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Album review: Ludacris' 'Theater of the Mind'

November 24, 2008 |  5:57 pm

Ludacris_240 With recent roles in movies including “Max Payne,”“RocknRolla” and, of course, best picture Oscar winner "Crash," Chris Bridges, a.k.a. Ludacris, has an enviable film career by any standard but especially among typecast-prone rappers. "Theater of the Mind," his sixth album, proves that the rapper-actor-restaurateur has mastered Hollywood's most abiding lesson: Stick to formula. Each song plays like a scene in a movie, a motif that makes for richly visual storytelling but many a familiar situation.

While Bridges the actor hasn't suffered from undue typecasting, the album's marquee cast sometimes pays that price.

Luda at least tears into the playbook with passion and a high roller's aplomb, without losing the laid-back clowning that's made him appealing to Hollywood. With scores from Scott Storch, Swizz Beatz and other bright minds of the business, glitzy soundscapes abound. Some of those help smooth over a few of Ludacris' crass rhymes that recall a rare misstep earlier this year, his pro-Obama song that took cheap shots at Sens. John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

When it comes to Luda's all-star guest cast, each member appears as persona status quo. T.I. is sleazy and seductive on "Wish You Would," and Rick Ross hoarsely raps straight out of some dank Miami lair. Even DJ Premier's elegant minimalism fails to challenge on "MVP." In short, everyone plays exactly to character.

-- Margaret wappler

"Theater of the Mind"
(Disturbing Tha Peace)
* * 1/2 (2 and a half stars)