Review Summary: Fantastic production, vulgar lyrics and a confident flow make this a true southern essential.
"Back For The First Time," while a perplexing title, is entirely accurate to the sound of this record. Ludacris' entire aesthetic, from his flow, to his lyrics, to the quality of his production is uniquely superior to most albums from other southern rappers. Especially considering it's his debut. Although the mysterious illusion of Ludacris being a seasoned hip-hop veteran on this album can be attributed to his experience with underground/promotional mixtapes long before the release of his entry into the mainstream, rarely has, in the almost entirely paraphrased words of the rapper himself, a "rookie sounded this much like a pro." Many professional reviewers and casual audience members alike who have never heard of Ludacris might listen to the banging beats, quick and hilarious lines, and the cartoonish persona and think Back For The First Time is at the very least Luda's third release. At least that describes my experience. Listening to my first track by the artist in question "Southern Hospitality", I thought Luda had been pushing out albums for years and years.
This album is filled to the brim with astoundingly good tracks. While the production won't impress any listeners searching for a classic G-Funk, or hard-hitting east coast boom bap, those who have an allegiance to southern rap will find this to be an essential release in terms of sound. It is, at the core, a banger through and through. And there are standouts in term of beats. "Game Got Switched" takes video game sound effects, hard kicks, and an enthusiastic bassline to the next level. "What's Your Fantasy" manages to be equally seductive and energetic. "Mouthing Off" perfectly simulates a cypher with beatbox sound-effects. "Ho" is almost cinematic. "Southern Hospitality" contains all trademarks of the quality Neptunes sound, yet manages to avoid sounding generic. "Catch Up" is a synthy, almost chopped and screwed banger. "Phat Rabbit" is a classic Timbaland banger. Every track, even if not as well-crafted as the standouts, is enjoyable.
Ludacris' lyrics manage to be equally tough and hysterical. It makes one wonder his motivation behind signing up for the Fast & Furious film series, when he could easily headline a comedy television show, or a well-written feature. Oftentimes, Luda's raps rely on humorous puns, comparisons, or funny voices. The skits also manage to be more entertaining than most. "Come On Over" makes a hilarious joke out of Luda telling some girls how to get to his house. The intro to "Ho" involves a certain kind of girl's messages on Luda's answering machine. "Tickets Sold Out" makes an itinerary of the current state of Luda's concert ticket sales. The song "Ho" in itself is pure genius, with Luda spitting nonstop plays on the word "Ho." "And why do you think you take a ho to a hotel?" "And reach up in the sky to the hozone layer!" "There you ho again!" "You ho who you are!" Those lines should in themselves, motivate any hip-hop fan to buy the album in a heartbeat.
Back For The First Time is a work of genius. If there are any problems, they lie in the guest features of Luda's posse. Some of the lesser than average raps from his cosigners bring the record from classic to simply excellent, but this is in no way Ludacris' fault. The production is essentially an example of what all southern albums should attempt to emulate. Ludacris' lyrics and flow are that of a man who has been in the game for almost a decade, yet this is his first studio release. I would recommend this to anybody wanting to get into southern rap, anyone who appreciates well-crafted bangers, anybody who wants to have a good laugh, or any aspiring rappers who want to find potential stylistic influences. You can never go wrong with classic Luda. Unless you a ho.