Ludacris' solo albums provide only a partial indication of his irreverent genius. Def Jam South's franchise player is hip-hop's ultimate party guest, a rowdy firestarter with impeccable comic timing and rap's most playful delivery. Ludacris stands tall as the King Of Singles, but he's had a hard time making albums as memorable as his infectious radio joints and high-spirited guest spots. His first three albums have all had stretches of genius, especially his 2000 Def Jam debut Back For The First Time, but he's never made an album as cohesive and consistent as The Red Light District, his fourth and best solo effort.
Mr. Personality's latest flows effortlessly from style to style and mood to mood, with many of the best tracks functioning as worthy sequels to previous triumphs. District's hyped-up first single, "Get Back," fires off a quick blast of testosterone-fueled aggression as it connects the dots between the previous hits "Move Bitch" and "Stand Up." It's a crunked-up instant anthem that brings its own mosh pit, along with fevered shouting, blurts of trumpet, and an arena-ready chorus. Ludacris takes it back to the feel-good vibe of Chronic-era G-funk with special guest DJ Quik on "Spur Of The Moment," a follow-up of sorts to Chicken-N-Beer's Snoop Dogg-assisted "Hoes In My Room." On the lascivious "Pimpin' All Over The World," meanwhile, Ludacris takes his pimp game overseas to visit all the hoes he didn't get around to hitting the first time around.
A one-man party who brings the red-light district with him wherever he goes, Ludacris remains a well-rounded hedonist who pursues a balanced lineup of vices and addictions, including compulsive gambling ("Put Your Money"), his favorite kind of marijuana ("Blueberry Yum Yum"), and collecting and obsessively pampering expensive cars. But even Ludacris has his limits. On "Large Amounts," he warns listeners that they should always pay their taxes, as the IRS contains the biggest and most nefarious player-haters this side of Bill O'Reilly. At the same time, soulful tracks like "Child Of The Night," with its smoked-out blaxploitation atmosphere, and "Hopeless," with Trick Daddy doing his best impersonation of Scarface (the rapper, not the movie), showcase a newfound maturity and depth. Ludacris can always be counted on for great verses and songs, but in spite of a few missteps, The Red Light District marks the first time he's put all the elements together and delivered a great album.