Battle of the Sexes
Almost exactly ten years after he rolled out, irreverently throwing 'bows and spitting what at the time was a totally fresh brand of Southern rap flow, Ludacris has gone stale. He hasn't been as funny, clever or sounded as hungry as he did throughout his first four records since his "serious" album Release Therapy (2006). Battle of the Sexes deploys another very conventional concept, splitting songs between those for fellas and for ladies—his break-out hit, "What's Your Fantasy", managed to be both, but no such ambitious cross-gender and -genre bridges exist here. It should come as no surprise then that male interests win the war, though several female guests win small battles along the way, like superstar feMC on the brink Nicki Minaj, embarrassing an especially clumsy Cris on the second single "My Chick Bad". Trey Songz and Ne-Yo, singing capable choruses on token slow jams "Sex Room" and "Tell Me a Secret", respectively, log the only other notable guest appearances.
Still, Luda's defeat has mostly to do with his apparent laziness, and with the flimsiness of the beats he takes into Battle. There's nothing here so adventurous as DJ Green Lantern's loopy Austin Powers-inspired "Number One Spot", or the sensationally simple Neptunes classic "Southern Hospitality." Not surprisingly, the latter beatsmiths provide one of this album's few highlights, the hilarious Tiger Woods parody "Sexting", which finds Cris unleashing strings of text message abbreviation puns over the keypad-sampling chorus: "So I'm just sitting in this rehab class/trying to get myself unhooked on ass." He also comes out firing on the lead single "How Low", which shifts from absurdly squeaky and sped-up verses to rumbly, bass-heavy swagger. Luda was lately one of few purveyors in mainstream rap of such unpredictable wordlplay over sprawling, electronically augmented Southern beats, but that he chooses to play it so safe in Battle seems symptomatic of a broader retreat in hip-hop out of the South and back towards traditional Northern seats of power.