The Red Light District (Def Jam)

It's going to be difficult to make it all the way through Red Light District, the latest club-banger from Atlanta's raunchiest rhymesmith. Midway through you'll hit a track called "The Potion," and you're gonna want to stay there: Moving to the next song means overcoming a primal, gravitational pull akin to lust or addiction. It sounds percussive and supremely funky at the same time, coupling jungle-style drums with a looped whirring sound that might actually be a bird caw. If you're lucky, that beat will seep into your dreams.

Wait -- is this the guy we habitually associate with chicken and beer, midgets hanging from necklaces and cigars burning the edges of hundred-dollar bills? You always thought that spending one night trapped in a Ludacris song would probably lead to a weeklong hangover (and maybe an aborted fetus). Well, think what you want of the skirt-chasing and the AABB rhyme scheme rampant here -- after all, we aren't talking about flowery Biggie Smalls metaphors or Ras Kass-inspired deconstructions of blackness. But on Red Light District, Ludacris is on some next shit. Lest you think his main talent is making rude cameos on other people's hits, ask yourself: When was the last time you heard a rapper start singing a slave chant right in the middle of the hottest Timbaland track in recent memory? And when Luda announces, "Life no different than those on minimum wage/More money, but still locked in a similar cage," you'll realize his mind delves far deeper than the sexual romps on the surface of his raps. Surely better critics have an ornate alternative for "Goddamn!" But I'll stick with that.

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