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‘Red Light District’: Ludacris’s X-Rated Adventure

A punchline master taking obvious delight in rattling off a seemingly endless supply of boasts.

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Ludacris Red Light District album cover
Cover: Courtesy of Island Def Jam Music Group

Atlanta MC Ludacris‘s 2004 studio album Red Light District calls on a lavish roster of producers headed up by Timbaland, Organized Noise, and Polow Da Don, for its varied tracks. But it all has one thing in common: A punchline master that takes obvious delight in rattling off a seemingly endless supply of boasts. It begins at the beginning. On the gnarly Timbaland-crafted “Intro,” Luda swiftly moves from bragging about cashing checks from four different record labels and selling more records than Elvis to claiming he’s carrying Def Jam on his back. As the minute-and-a-half opening salvo comes to a halt, Ludacris signs off with the sort of casual flair that sets the tone for the album’s relentlessly entertaining lyrical one-upmanship: “I’m the best and I ain’t really gotta say that s–t.”

Listen to Ludacris’s Red Light District now.

Up next, the DJ Green Lantern-crafted “Number One Spot” runs with a slinky sample of Quincy Jones’s 1962 brassy big band outing “Soul Bossa Nova” that sees Luda nod to the Austin Powers movie and take shots at conservative TV host Bill O’Reilly; “Get Back” prompts the MC to vent at anyone running their mouth at him over an aggressive synth-propelled fight club backdrop (produced by The Medicine Men and Tic Toc); and “Put Your Money” is a cash-centric tirade that launches Luda on a gambling spree that climaxes with the MC feasting on cheesecakes with P Diddy. (The cheesecake, of course, refers to the infamous Making The Band 2 episode in which Diddy sent his nascent group across the Brooklyn Bridge to bring him dessert.)

Ludacris - Number One Spot/The Potion (Official Music Video)

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Red Light District‘s expansive list of producers – including DJ Toomp, Salaam Remi, and Needlz – is mirrored by equally high-grade guests. DMX adds a touch of raspy menace to the aforementioned “Put Your Money,” hookmaker-for-hire Nate Dogg blesses the guitar-infused “Child Of The Night,” and Compton icon DJ Quik brings a funk-centric bounce to “Spur Of The Moment.”

Spur Of The Moment

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Ending Red Light District is “Virgo.” At first, the team-up of golden era beatboxing party-starter Doug E Fresh and Queensbridge poet par excellence Nas seems a bit random. It immediately becomes clear, however, that they’re conceptually united by their star sign status. Over a Salaam Remi backdrop that exudes old-school panache, the trio regale amorous pursuits. “Now I was so fresh and so fly in diamonds/ When I stepped up in the club even my eyes was shining,” recounts Luda, before weaving in references to Fresh and Slick Rick‘s 1985 anthem “La Di Da Di.” It all comes off seamlessly, positioning Luda’s ceaseless bragging and boasting as completely in sync with hip-hop’s heritage.

Listen to Ludacris’s Red Light District now.

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