In keeping the tradition of other superstars, the mouth of the south is back again for his annual album. With legions of haters rivaling the size of his million plus fanbase, Luda continues to be pigeon-holed as a talentless pop tart despite his ridiculous skills. Unquestionably one of hip-hop’s most charismatic personalities, Luda’s got one of the best flows in the biz and packs constant laugh-out-loud punchlines. It sure doesn’t hurt that he has a knack for smash singles and sing-a-long hooks.

Just like on the “Southern Fried Intro” from last year’s album, Luda sets things off on “Red Light District” with a blazing intro. Flawless flow intact, Luda proclaims “I’m over 10 million sold, every album is crack/and for now I’m ’bout to carry Def Jam on my back/mad rappers I hear you talking way down at the bottom/though I make big money, still handle small problems/the rambling at the mouth I don’t play that shit/I’m the best and I don’t really gotta say that shit,” over Timbaland’s plodding beat. Luda goes on to get silly over a nicely chopped Quincy Jones/Austin Powers theme, and orders everyone to “Get Back” on his obligatory hit club-anthem. Plus you’ve got the crazy Timbo heater “The Potion” “Virgo” and “Pass Out” just waiting to blow up your local spot.

With a title like “Child of the Night” and a Nate Dogg hook it would seem this is another track bound for the dance floor, but that is hardly the case. It may be good for some radio spins, but this is one of several tracks that feature Luda getting serious and sound a little more…wait for it now…mature. “Large Amounts” may concern the almighty dollar, but not in the context you’re used to. Even “Pimpin’ All Over The World” isn’t the typical derogatory bitches & hoes anthem you’d expect from Luda. “Hopeless” featuring Trick Daddy, may just be the most honest song the man has ever made.

Quality control remains an issue though as tracks like “Put Your Money” featuring the tired DMX, “Who Not Me” featuring DTP and “Two Miles An Hour” could have been left on the cutting room floor for one reason or another. The reason however, isn’t Ludacris’ performance on the mic, cause he still brings it in each instance. For some, they only like ‘Cris for his singles and always-impressive guest appearances. His albums have a tendency to come up a bit short, never reaching their potential from an emcee of this caliber. The barrier is always the same; some questionable production choices and a lack of diversity and depth in subject matter. “Red Light District” is a step in the right direction, even if it is a baby step.