For the past decade Ludacris has been one of hip-hop's biggest success stories. He's sold over 20 million records worldwide, has numerous hit singles on his resume, and his acting career continues to blossom. But one could argue Luda has yet to put together a great album. As talented as he is, he seems content to stay in his comfort zone. His latest release, Battle of the Sexes, is another radio friendly offering, but it won't get him mentioned among the hip-hop elite.
Already a top ten hit, the lead single and one of B.O.T.S.' best tracks, 'How Low' captures Ludacris in a nutshell, fun loving, his flow jam-packed with irresistible energy as he admires the abilities of ass-shakers the world over. It's what listeners have come to expect from him and it sounds great coming out of car speakers or in a club. It may not compare to more lyrical efforts but it is an example of the vintage Luda that fans have not heard much from lately.
He's been beating the same drum for his entire career, not that this is automatically a bad thing. Some rappers can successfully discuss the same topics album after album. But while Luda's content remains the same, his lyrics have deteriorated. On 'My Chick Bad' he declares, "Coming down the street like a parade, MACY'S, I fill her up, BALLOONS, test her and guns get drawn like cartoons.' Those punch lines may be acceptable for some but not for a veteran like Ludacris.
The rest of B.O.T.S. doesn't offer much better. True to its title, nearly all the album's tracks deal with male/female relationships in some way, but don’t hold out for any insightful observations. Luda's sexual relations are the one's most examined, with varying degrees of sensitivity. The boastful 'I Do It All Night' ("stick to you like super glue, maybe even like bubblegum") and 'Party No Mo' ('I've had about 4, 5, 6 shots, yeah I'm getting wasted, red pills, blue pills, yeah I'm in the Matrix') prompt more lyrical frustration. This is Ludacris were talking about, a 32-year-old rap veteran, and not some punk kid talking shit on his debut mixtape. He's way too talented to be navigating his way through tracks with lines this cliché.
Not to say B.O.T.S. doesn't have its moments. 'Sex Room,' with Trey Songz, is a sappy lovemaking anthem that's perfectly crafted to become a hit. 'I Know You Got A Man' serves as a reminder of how ridiculously good Ludacris' flow can be when he really commits to it. Flo Rida's featured on the track and he actually compliments Luda well, however, mismatched production and an overly repetitive singsong hook leaves the finished product sounding mediocre. That's a common theme throughout B.O.T.S. For the majority of album, Luda and his production team, which includes Swizz Beatz and The Neptunes, can't seem to get on the same page, Luda's flow either too laidback or too aggressive for the beat in question. An exception is B.O.T.S Radio, produced by The Runners, a track Luda absolutely tears to pieces.
On the surface, the album is very comparable to Ludacris' previous efforts. He's rapping about the same things, and he's just as sex-crazed, but he's not nearly as witty or entertaining. Luda's had the charts conquered for a while, and B.O.T.S., based on the performance of its first two singles, appears to be another smash. But if Luda’s wants to be mentioned with the top tier of emcees (Eminem, Jay, Nas, Kanye) he has to step his game up. For now though, he remains content to please his radio and club going audience.