CD Review: Ludacris, "Release Therapy"

1.5 Stars



It has been an incontrovertible fact that Chris Bridges makes good albums and fantastic songs. Commanding a diverse collage of sounds, themes, and flows, his body of work from “Back for the First Time” to “The Red Light District”—not counting “Splash Waterfalls”—ruled airwaves and booties more than any rapper’s catalog in this decade. But with “Release Therapy,” his fifth album in six years, this dominance, like all good things, has come to an end.

While the openers on his last two albums were effective party-starters, the half-skit, half-rap intro “Warning” is one of those shout-in-your-ear cliché-fests that challenges one’s faith in hip-hop itself. You can almost hear the collective parents of the nation asking, “Is this even music?” In this case, even the most faithful crunkophile might have doubts.

What follows are some of the most pathetic tracks ever to cost a label a hundred grand apiece. In “Grew Up a Screw Up,” featuring Young Jeezy, Luda does absolutely nothing with the Biggie sample with which he has been blessed enough to be able to afford to rap over. This track is only worth the one laugh that you always get from Jeezy’s ad-libs. (“YEEEEEEEAHHHHHH.”)

Next comes “Money Maker,” a track that would annihilate the soul of any backpack hip-hop fan on contact. A track that officially makes Pharrell, the mastermind behind this war crime of a song, the most wretched living thing ever to use his voice or hands. The song is essentially Slim Thug’s “I Ain’t Heard Of That (Remix)” as performed by an asthmatic Rain Man. This song is so bad that you can actually hear Ludacris sigh in between gimmicky half-rhymes about “how good you look in them jeans.”

What makes this failure even more of a shame is that there are a few decent songs on this album, songs that Ludacris obviously worked on and cared about, but which are ultimately lost in the garbage. Despite being his twentieth or thirtieth sex song, “Girls Gone Wild” is the very first time Luda has carried a song completely by himself—which means no show-stealing beats, no guest stars, no hooks—just three and a half minutes of Chris Bridges doing some world-class MCing.

“Ultimate Satisfaction,” featuring Field Mob, is probably worth hearing at least once or twice. “Runaway Love,” featuring a Talib Kweli-esque wimp-rap beat and an especially nondescript Mary J. Blige, features some poignant (and, more importantly, listenable) storytelling. “Slap” is on the David Banner blues-rap tip, and it’s about time more popular rappers started ripping him off—you can’t go wrong with those wailing guitars and that invincible clap-stomp beat.

Oh, and needless to say, Pimp C and C-Murder destroy your face with their verses on “Do Your Time,” a jail-rap track which, ironically, eclipses everything else on the 62-minute prison sentence that is this album.

The rest of the album isn’t worth reporting—not even the impotent R. Kelly love jam, and especially not “Mouths To Feed,” which sounds like the Pizzeria Uno’s Monday night karaoke version of “What You Know.” T.I. should sue.

Not since Lil’ Kim’s last album have I wasted an hour of my life so horribly. Everything went wrong here, and not even a massive payola budget could save these album sales, which will certainly be subpar unless “Girls Gone Wild” is released as a club single. The forgettable, flaccid beats and the presence of Pharrell the Well-Dressed Arch-Demon only explains part of it. With “Release Therapy,” Ludacris has lost his magic.

—Reviewer J. Samuel Abbott can be reached at abbott@fas.harvard.edu.