Luda's gives us his first release in years with his "Burning Bridges" EP. Is there still a place for him in hip hop?
Ludacris is a veteran in the game. Lyrics, beats, hit songs, a unique style; over his 10-plus year career he has obviously shown why he has been one of the most respected and successful stars in hip hop. But before, during, and after listening to his new digital only EP Burning Bridges - released exclusively through Google Play (for free, at that) - the listener is forced to wonder "do I still care about Ludacris?" This concept is by no means foreign to the man himself, less than 30 seconds into the album he makes it clear; "Hip Hop, a part owner, southern rap specialist, verses intelligent, elegant, its ludicrous to ever question my relevance."
Ludacris has always remained in somewhat a league of his own; easily one of the most charismatic and outright humorous rappers to ever bless the mic yet he's not beyond the occasional gun talk or semi deep, thought provoking line. Unfortunately over time and with the critical, sarcastic almost hater mentality now so prevalent in our society thanks to social media, Ludacris' somewhat corny tendencies stand out more than ever, too often taking away the potency of what he is actually saying. On "New Beginning Intro" he passionately spits "somebody said I'm washed up, I told em pass me the lotion, cause the industry is drying up, and these verses are moisturizer.." strong, relevant, smart, lyrically adept bars; followed by "then hand me your favorite rapper, and Luda will posterize em." Really Luda? Rappers getting posterized....sigh.
The idea goes beyond just lyrics, thought provocation being the yin to Luda's cornball yang is almost ingrained in every aspect of what he does. Take the striking cover art for the project itself. Joe Perez, the man behind the artwork of most Kanye West DONDA albums, as well as other exceptional covers like Big K.R.I.T.'s Cadillactica, created a powerful cover featuring only a burning old fashioned southern home. The image makes you stop and take notice, to many it may even bring to mind thoughts of past Civil Rights struggles.
Sonically the project is of a high caliber, the production is well engineered and mastered and hits in all the right places. Although Luda is a strong ambassador of his hometown of Atlanta there is really nothing southern sounding about the EP whatsoever. Overall, Burning Bridges doesn't really have any kind of cohesive sound, it's filled with songs that on other artists albums would likely be thought of as "radio" or "crossover" records, especially the title track featuring Country music superstar Jason Aldean. No "sigh" necessary this time, Mr. Bridges knows what he's doing, when the rap meets country track hits the Billboard top 100, the comedy inclined lyricist will be laughing all the way to the bank.
BB definitely has some high points, the Rick Ross assisted "Money" is as haunting and lyrically potent as it is ominous sounding. The projects first single "Good Lovin" produced by Da Internz features an impeccable chorus and bridge from Miguel and is overall a very strong song. Unfortunately, the feeling that it might be even better with a more personal, moodier rapper seems to almost come with the territory. The digital EP serves as a lead up to Luda's oft-talked about and continuously delayed major label album Ludaversal due out in March next year, his first since 2010's Battle Of The Sexes. Throughout the EP Ludacris continually makes the point that he doesn't need to rap, he's long since achieved what he set out to, and in the process made himself a lot of money; after finishing Burning Bridges, you can't help but wonder "ok, then why keep doing it?"