can say the same about the verse from Playaz Circle (and yes, this is the duo that 2 Chainz apparently is still a part of). This song would've been that much better by keeping the same beat, possibly a different name to the song, and of course Luda holding it down on the solo tip.
*Thumbs In The Middle*

7. Everybody Hates Chris
Scored By Don Cannon
Co-Starring Chris Rock

This title does make you think about the hit TV show of the same name, but respectively it has no connection, even with the role Chris Rock plays here. Don Cannon supplies Luda with another banger, effectively utilizing a Gladys Knight sample ("It Takes A Whole Lotta Man For A Woman Like Me") to great results. Plus, if you don't know what this song is about, well you have no business reading this review/revisit. 
*Thumbs Up*

8. What Them Girls Like
Scored By Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Co-Scored By Sean "The Pen" Garrett
Co-Starring Chris Brown and Sean Garrett


This and the next two songs make up the "Ladies Section" of the album, because if there ever was a song for the ladies, this is it right here. Pretty good just like "One More Drink." 
*Thumbs Up*

9. Nasty Girl
Scored By Swizz Beatz
Co-Starring Plies

Once you've heard a song like this, you've heard them all. It's not great, but relatively decent. Plies is sort of out place, but he surprisingly doesn't bring the song down.
*Thumbs In The Middle*

10. Contagious
Scored By Scott Storch
Co-Starring Jamie Foxx

This one seemingly picks up where "Nasty Girl" leaves off, only a little more smoother. 
  *Thumbs In The Middle*

11. Last Of A Dying Breed
Scored By Wyldfyer...The Truth
Co-Starring Lil Wayne

"Top 5 damn right, but it really just hit me/That three of yo top 5's too scared to fuck wit' me!" -Luda

Oh man, Luda and Lil Wayne go IN on this joint, no question. I'm not a fan of Wayne, but he kills this joint, even with the unorthodox voice he uses throughout. Don't get it twisted though, he doesn't steal the show here because Luda brings it just as hard and you still know it's his song and in control. Dope.
*Thumbs Up*

12. MVP
Scored By DJ Premier

For this first ever collabo, this was not a disappointment. Luda flows very well over the unmistakable boom bap sound provided by Premo.
*Thumbs Up*

13. I Do It For Hip Hop
Scored By Wyldfyer...The Truth
Co-Starring Nas and Jay-Z

Not too many artists can say they got my #1 and #2 favorite MCs of all time on the same song, let alone the same album. As a matter of fact, Luda may be the only artist to be on the same song with Nas and Jay together. Oh, and not too surprisingly, Luda almost delivers the best verse on this apply titled song. Continuous dopeness.
*Thumbs Up*

14. Do The Right Thing
Scored By 9th Wonder
Co-Starring Common and Spike Lee

Some may say Luda and Common is a mis-match of styles in a hip hop form. Well, that slightly may be the case, but they complement each other well on this apply titled closer. Gotta do the right thing, always.
*Thumbs Up*

 Over the last few years I've often said that this is Luda's best album, and after this revisit, I still feel the same. This is an incredible album, which finds Luda firing on all cylinders. He got some of the hottest MCs and producers, circa 2008 for this "hip hop movie" and it worked. It also remains the last truly great Luda album, and hopefully "Battle Of The Sexes" is not his last, officially or unofficially. I honestly want to go the full monty on this and award it 5 stars, but I'm going to keep it at a very respectable 4.5 star rating. Outstanding job by Luda and will we see "Theater Of The Mind 2" at some point? I surely hope so!

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