Theater of the Mind (Def Jam)

Rating: NNNN

Releasing six (major label) albums is rare in rap, but Luda’s are remembered more for their funny titles than for their timeless status, and he knows it. So here’s his masterpiece theater. Finally.

Conceptually, the Tinseltown theme is worthy of an Academy Award, from the cover art to the liner notes. DJ Premier’s 90s-era throwback thumper MVP is the only solo track, with everything else co-starring the industry’s finest, who play supporting roles with panache. Former foes T.I. and Luda unite on DJ Toomp’s thumper Wish You Would, but their capitalist anthem just comes off as passé. Then Lieutenant Rick Ross blasphemes Saint Chuck D on Southern Gangsta, while Swizz Beats makes Plies nearly bearable.

Finally, Nas, Jay-Z and Luda pour their hearts out in a confessional ode to the culture, while spitting all sorts of subliminal ricochets. Peep it before seeing Common, Spike Lee and 9th Wonder’s astonishing grand finale Do The Right Thang. Yes, it is Christopher Bridges’s best work (relatively) but ultimately, he might not be capable of a Whut?! Thee Album-level classic.

Top track: I Do It For Hip Hop, co-starring Nas and Jay-Z

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