Ludacris apparently named his sixth studio album ‘Theatre of The Mind’ (2008) because, he felt, it was the most ‘theatrical’ of his albums to date. By contrast to his slightly abysmal 2010 follow-up effort, ‘Battle Of The Sexes’ (from which this cut particularly offended me), that might have been true. But as against the five albums that came before it, including memorable titles like ‘The Red Light District’, ‘Chicken-n-Beer’ and 2001’s ‘Word Of Mouf’ which houses this gem, I’m not so sure the self-evaluation is all that accurate. The thing about Ludacris – and I realised this halfway into dinner when I decided that my headache-calming playlist was too drab and derivative to invoke any sort of mental reaction and needed something a bit more exciting instead – is that just by opening his mouth, he already has about 17 times more swag than most other emcees out. The quality of his lyrical content is another question entirely but that expressiveness consistently outstrips appropriateness such that Ludacris rarely comes out the loser is a moot point.
‘Area Codes’ is case in point for Ludacris’ ridiculously emphatic delivery skills. It is, at core, a song about having ‘hoes in different area codes’ – a refrain smoothly reiterated by the late Nate Dogg with a stroke of more contemporary G-Funk brilliance. As a parallel with the bombastic ‘Number One Spot‘ (and, for that matter, any of the myriad bombastic tracks that populate Ludacris’ discography), if it was anyone else rapping about locales (or making references to women telling him to ‘get in my belly’ a la Fat Bastard or, or…) it wouldn’t work. The everyday artist has too much invested in self-preservation, in career longevity and probably in self-respect to engage with many of the topics Ludacris does or, for that matter, with anywhere near the same degree of fervour. And yet, as Luda counts off area codes (anything rhymes with ‘two’, ‘three’ rhymes remarkably well with ‘three’), it’s easy to forget that he’s basically recounting numbers you’d likely find in a phonebook if those things still existed. Nate Dogg’s silky assistance is part of that attraction but Ludacris’ unique ability to grandstand a seemingly obvious concept with his always-outlandish flow is at the crux of this track’s appeal.
At the risk of sounding like a total wanker, ‘Area Codes’ is a lot like a lot of modern art. In art galleries across the world, visitors exclaim ‘that’s so obvious! I could have drawn/painted/sculpted that!’ ‘Area Codes’ is premised on a very simple idea. But as with fine art artists, Luda should be commended not only for his initiative (‘yes, but he thought of it first’, comes the typical retort) but for the way he throws himself into a project once deciding that it sounds like a legitimate thing to do. Others might’ve toyed with the idea of hosting hoes in different area codes but it’s Ludacris’ commitment to the idea and the panache with which he pulls it off that endears him to listeners. By the time Nate Dogg fades out for the last time on the chorus and we’re left with Luda actually doing nothing else but peeling off three-figure area codes (mostly Georgia, Florida, New York, California areas, for those interested), I’m so convinced of his globetrotting, womanising prowess that I’m willing to listen to him wrap his preternatural vocals around the vowels in numbers while the funky beat rides out.
Ludacris – Area Codes Ft. Nate Dogg