Ludacris | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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"You see I live a life filled with chicken and malt liquor / And women that are real-life scratch 'n' sniff stickers," brags Atlanta rapper Ludacris on the title track of his third album, Word of Mouf (Def Jam South). Humor has mostly disappeared from hip-hop, supplanted by pathological violence and conspicuous consumption, but Luda (aka Chris Bridges), originally a radio personality, understands that entertainers are supposed to be entertaining. ("My rap career goes back further than your father's hairline / It's Ludacris, I pack more nuts than Delta Airlines," he asserts on "Coming 2 America.") On his current hit single, the Timbaland-produced "Rollout (My Business)," he bemoans the loss of privacy that comes with success (my heart bleeds), but the rest of the record is a comical celebration of hedonism, punctuated by skits reminiscent of Richard Pryor. On "Cry Babies (Oh No)" he declares, "I got big balls, I'm a Sac King like Chris Webber," while last summer's hit "Area Codes" celebrates his nationwide "ho-lodex." The casual misogyny is an unfortunate development, and nothing on the record matches older singles like "What's Your Fantasy" or "Southern Hospitality." But a cast of name-brand producers (the Neptunes, Swizz Beatz) and close associates (Shondrae and fellow Atlantans Organized Noize) deliver woofer-pounding beats for some first-rate southern bounce; more than anyone but Luke Skyywalker, Ludacris knows how to put the bass in base. Tuesday, February 19, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.

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