Deep Album Cuts Vol. 36: Ludacris

Ludacris is about to release his first album in 5 years, Ludaversal, and it doesn't appear likely to reverse the depressing direction he's been headed in, for, well his whole career. But it's hard not to disappoint people eventually when your career started as strong as his. His first 4 major label albums all went multi-platinum, something only a handful of other rap acts can claim (Eminem, Kanye West and the Beastie Boys). And those early records really hold up, and he hasn't completely lost the skills or sense of humor that made those songs great.

So what happened? In a way, I think Ludacris is like LL Cool J -- a born entertainer who used his skill and charisma to make some of the loudest, hardest, most memorable rap hits of his time. But once a different, more street cred-oriented strain of aggressive rap came into fashion, he started to seem kind of quaint ('90s gangsta rap for LL, Atlanta trap rap for Luda). They'll both be famous forever, and will always be able to make music and stay in the spotlight with acting. But they'll never have the kind of major hits they used to have, just the occasional mild R&B cut like Luda's current single, "Good Lovin'."

Back To The First Time is one of my favorite albums of the 2000s, but even with diminishing returns his career managed to have a pretty long tail. Luda had the frustrating tendency of seeming to try harder and harder to make a classic album that would please everybody and falling further off the mark than he was to start with. It kinda reminds me of what Nicki Minaj is going through right now (and yes, The Pinkprint is Chicken-n-Beer in this analogy and her next album is Red Light District, accept it, you know it's true).

Ludacris Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Game Got Switched
2. Get Off Me (f/ Pastor Troy)
3. Ho
4. 1st & 10 (f/ I-20 and Lil Fate)
5. Stick 'Em Up (f/ UGK)
6. Coming 2 America
7. Word Of Mouf (f/ 4-Ize)
8. Go 2 Sleep (f/ I-20, Lil Fate and Three 6 Mafia)
9. Freaky Thangs (f/ Twista, Jagged Edge and 4-Ize)
10. Screwed Up (f/ Lil Flip)
11. Teamwork
12. We Got (f/ Chingy, I-20 and Tity Boi)
13. Child Of The Night (f/ Nate Dogg)
14. Spur Of The Moment (f/ DJ Quik and Kimmi J)
15. Hopeless (f/ Trick Daddy)
16. Do Your Time (f/ Beanie Sigel, Pimp C and C-Murder)
17. Everybody Hates Chris (f/ Chris Rock)
18. Feelin' So Sexy (f/ Shawnna)

Tracks 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Incognegro (1999)
Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 from Back For The First Time (2000)
Tracks 6, 7, 8 and 9 from Word Of Mouf (2001)
Tracks 10, 11 and 12 from Chicken-n-Beer (2003)
Tracks 13, 14 and 15 from The Red Light District (2004)
Track 16 from Release Therapy (2006)
Track 17 from Theater Of The Mind (2008)
Track 18 from Battle Of The Sexes (2010)

I wanted to acknowledge Incognegro because in retrospect it's pretty impressive that a local radio personality in Atlanta was able to put together an independent album, with the help of Pastor Troy, Organized Noize, Jermaine Dupri and Timbaland. And then 17 months later he re-released pretty much the same album on Def Jam (with "Southern Hospitality" and "Stick 'Em Up" added), and went triple platinum with it.

Back For The First Time might be the biggest rap album that only had 2 singles -- I remember Luda going on Rap City at the time and saying that "Ho" was going to be the 3rd single, but that never ended up happening, probably because you can't really say the title phrase repeated over and over in the song on the radio. It's kinda one of the best ho songs in rap history, though, partly because it doesn't entirely let men off the hook.

Luda always seemed like a true fan of music who worked out his own sound and persona early on but tried to incorporate a lot of different types of rap into his albums. He was one of the first non-Houston rappers to really acknowledge screw music on a major album back in 2003, Red Light District had dope west coast tracks with Nate Dogg and DJ Quik, and a 'theme' track like "Do Your Time" really gets elevated by the guests.

I feel bad for Luda that he kept such a good stable of talent around him early on but most of them never got that much shine -- it says a a lot that Tity Boi only became the 2 Chainz we know today once he left Disturbing Tha Peace, and that Shondrae "Bangladesh" Crawford produced the bulk of Luda's first two albums but didn't really become a brand name until Lil Wayne's "A Milli." Luda/Bangladesh really was a dynamite combination, though, I wish they did a lot more music together.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
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