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Album review

Ludacris, 'Theater of the Mind'

By Ken Capobianco
Globe Correspondent / November 24, 2008
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When folks consider the best MCs, Ludacris usually isn't in the mix, but Chris Bridges has been one of the most prolific and consistent rappers of our era and deserves to be on the tip of tongues. He overreaches thematically on this disc, as he conceives it as a cinematic piece with dramatic production on some tracks ("Southern Gangsta") and narration from film stars (Ving Rhames) and Chris Rock on the hilariously titled and executed "Everybody Hates Chris" (with a chorus that will be a raucous live-set piece). Even Spike Lee appears to show he got game. All this would be distracting if the 14 tracks weren't so darn good. Luda's lyrics are so sharp and supremely witty throughout. No one provides more quotable lines and pungent punch lines. His sex talk is good-natured and slyly insightful about love ("What Them Girls Like"), but he will always have love for the freak ("Nasty Girl" with his best unprintable metaphors). Many of the guests just pick up paychecks, but some - including Lil Wayne and Common - come up in big ways. When Luda says in "I Do It for Hip-Hop," a collaboration with Nas and Jay-Z, despite his smirking persona, you believe him. That's the ultimate compliment. (Out today)

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