Ludacris

Chicken-N-Beer (Def Jam South)

Like its more hirsute sister Southern rock, Southern rap is in the middle of an exceptionally high tide: Recent albums by Bubba Sparxxx, the Nappy Roots and OutKast have held it down for regional rustics while simultaneously meeting the form's demand for universal themes and high-tech production exotica. Chicken-N-Beer, the third major-label disc by Atlanta's Ludacris, is no exception: Spirited partying, departed loved ones, financial zeal, bathroom goings-on, exceptional vaginas and hip-hop itself all feature prominently, as do beats that tweak Dirty South bounce with accents of microwaved electro, half-speed disco and slurred soul. Ludacris performs ably, zooming nonchalantly through the card catalog of boasts in "Hip Hop Quotables" without stopping for a breath or a chorus, kissing off arch nemeses Bill O'Reilly and PepsiCo in "Blow It Out" ("your ass," if you were wondering) and recounting "Hard Times" like he hasn't quite outrun them. Morally, he uses all the political capital he earned freedom-fighting O'Reilly, shouting down overweight women eager to fondle his balls alongside Snoop Dogg in the oddly gentle "Hoes in My Room" and encouraging out-the-frame aerobics in the astounding "P-Poppin'," which thanks to Shawnna's coruscating guest verse might actually function as a stripper's bill of rights. He'll probably earn more, then spend that, too.
 
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