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Atlanta's Most Hated No. 13: Ludacris
Can't knock the hustle and flow
"'My Chick Bad'? Nobody cares about your chick. Go somehwere, OK. Get a life! ... And if you dont' make good songs, you'll probably never be as cool as you used to be ever again. So this is some friendly advice, Ludacris. You suck." — "hdesir100," YouTube
Remember that scene in Hustle and Flow when Terrence Howard's character, Djay, takes a puff from his Newport, turns to Ludacris' character, Skinny Black, and confronts him with characteristic bluntness: "What the fuck happened to you, mayne?" Talk about life imitating art. Chris "Ludacris" Bridges' 2005 portrayal of a hometown hero who'd made it so big in the rap game that he'd forgotten his roots was eerily prescient, considering how that role helped launch a Hollywood acting career that slowly brought a demise to Luda's rap relevance. Those animated flows that punctuated his early releases have been replaced by repetitive themes and predictable punch lines; no doubt, dude's been phoning it in since 2006's Release Therapy. He's practically a shell of the boisterous MC he was 12 years ago when he released his Def Jam debut, Back for the First Time. He even acknowledged as much last November with the aptly titled release of his latest mixtape, 1.21 Gigawatts: Back to the First Time. But it'll take more than a time-traveling DeLorean to bring the old Luda back to the future.
In Chris Bridges' defense, it has to be hard to evolve when the character you created in your early 20s is so damn ludicrous. It's the age-old question all hip-hop artists eventually must face: Am I too grown to still be doing this shit? No wonder he's diversified his empire in recent years to include such brands as Conjure cognac, Soul headphones, and the Asian/Singaporean fusion restaurant Straits. Not bad for an artist whose former claim to international fame was having "hoes in different area codes." Nonetheless, even legends in the game need reinvigorating now and again. And when rapper du jour Drake began suggesting in interviews last year that Luda had bitten his pause/stop flow, the Canadian MC seemingly woke the sleeping giant. The result: the aforementioned mixtape, subtitled Back to the First Time, showcasing a rejuvenated Luda over 11 unrelenting tracks. Not only does he give Drizzy Drake a much-needed "History Lesson," he retools his flow and silences all the haters with the standout track "Say It to My Face." With his eighth proper album, Ludaversal, slated for a third-quarter 2012 release — featuring A&R direction from his former Disturbing Tha Peace protégée and impeccable beat selector 2 Chainz (see: Atlanta's Most Hated No. 8) — Luda looks to be back in the driver's seat. — Rodney Carmichael