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With wit and rhyme, Ludacris widens appeal

ALBUM REVIEWS

December 15, 2004|Soren Baker

Ludacris

"Red Light District" (Def Jam South)

***

This ingenious Atlanta rapper is best known for his wit and his exaggerated delivery, but earning respect as a top-tier lyricist seems to be the main goal of his fourth major-label album. On the abbreviated, punch-line-laden "Intro," he fires off one dazzling one-liner after another, and his devilish boasts on the hilarious "Number One Spot" display his distinctive brand of hip-hop humor in song form.

"Nobody light-skinnded repping harder since Ice-T/You disagree, take the Tyson approach and bite me," he raps on the latter, a percolating cut that cleverly samples Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova" and incorporates several Austin Powers references for good measure.

But jokes are only part of Ludacris' appeal. He experiments with his rhyme flow, elongating syllables in an engaging, sing-song style on the slinky "Blueberry Yum Yum," and explores a new sound (for him, at least) on the funky, West Coast-inspired "Spur of the Moment," which also features clever rhymes from Compton's DJ Quik.

Like other rappers flush with success and financial spoils, Ludacris includes a number of rhymes about the stress stardom brings, but he separates himself from his peers by making fun of the situation. Ludacris includes thoughtful rhymes on "Child of the Night" and "Hopeless," but his humor is still his biggest asset and the reason he commands respect.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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