Ludacris

Release Therapy

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Maybe it's the new haircut, maybe it's the budding acting career, or maybe it's just the inevitable step toward maturity that an artist takes after six years of making records, because there's definitely something on Ludacris' fifth release for Def Jam, that makes him move away from the funnier rhymes that made him famous and toward something that's trying to be a little more meaningful. Release Therapy, which, according to Luda, is supposed to be divided into a "release" and a "therapy" side, begins with club-friendly songs about money and getting it on (and often the two are interconnected). "End of the Night," with Bobby V., sits nicely between being a slow jam and a dancefloor track, while "Girls Gone Wild" is about everything the rapper is, wants, and can do for women, and has him spitting, "Just figured out that I'm ahead of my time/With a flow so fast I'm ahead of my rhyme/You clock is off-beat, better set it to mine" (which are about the only non-X-rated lines from the track). "Money Maker," the album's first single, features a bouncy hook from Pharrell (who also, with Chad Hugo, provides the beat) and, while it's fun and catchy, is probably the first time Luda sounds like he was trying really hard to make something fun and catchy. Maybe this is to offset the rather serious nature of the second half of the record, which finds the rapper addressing depression (in "Slap," where he sings, "I know it's strange but my brain's gone really insane/And I'm off the chain, sipping on a fifth of the golden grain," and criticizes Bush and senseless violence, among other things) and the importance supporting friends in jail ("Do Your Time"). He even tackles violence against women in "Runaway Love," which features Mary J. Blige and a pretty, melancholic beat from Polow (who most recently gave the world Fergie's "London Bridge"), and while this is a fairly normal underground hip-hop theme, it's nice to see a new side to Luda. However, it would also be nice to see some of the humor that made him so popular and that he's so good at dishing out. Yes, there is "War with God," the requisite dis track, which, despite the fact he never addresses his subject by name, is hard-hitting and sharp (though he recycles his line about tampons from "Hip Hop Quotables"), but the witty rhymes that made Chicken -N- Beer so great are in short supply. It's understandable that Ludacris wanted to show off different parts of himself, but in doing so he didn't have to forget about what fans already knew.

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