Ludacris Release Therapy

He cut his braids off. His bling causes only temporary blindness. Ludacris is grown up and avoiding the club. Forgettable setbacks occur on "Girls Gone Wild” or "Woozy,” where R. Kelly ups the creep factor on an explicit slow-jam. Unfortunately, it’s formulaic to a fault and sub-par R&B/rap at best. Aside from those minor hiccups, and some poor beat choices, Ludacris trades in his "Chicken’n’Beer” rhymes to tell it like it is. He challenges violence against women and biting-ass emcees (Chingy), and when he rhymes, you can hear the grown-man influence of his record label’s boss — Jay-Z — in much of his new rhymes. It’s never as good as Jigga, but it’s admirable that he’s man enough to welcome lyrical growth. "Do Your Time” targets the troubling relationship between black males and jail and features a blistering verse from rapper/convict Beanie Sigel. Most of Release Therapy is not fit for the club, but before begging Ludacris to lighten up, let’s hear him out. When he’s not acting grown, he’s near-flawless on the instant-anthem "Grew Up A Screw Up” and "Money Maker,” where the Neptunes weld church organs to some dope, ass-shaking percussion. (Def Jam)