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Dull beats hold Ludacris down

Kenyatta Storin | Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Arguably the Dirty South’s most successful rapper to date, Ludacris is among the most popular and talented rappers in the game today. He’s also one of the funniest MCs around, which is nicely demonstrated by the cover art of his third major album, Chicken-N- Beer, where a hungry Ludacris, surrounded by empty root beer bottle and chicken wings, prepares to take a bite out of a woman’s leg. Unfortunately, funny cover art cannot save Ludacris from the mediocrity of the production on his latest recording effort.

For the most part, Ludacris’ music has always been about sex, money, drugs and partying, and Chicken-N-Beer is no different. The simplicity of the content does not mean Ludacris is an ordinary rapper, for he is armed with a razor-sharp wit, along with the ability to effortlessly change speeds and tones in his rhymes. Some of his best lyrics come from the aptly named “Hip Hop Quotables,” where Ludacris drops rhymes like “My filthy mouth, it won’t fight cavities or beat plaque / So I shot the tooth fairy and put my old teeth back” and “The numba one chief rocka, clean out yo’ rap lockers / I’m as stiff as a board, y’all more shook than maracas.” On the party jam and hit single, “Stand Up,” he boasts, “Watch out for the medallion my diamonds are wreckless / Feels like a midget is hanging from my necklace.”

Ludacris does get serious every now and then, referring to his late grandfather on the serious track, “Hard Times:” “Papa never went and jumped the broom, never got that one degree / But if you looked down from heaven, you’d still be proud of me.” Not surprisingly, he also takes some shots at FOX News personality, Bill O’Reilly, who used his show to coerce Pepsi to drop Ludacris from an ad campaign. O’Reilly is the guilty party in the hilarious tale, “Hoes in my Room,” where Ludacris teams up with the charismatic Snoop Dogg.

Although Ludacris’ excellent rapping gives just about every track some bright moments, most of the album’s beats fall under the mark. Occasionally, the production has its moments, like in the leadoff track “Southern Fried Intro,” and the thuggish, gunshot-filled “We Got” with fellow Disturbing tha Peace rappers Chingy, I-20, and Tity Boi. But for the most part, the beats are unoriginal and dated, which is especially a problem since most of Ludacris’ choruses are very simple and repetitive. He probably does this purposely to allow listeners to sing along, but without catchy beats to back them up they get tedious after a short time. This is particularly the case on “Splash Waterfalls,” where Sandy Coffee sings “Make Love to Me” over and over, and also on the drug anthem, “Screwed Up,” which bombards listeners with choruses of “[expletive] you” in groups of eight.

Ludacris takes a step back in Chicken-N-Beer, since it sticks to the same formula that led to the success of his second album, Word of Mouf, but lacks the lively and varied production of its predecessor. As a result, Chicken-N-Beer has the overall feeling of a typical movie sequel: entertaining, but not as fun as the original. Despite this, there is still plenty of time for Ludacris to improve, and if he one day creates an album with production that is on par with his rhymes, it will be as good as, well, chicken and beer.

Contact Kenyatta Storin at kstorin@nd.edu