Last year millions of people took Crash‘s message of racial understanding through coincidence to heart, but Ludacris, one of that Oscar-winning film’s many stars, was not among them. Release Therapy, his fifth album, sees the usually ebullient Atlanta MC/actor/label boss throwing ‘bows not in the club but rather in his analyst’s office.
Luda’s turns in Crash and Hustle & Flow, along with his successful Disturbing Tha Peace label, haven’t put him in a celebratory mood. And while he intermittently boasts about living the good life on Release Therapy (“I could fit four of your houses into my daughter’s room”), he’s mostly venting. The album’s structure mimics that schism — he hates MCs, Katrina, and child abuse (the moving “Runaway Love”), but he also haunts clubs and boudoirs.
It’s rare that a rapper stays relevant, or even popular, after five albums. And here, Luda rages against his potential sell-by date — on “War With God,” he thrashes an unnamed, upstart MC. The anger is a new look for him, as is the role of political pundit or chronicler of social ills. And ultimately, Ludacris still sounds best on tracks like the NC-17 “Woozy” (with R. Kelly) and the rear-end ode, “Money Maker.” As he notes on the latter: “I am just a bedroom gangster.”