Ludacris’ fifth release good; not entirely therapeutic to the ear

In the music industry, making it to five albums is a milestone.

In the rap world, it shows that you have not only been successful as an artist because of your longevity but also signifies some of your best work. Five albums should also have showcased your evolution as an emcee. Is this the case for Ludacris?

His fifth solo LP, “Release Therapy,” is just that, a lyrical venting of issues that have plagued ‘Cris since his inception into hip hop. It also signifies the ending of his contractual obligations to Def Jam South, henceforth, his “release.”

The introduction, “Warning,” is the predictable boasting session that we expect at the beginning of each Luda LP.

The collaboration with fellow Atlanta native Young Jeezy, “Grew Up a Screw Up,” featuring the late Notorious B.I.G.’s words as the hook, details each rapper’s development from youthful poverty to adulthood wealth. Luda preaches, “Reach ya hands in the air and you can play with the stars/ It’s not the hand that you was dealt but how you play your cards.”

Luda is never short of punch lines, as shown on “Ultimate Satisfaction,” featuring Field Mob, and “Mouths To Feed,” where he states, “I stay in heavy rotation like a washing machine.”

The Neptunes-produced first single, “Money Maker,” has garnered just that on BET and MTV. “Woozy,” another ode to the ladies features the king of baby-making music himself, R. Kelly. The hook is just plain nasty, and we’d expect nothing less from Kelly.

Luda vents his frustrations towards other emcees in the middle of the LP. “Tell It Like It Is,” throws a thinly veiled line that could be interpreted as an insult toward the self-proclaimed “King of the South” T.I. “How you own three cars but don’t even own your own name?” ‘Cris also tells Chingy he “wishes him well but don’t want nothing to do with him.”

The album’s standout lyrical performance is the previously released mixtape banger, “War With God.”

In case you haven’t heard, the presumed targets of this diss-track have gone as far as Young Jeezy with the line “Never sold cocaine but I’m still the f****** man,” but have been focused on T.I. with, “How many times is you gon’ rap about busting your gun/How many times you gon trap without busting your gun/Only shots you ever took was subliminal/to the General/Disrespecting those doing real time with real criminals.”

Besides a couple of filler songs, this is really a solid album. But whether it lives up to his previous works depends on the preference of the listener.

“Do Your Time,” is a dedication to his incarcerated relatives and homeboys and features the recently freed Beanie Sigel, Pimp C and C-Murder.

While Luda speaks on his feelings about the U.S. penal system, the other three reflect on their actual time served and the realities faced while inside those walls.

The track also shouts out still locked up rappers Mac, Mystikal and Shyne.

“Runaway Love,” featuring Mary J. Blige showcases Luda’s story-telling ability, a la 2Pac’s “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” with each verse detailing a different issue facing young women. Songs like these are a vast contrast to the party tunes we are accustomed to hearing from ‘Cris.

So we have witnessed Ludacris’ broadening of subject matter, but we should expect that from an artist that is five albums deep in the game.

However, we have not seen the lyrical growth and introspectiveness for that we long. Sometimes we want to hear more than just a witty punchline and more insight into a rapper’s thoughts on society, as exhibited on a few songs on the album. And as always, he will make us groove in the club.

“Release Therapy,” despite its shortcomings concept-wise, is a success and ensures that Ludacris will continue his platinum success while remaining loyal to his fan base.

Grade: B