Ludacris : My Heart Divided
Part One: I Love Ludacris
Do you guys remember the song "Welcome to Atlanta" by Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri? It came out in 2002, while I was still living large in the ATL, and there's a verse where J.D. gives me a shout out. Listing all the parties he hits during the week, he says, "Wednesday, I'm at Strokers on lean."
Let's parse that, shall we? "Lean" is a Dirty South cocktail that mixes codeine-fueled cough syrup with Sprite, usually served in a styrofoam cup. And Strokers is a strip club in Clarkston, a small Atlanta suburb that's OTP (or "Outside the Perimeter" of downtown.)
I know for a fact that Strokers is on Brockett Road. How? Because I used to live in the apartment complex that's right across the street. Dizzamn!
How awesome am I? I never actually went to Strokers, but if I had, I might have seen J.D. Therefore, it's like he's giving me props.***
Or better yet, Luda is. You may remember that I don't have much love for Jermaine Dupri, but I've always thought Ludacris was awesome.
In last week's New Yorker, Sasha Frere-Jones did an excellent job of summing up why. For all his bravado and dirty talk, she notes, he still comes across as vulnerable and human.
She notes the doubt in some of his lyrics, but I'd add itg's also because Ludacris is the rare rapper who doesn't take himself very seriously. In his videos, he almost always looks ridiculous. Remember "Stand Up," where we saw his giant-afroed head digitally imposed on a baby in diapers? No? Scroll to 2:45...
That shit is funny, and it makes Ludacris seem fun.
Part 2: But Should I?
But as Frere-Jones notes, Ludacris can also be obscenely misogynistic. His first top ten hit was called "Move Bitch," for God's sake.
I've been dancing, though, and I know how easy it is to ignore the degradation in hip-hop lyrics if the beat is good. However, there's always a part of my brain burning with the awareness that it's against my ethics to swerve to words that I find so personally offensive. I think a lot of people feel that way... we turn off our consciences as much as we can, but we know that the music making us wriggle is demeaning half the population of the planet. (And demeaning men, too. This type of song fosters the idea that we're all sex-crazed fiends.)
Yet we party on. Or at least I do.
I guess that makes likeable Ludacris my truest guilty pleasure.
***I ackowledge that no one has given anyone props since 1996. I ran out of slangy synonyms.