Standing room only
Collaboration tracks dominated 2008, an aesthetic writ large on Ludacris’ sixth album. All but two of Theater of the Mind’s tracks boast big-name rappers for this glossy snapshot of the hip-hop landscape. The cornucopia of voices leaves the leading man scant room to maneuver, but his towering persona overflows from the proscenium anyway.
Luda's brio bounces from toasts to An Inconvenient Truth, Atlanta’s public transportation, mixtape wizard Gangsta Grillz ("You bastards!") and Michael Phelps, ballasted by slick beats and titanic hooks. The Don Cannon-produced banger “Undisputed” brims with bullish snarl: “I been scouring the earth / making my fans catch the Holy Ghost / like your grandma at church.” Theater of the Mind bills featured artists as “co-stars," an apt descriptor since each track is basically a self-contained playground for its guest. “Last of a Dying Breed” sounds cribbed from Lil Wayne’s mixtape vaults right down to the recycled flow, and T.I. phones in some trademark DJ Toomp-spiced swagger on “Wish You Would.”
Ludacris’ force-of-nature vigor attempts the Herculean task of yoking the mess together but can’t quite tame a rambling array of singles. Theater of the Mind is (unsurprisingly) way too much of a good thing.