Ludacris’s “Battle of the Sexes” has an ambitious title and premise that it does not live up to. When the album remembers to be a “battle” rather than an endless string of mildly memorable dance tunes and awkward sex songs, it presents a one-sided and misogynistic view of women affirmed by Ludacris and a host of male and female collaborators.
Ludacris’s strengths as a rapper have always been his unique Southern flow, his lyrical witticism, and his ability to create memorable dance songs that often start, revive, or climax parties. Some of his talents are clearly on display on “Battle of the Sexes;” his verbal syncopation and lyrical dexterity are especially evident on “How Low,” and “I Know You Got a Man.” On both tracks, Ludacris’s tongue skips over witty lyrics so quickly and skillfully that his self-congratulatory laughs and hoots seem well-deserved. The already-popular “How Low” is the standout party song on the album, its driving beats, thumping bass, and catchy chorus recreating the successful formula of his previous singles like “Get Back” and “Rollout.”
When the album strays from lighthearted party songs and into the territory of sex and relationships, it begins to falter. “Sex Room” and “Feelin’ So Sexy” are the two most awkward songs in that respect. “Sex Room,” a collaboration between Ludacris and Trey Songz, would be better if it was just by Songz. The sinuous melodies and the soulful, moaning lyrics of Songz’s chorus and verse make the song as sexy as it aspires to be, while Ludacris’s forcefully rapped verses stick out like a sore thumb. The most jarring line in the song—“Nipples hard as rocks / Lips as soft as cotton”—conjures up an incredibly unsexy vision of an aroused woman, only compounded by Ludacris’s extra emphasis on the word “rocks.” “Feelin’ So Sexy” feels like listening to other peoples’ phone sex, and Ludacris’s usually entertaining lyrical metaphors fail again when he says he’s going to make his girl “as wet as Niagara Falls,” a disturbing and decidedly unattractive thought.
The songs addressing relationships and the titular “Battle of the Sexes” are few and far between on the album. Perhaps this is because, for Ludacris, the words “sex” and “relationship” are effectively synonymous. The militant introductory song seems to promise a rap battle between Ludacris and female rappers addressing gender issues, but the album does not deliver. Perhaps “My Chick Bad” might be intended to be a shot in favor of women since it is somewhat complimentary to the fairer sex—“My chick bad / Better better than yours / Now your girl might be sick but my girl sicker / She rides that dick and she handles her liquor”—but it seems more like a celebration of Ludacris’s manhood than a tribute to women. The album includes a remix of “My Chick Bad,” which Ludacris christens, “The Pussy Rules the World Version.” Though the song features three female rappers—Diamond, Trina, and Eve—it still affirms women only in regard to their superior sex skills, clothes, and bodies.
“B.O.T.S. Radio” is the album’s ultimate, and most disappointing, exploration of the battle of the sexes. The song is set up like a radio show with rapped responses from Ludacris, Shawnna, and I-20 in response to caller complaints about their significant others. The music is sinister and aggressive and the song’s flow is very choppy. It could be intended as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on relationships, but the aggressiveness with which the rappers deliver their lines reveals a seriousness which makes the song all the more problematic. I-20’s verse about women is the most typically misogynistic, claiming that women at clubs prostitute themselves by wearing provocative clothing, giving him the right to feel them up. His lyrics do capture a particular male viewpoint, but neither Shawnna nor any of the other female rappers and singers on the album answer him, and the “battle” on the album feels distinctly one-sided.
“Battle of the Sexes” is not Ludacris’s best album, nor does it shed new light—or any light at all—on the battle of the sexes. When Ludacris focuses on innovative party songs and lighthearted wordplay he succeeds as a rapper, but when delving into real emotions, relationships, and meaningful discourse on male/female interactions and sex, he stumbles and ultimately falls, failing to produce work of the quality for which he is known.