October 21, 2003

Ludacris serves soggy Chicken, warm Beer
By Canyon Cody
Originally published in The Heights

Ludacris is known to get freaky from time to time with his lady friends, drink inordinate amounts of expensive alcohol, and even partake in some smoking of marijuana, but he has never allowed his rapper lifestyle to distract him from his true priorities, which he explains on "Hip Hop Quotables" from his new album: "It's the chicken and the beer that makes Luda keep rappin'." In homage to the loves of his life, Ludacris has named the new album Chicken and Beer, which says quite a bit about the quality of his new effort.

On his first two albums, Ludacris remained faithful to a simple, though thoroughly enjoyable, recipe of party songs with surprisingly witty and often hilarious lyrics. His music was never inspiring, but it bounced with enough frivolity that it convinced the listener to just enjoy it. Music does not always need to be a dissertation on contemporary social conditions or a profound musing of artistic expression. Luda is about simple fun and he admirably doesn't pretend to be anything else. Sure, chicken can cause heart disease and beer is full of empty calories, but they are oh-so-good. Unfortunately, the musical production on this project is so poor that listening to it is like eating soggy fried chicken with bitter, cheap beer.

The first problem is that Ludacris chose too many producers to work with, and as a result, the album lacks any semblance of cohesion. Kanye West, DJ Nasty, and Medicine Men all share producing responsibility, and the collage of each artist's unique sound creates a choppy effect. Unfortunately, Ludacris' album not only lacks a consistent vibe, it's an assortment of songs that have nothing in common other than the fact that they are really bad. Lots of hip-hop albums suffer from musical schizophrenia as a result of rappers' apparent lack of interest in creating full albums instead of mixtape compilations of hit singles. At least those albums have some good songs, even if they lack a soul. Ludacris has gotten away with his musical immaturity in the past partly because it was oddly endearing, but mostly because his songs were undeniably hot. Like beer left out of the fridge, Ludacris' music doesn't taste as good as it did.

Following Pepsi's decision to terminate Ludacris' endorsement contract, Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly voiced his opinion of support, arguing that a rapper such as Ludacris is an inappropriate role model for young kids. Instead, Pepsi hired the Osbournes, without any resulting criticism from O'Reilly. Ludacris and many others were infuriated about the apparent double standard and called Pepsi's decision hypocritical and O'Reilly a racist. Some of the more eloquent/serious members of the hip-hop community (such as Russell Simmons) came onto the O'Reilly Factor to defend Ludacris' lyrics as a legitimate form of self-expression and also to attack O'Reilly's prejudice against black musicians.

On the album, Ludacris throws in his two cents, clearly unbothered with his own immaturity, by calling O'Reilly some unsavory names. O'Reilly proves entirely ignorant of hip hop every time he opens his mouth on the subject, and it's unfortunate that Ludacris is vindicating O'Reilly's narrow-minded position by embracing negative stereotypes. Nevertheless, Ludacris' job isn't to justify hip-hop to the world, but he needs to make good albums. If this album was as good as his last one, no one would be complaining.