There’s no doubt about it. Hip-hop music has changed in major ways of the last few decades; as any art form should evolve. The mythicized “Golden Era” is dependent on when you grew up and who introduced you to the genre. No matter what genre of music you listen to, we all have that one or maybe two or three artists we grew up on and they embody the music in our hearts, no matter how far they have since strayed from the sound. Like many of you, one of these artists I grew up listening to was the guy from 2 Fast 2 Furious with the ridiculous afro, Christopher Bridges AKA: Ludacris. And I’m sure, much like myself, many of you can recall his 2004 release, The Red Light District, being one of the first CD’s in your hip-hop collection.
Luda has always been able to combine beats heavily influenced by Atlanta sound with his very loose, comedic lyrical style, and do it with a rhythm he has made all his own. The Red Light District is not Luda’s first outing as far as LP’s go and this is definitely apparent. It is clear he has used his prior outings to grow upon himself, yet retain the style that gained him his popularity. Starting off on a high note is definitely a correct way to describe this album. The intro is ripe with punch-lines and braggadocious lines but it is all done so earnestly. He says what he means and means what he says. Whether talking about how much money he has or how skilled he is at his profession, nothing sounds fake or over-the-top boastful. Without having to directly say how hard he’s worked over and over again, you can hear it in the way he raps.
From the introduction, we are segwayed immediately into an energetic instrumental accompanied by some of the project’s most entertaining similes and metaphors. Plenty of nods to the Austin Powers ‘Goldmember’ film, there is a wittiness and silliness that few can command like Ludacris.The hook is delivered in a very catchy-manner, Luda asks himself, “Whatchu doin’ man?” and then replies, “I’m comin’ for that number one spot”. Keeping the energy high but switching from fun to aggressive, we all ‘Get Back’. Perhaps the album’s most widely known cut, it is bass-heavy with distant claps and high-pitched horns. The song is more memorable and repeatable than just about anything released up until that point.
The album is weakest when Luda strays from his humor and favors a meaner, harsher delivery on songs like, ‘Put Your Money’ with DMX or ‘Pass Out’.The songs aren’t terrible by any means, they just don’t fit the Ludacris mold as well as his lighter more fun work. He is fun to listen to and he knows it. Often times ending the last syllable of each bar with a high pitched screech or elongating his words to add a little more of that ridiculous energy kept up through most of the album. Ludacris’ persona is what sets him apart from other artists, everything about his music on this album sounds exclusive to him.
Even the way he talks about having a lot of money on ‘Large Amounts’ is funny, engaging, clever and incredibly fresh. He admits to talking about all of his money in his music, but mocks himself by saying that it only leads to family and friends trying to “stalk” him or show up at his house and ask for some financial help. He even discusses the splurging lifestyle of rappers who blow all their cash on cars and jewelry, only to later school you on assets and liabilities. The man is smart far beyond what his style would lead you to believe. This fact is especially apparent when thing get real on ‘Hopeless’. He is completely aware of government corruption and the way poverty seems to be targeted at African Americans. All of the real moments are still sprinkled with Luda’s entertaining delivery style and very particular energy. The energy level rarely falls below a ten.
Even the stoner-anthem ‘Blueberry Yum Yum’ is more eclectic than almost any other song about weed. His lyrical delivery is almost smoky in its weight and impact which only further proves Luda’s ability. The album is closed on an even higher note than it begins. The track ‘Virgo’ with Nas and Doug E. Fresh, is raw in every sense of the word. It was the most hip-hop song of 2004 and still stands near the top today. Doug Fresh’s vocal beatbox is premium and both Nas And Luda serve up some of the freshest rhymes on the entire project. It is the perfect way to end such a, entertaining high energy album, with three of the greats doing exactly what they love to do and having fun with it at such a high level of skill. This album portrays the Ludacris that will live on in my memory forever — and I wouldn’t have it any other way.