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LUDACRIS, Release Therapy, Def Jam
Ludacris is one of the most consistent MCs out there, but when it comes to his albums, that isn't necessarily a good thing. Always a guest that guarantees a hit, Ludacris has found a solid 75 minutes elusive for the most part. But this time out, Luda takes one step away from the hit singles and one step closer to something a little edgier overall. The shift is evident on the second track, "Grew Up a Screw Up," with a Biggie sample and some hardcore stylings. (But why the diss of Popeye's and Blimpie?) That track foreshadows what's to come later, but first Luda gets the radio tracks out of the way. "Money Maker" and "Girls Gone Wild" are standard "Area Codes" efforts, but things get strange once R. Kelly opens his mouth on a track called "Woozy." The formerly masked man sings that he "always wanted to go down on a girl that reminds me of me." We knew R-dot had issues with the underage folks -- now what's this? He's a great talent, but maybe he needs to go away for a little while. Luda's fifth album picks up again on "Tell It Like It Is," a music business lesson that addresses his dealings with Chingy. Then it's really on. "War With God" is Ludacris at his hardest, but the target of the track remains unnamed. There's plenty of speculation on who it's directed at, but Luda says simply that the finger points at "me." Whatever it is, Luda should do more of this. When he tells you to "Move, B----," you take it lightly because he's the party MC. But he has it in him to set the drink down, excuse himself from his female companion and proceed to deliver a lyrical beatdown. It's reminiscent of when another party MC, Busta Rhymes, had to check Ja Rule. It's a bit out of character, but you know right away he's serious. And it serves as a turning point in Release Therapy. The ante is upped and the rest of the album follows suit. "Do Your Time" is a tribute to those locked up, "Slap" sounds like something you'd find on Luda's ATL counterpart Outkast's album, and "Runaway Love" tackles life in the hood for young women. There's a lull in the middle, but Ludacris saves the best for last. The strong finish propels Release Therapy to a $20.
Click here to find out how to buy this album.

-- Mason Storm

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