Ludacris: Back For The First Time

Ludacris: Back For The First Time

As the first artist on Def Jam South, the label's belated concession to the region's commercial dominance, Ludacris arrives on the national hip-hop scene burdened with the task of establishing New York's most successful hip-hop label as a player in the Southern rap world. On Back For The First Time, he rises to the occasion, roaring out of the gate with one of the most immediate and infectious major-label debuts in recent memory. Loud, lascivious, and blessed with a healthy sense of the absurd, Ludacris possesses star power in abundance, and First Time brings out his uniquely twisted take on Southern hedonism. Ludacris handled much of the production work himself, with assists from his Disturbing The Peace crew, but Def Jam hedged its bets by employing a slew of superstar producers: Timbaland, The Neptunes, and Organized Noize all contribute top-notch beats. The Organized Noize-produced "Game Got Switched" is easily the album's best track, driven by production that sounds like a happy collision between a marching band and a UFO, as well as a wonderfully manic turn from Ludacris that makes good on his promise to "party like a kid with a high-top fade." The Neptunes' Dirty South anthem "Southern Hospitality" memorably advances the production team's assault on the pop charts, while Timbaland contributes the infectious "Phat Rabbit," a classic bit of Southern future-funk topped off with a cheeky cameo by the squealing baby from "Are You That Somebody?" But as impressive as First Time's production generally is, Ludacris' charisma sets the album apart, as illustrated by the terrific "Mouthing Off," in which Ludacris and fellow DTP member 4-Ize kick hilarious verses over elementary beat-boxing and only the slightest hint of a backbeat. First Time doesn't always connect: "1st & 10" is pure filler, while the hit "What's Your Fantasy?" is distinguished only by its enthusiastic vulgarity. But Ludacris scores frequently and spectacularly enough to suggest that he'll be a major player for years to come.

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