Audacious on his rhymes and indulgent with his appetites, Ludacris may flaunt the cartoonish side of his personality, but he isn't just another unreconstructed Southern rapper. Chicken -N- Beer, his third album (to go along with dozens of guest spots), shows a rapper balancing the weed, women, and fried chicken with shots at those who've crossed him and a look at a few celebrity perils, delivered with his lightning-quick phrasing and cutting wit. That he's able to harness all this to his usual rollicking, all-in-good-fun persona is a testament to the best rapper in the business, one of the few who's actually celebrating something -- and having a great time doing it. The steamy sex rap "Stand Up" may be the hit single, but most of the highlights here come toward the end, where Luda invites friends and family for some uproarious tracks -- producer Erick Sermon on the surrealist dozens of "Hip Hop Quotables," Snoop Dogg on a hilarious tale of the night after the show, "Hoes in My Room" (as in "Who let these hoes in my room?"), and Disturbing tha Peace partners Chingy, I-20, and Tity Boi on the hardcore gunshot "We Got." Ludacris also has a response for the doubters, on the first full track ("Blow It Out"), proclaiming, "If you mad I'm on top, then wish me gone/If you mad I'm on the road, then wish me home/And if you mad that I'm right, punk, wish me wrong/But after your third wish, blow it out your ass." And, as expected, he gets in a few digs at Bill O'Reilly, the FOX News personality who objected to him as a "thug rapper" when hired for a Pepsi ad campaign (apparently, O'Reilly is the culprit behind "Hoes in My Room"). He may not be ready for that Pepsi spot (much less a shot at prime time), but Ludacris made the best record of his career with Chicken -N- Beer.
by John Bush