April 26, 2013

Deen’s been smoking all night.

For the first time in a really long while, I’m listening to a Ludacris song that doesn’t completely bore me. Of all the rapper turned mogul/actor/whatever the fuck else niggas have to do in order to plausibly claim that they don’t need to rap anymore to make money, Ludacris’ “fall” was most depressing of the lot – given how much fun his music was at his peak. I’m not going to get into whether he was this or THIS dope, but if you’re older than 25 or thereabouts, you’ve certainly gotten drunk or laid with Luda as the soundtrack. The man was a bonafide hitmaker and his albums weren’t bad either.

At least until he decided that he wanted us to take him more seriously – while extending his reach into other kingdoms of the realm. No one has a problem with you doing all kinds of other shit instead of just rapping – as a matter of fact that seems to be recommended – if you take all the praise Jay-Z gets for his varied business ventures into account the way his most ardent fans do. However, don’t piss on folks and call it rain. Short of Lil’ Wayne post-jail, I’ve never heard a rapper lose his zest for rapping as obviously as Ludacris has over the last half-decade. His always underrated technique never left and he can STILL make or at least be involved with hits (shouts to The Biebs), but something changed the minute he chopped his braids and photoshopped a Caesar onto this head for the Release Therapy cover.

The man just seemed to lose his zest for rhyming. Worst of all, he lost his sense of humor. I’d suggest that one the biggest reasons for Ludacris’ initial success was his force of personality. He just seemed like a funny ass dude you wanted to hang with and that reflected in his music. Once he started going through the motions, the public responded in kind – just look at his sales and chart positions (for once them shits are fair reflections of the music’s quality.) It’s also fair to conclude that maybe he’s just had his run/peak and he’s done and moving on to other shit. That’s okay. What’s not okay is continuing to drop shit and sounding as if you just do it because you can – not because you want to. A lotta rappers are guilty of this shit, but Luda’s transformation into humorless/corny ogre is a little more rankling because of how awesome he used to be. I mean, this is the same nigga that shamelessly made an entire mixtape dedicated to his own brand of alcohol – with skits and ads and errrrrythang. Then he got all angry n’shit. I’m still confused. Shit, even the folks that elevated Mackerelmore to importance don’t care anymore! Proof of this assertion? Here’s a story from a friend that attended the Final Four in Atlanta a few weeks ago: “Ludacris was part of the free performances during the weekend and even my white friends said “oh no, I don’t want to see him.”” Hahahahahahahaha. You’ve definitely fallen off when those folks don’t wanna stick around to watch you FOR FREE.

“If I Ain’t Fucked Up” does quite a bit to rectify my rift with Ludacris. It’s still not spectacular as “Area Codes”/”Rollout”/”Saturday”/”Stand Up” level Luda, but it approaches a level beyond “this shit aight.” And that’s probably because of the sentiments on display here. Which is weird given that Luda has stayed making hedonistic bullshit, but it just hasn’t registered with me because he’s sounded as if he’s sleepwalking through the shit. For some reason I can’t pinpoint right now, the punchlines don’t sound as corny as I’ve grown accustomed to from him over the last few years. There’s also something to be said for the fairly subdued hook on this shit – in comparison to the verses and the beat. It’s a banger. Methinks.

However, and I could be wrong, it might be a banger too late. The whole sound and vibe of this shit would probably have made it an easy hit circa Lex Luger’s reign. Now in the age of Mike Will Made It, the production from Metro sounds a bit too muscular and Big Meechish for me to get overly excited about this song. But I’ll settle for Ludacris sounding like he’s having fun again. Maybe he’s ecstatic about the forthcoming residuals from the next ‘Fast & Furious’ installment or his unbelievably fine fiancee just granted him access to her third orifice. Whatever the case is, I’m paying attention again. Scant attention, but attention nonetheless…

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