Five years can change a lot. Drake wasn’t the top guy in 2010, he was just emerging. Kendrick Lamar was simply a growing underground sensation. XXL Freshmen lists still mattered to the general public. I was only a year into community college. And Ludacris had released what would be his last album for close to five years. Somewhere along the way, he became an afterthought to the executives at Def Jam.
Ludaversal, his eighth studio album, dates back to about 2012 in mention. Release dates came and went, the industry continued to change, and Ludacris became a mainstay in the Fast & Furious franchise. Still, the thought of dropping an album is something he worked hard toward. We’ve received two mixtapes and an EP in that five year span. Back in December, Luda promised his fans that March 31, 2015 would be the day he drops the long-talked-about LP. Was it a case of crying wolf? Nope. We doubted. He told us it would happen, and by golly it did.
The first five songs are dedicated to reminding listeners that, yes, Ludacris can still rap. That’s cool and all, but five is a little bit of an overkill. They’re not bad records, though. Well, except for the childish outro of the “Ludaversal Intro.” Even worse is the “Viagra (Skit)” later on that I won’t try to relive again in my entire life. “Beast Mode” is easily the stand out. It’s where Luda sounds his most confident, spewing out creative punchlines and even a couple slick shots at Def Jam and 2 Chainz (“I’m on my artists switch labels but I still get a check”). Again, impressive, but with his veteran status what exactly is Ludacris trying to achieve?
When you’re 15 years into the game, there’s no reason to be rapping as if you need a deal. This isn’t meant to discredit his methods, but rather challenge Mr. Bridges to grow as an artist. For the people who do manage to continue listening to the album, you’ll be treated to a bit of improvement. The second half is where Ludacris ditches his “your favorite rapper ain’t as hard as me” approach and actually creates songs that matter.
Ludacris uses real life scenarios to fuel this second half of Ludaversal. Starting with the Miguel-assisted “Good Lovin’” and going until the end of the standard edition. He blends going through divorce (a topic he angrily discussed in the first half) with the obvious emotions on the aforementioned track. He pays tribute to his father on the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-produced “Ocean Skies” while opening up about dad’s alcoholism and the impact he had on their relationship. If there was one record in particular that we’ve been waiting on from him it would be “Charge It To The Rap Game.” The reflective track has Ludacris talking about his career, dealing with labels, groupies, and everything else that comes with this industry.
When you take away the fact that Ludacris is over a decade into his career, Ludaversal is a good album. However, most people, including myself, have heard enough music to know that we expect more. He’s held to a higher standard, both a gift and a curse. Whether this album sells well or even reaches enough people doesn’t mean that the title isn’t true. This is 2015 where Ludacris is still a household name for his music, his classics, and his acting. Ludaversal, indeed.
Stream the album and watch a review between Reese and myself below.