Review Summary: Inconsistent, but primarily quality and nostalgic hip hop, that has excellent replay value a decade after it was released.
There is something in Hip Hop known as 'The Ice Cube Effect', where artist’s past work can no longer be taken as seriously in light of their recent corniness. While falling short of the corniness of being the leading role in a family comedy, the Ice Cube Effect nevertheless occurred with Ludacris after he suffered a critical blow to his image for his God-awful acting in the horrible Fast and Furious series. Yet, some may recall that in 2004 Ludacris was perhaps the best mainstream rapper of the 21st century. His breakthrough sophomore album Word of Mouf
sold 3.6 million copies, while his next album Chicken N Beer
sold over 2 million copies and was nominated for The Grammy’s Best Rap Album in 2003.
His fourth LP, The Red Light District
is considered by many to be Ludacris’ last album before he fell off. While this may or may not be true, what certainly did fall was his relevance in both hip hop and pop culture, and his records sales. Of course, massive commercial success doesn't guarantee quality music. I mean, if 62 million people reelected George W Bush in 2004, it’s not a stretch to assume millions of people were just stupid and bought bad music, but that isn’t the case here. This album had commercial success for a reason. Despite being a hit-or-miss album - where some tracks have virtually no flaws and are very well done both lyrically and instrumentally, with others tracks that are just plain bad and not worth listening to - The Red Light District
is still among the best albums mainstream rap has to offer in the early 21st century and a fitting sequel to Ludacris' two previous works.
The album starts off fast with one of the singles and best tracks, Number One Spot
, featuring an instrumental that samples The Austin Powers Theme Song with lyrics that skillfully make countless references to the movie series. The Red Light District
hits its first major bump with the strange gambling addiction theme song Put Your Money
, which features a hook by DMX essentially calling you a pussy if you don’t gamble MORE money. The albums high points come on the immensely relaxing tracks like Child of the Night
and Spur of the Moment
, the former featuring surprisingly introspective lyrics from Luda and a hook from Nate Dogg, perhaps the best rap/R&B hook creator of all time. This same relaxing atmosphere, created by the excellent selection of beats with magnificent flow by Ludacris, is recaptured on the 420 track Blueberry Yum Yum
, while another dose of surprisingly intelligent lyrics reappears on the track Large Amounts
, where Ludacris reflects how, in many ways, his life has changed for the worse since he became rich.
The album starts up, and instantly goes from 0-60 in about a second before slowing down in the middle for a more relaxing ride, but by the end of the album there is no gas left in the tank for the listener to want to hear what are the more depressing and/or boring songs. Not even the legendary beat boxer Doug E. Fresh and legendary emcee Nas could figure out how to get this album working again on the track Virgo
, the listener just can’t digest this song after such a drawn-out experience, and ends up wishing the track had come much earlier in the album. This same late-but-great sentiment is felt on other tracks such as 2 Miles an Hour
and (one of the album’s three singles) Pimpin All Over the World
, which also features a hilarious outro from comedian Katt Williams. The album’s last single Get Back
is much less mainstream than the poppier Pimpin All Over the World, and is probably the best song to start with for a listener not familiar with Ludacris.
Many of the tracks are good by themselves, but they seem repetitive when paired with the rest of the tracks. For instance, Pass Out
doesn’t do or say anything that the single Get Back didn’t already accomplish.Thankfully there are only a couple of outright terrible/filler tracks. Who Not Me
isn’t notable in any
aspect and could have (should have) been left off the album entirely, it’s only possible use is in a Music 101 class to demonstrate the definition of a filler song. The Potion
features an annoying bitch yelping for a beat, a bad hook, and tired bragger raps that went stale in 1989. And don’t even get me started on that “Jump down turn around, pick a bale of cotton” bull***. Any artist or producer letting that corny trash of a ‘song’ stay on an album is inexcusable. Yet while the album is flawed by a long run time and a decent number of average-bad tracks, when the tracks hit they HIT
and still have replay value a decade later in 2014.