Chicken-n-Beer is the fourth studio album by American rapper Ludacris. It was released on October 7, 2003, by Disturbing tha Peace and Def Jam Recordings. Recording sessions took place from 2002 to 2003, and it was handled by several record producers, including DJ Nasty & LVM, Kanye West, Mo B. Dick, DJ Paul, Juicy J and Ludacris himself. The Southern hip hop album, Chicken-n-Beer is musically similar to Ludacris previous work, with his use of a fast, highly versatile flow. Some of the songs on the album take a political overtone.
The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 429.000 copies in its first week; unlike Ludacris previous albums, the album achieved success outside the United States, charting in several European territories; including Germany and the United Kingdom. Upon its release, Chicken-n-Beer received positive reviews, with critics praising Ludacris technical rapping abilities and production choices, although some criticized the adult humor in the lyrics as excessive. It was supported by four singles that were released from the album, two of which – "Stand Up" and "Splash Waterfalls" – became Ludacris first to peak in the top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
1. Lyrics and themes
Ludacris frequently employs a fast paced flow on Chicken-n-Beer, whilst often suffusing the words he raps with humorous punchlines and innuendos. Writing for BBC Music, Lewis Dene noted Ludacris to typically incorporate "lightning-quick phrasing, cutting wit and reference points a plenty" into his lyrics. Many of the songs on Chicken-n-Beer are of a predominantly sexual nature, and there were compared by Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club, to the material recorded by the likes of the hip hop group 2 Live Crew. "Stand Up" was described as a "steamy sex rap", and "Hoes in My Room", a collaboration with fellow rapper Snoop Dogg, details a fictional encounter with a collection of groupies following a live performance. Rabin further observed that Ludacris addresses such topics with "irreverent glee", despite describing these themes "well-worn" and cliched. Ludacris attacks political commentator Bill OReilly, who specifically criticized Ludacris for the content of his lyrics and noted him as a bad influence. "Blow It Out" and "Screwed Up" contain direct references to OReilly and his comments, as well as observations on the difficulties of fame.
2. Commercial performance
The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, becoming Ludacris first album to top the chart: the overall first-week sales of 429.000 copies were an improvement on Ludacris previous album Word of Mouf 2001, which sold 282.000 copies in its first week in the United States, debuting at number 3 on the Billboard 200. In its second week, Chicken-n-Beer fell to number 2, selling 194.000 copies, representing an overall sales decrease of 55% and bringing overall sales of the album to 623.000. The album spent five weeks inside the top ten of the chart, selling 936.000 copies in that time: it went on to spend a total of 45 weeks on the chart. It also peaked at number one on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, although it remained on the chart for a longer length of time than on the Billboard 200, lasting a total of 51 weeks before exiting the chart. On June 18, 2004, the album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America RIAA for shipments of 2.000.000 copies within the United States.
Unlike Ludacris previous releases, Chicken-n-Beer achieved reasonable commercial success outside the United States. It became Ludacris first album to chart in Australia, where it debuted and peaked at number 98, then exited the chart after a single week. The album peaked at number five on the Canadian Albums Chart: although it only spent a single week on the chart, no other Ludacris album has achieved a higher position on the chart, and was certified platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association on January 8, 2004. In Ireland, the album debuted and peaked at number 71 on the Irish Albums Chart, before exiting the chart the following week: to date, it remains Ludacris only album to appear on the chart. In the United Kingdom, Chicken-n-Beer achieved a peak position of number 44 on the UK Albums Chart, spending a total of four weeks on the chart – the longest length of time any Ludacris album has lasted on the chart. It also became Ludacris most commercially successful album in Germany, appearing at number 87 on the German Albums Chart in the only week in which it charted.
3. Critical response
Upon its release, Chicken-n-Beer received generally positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 75, based on 10 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". John Bush of Allmusic noted Ludacris "lightning-quick phrasing and cutting wit" and "rollicking, all-in-good-fun persona": he went on to commend the eccentric and upbeat nature of Ludacris music, calling him "one of the few whos actually celebrating something – and having a great time doing it". Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Neil Drumming praised Ludacris rapping skills, including his "explosive enunciation", "witty wordplay" and "punchline potency", although he reacted negatively towards the albums production, feeling it to contain "campy sampling and cartoonish composition". Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club complimented Ludacris "impeccable comic timing" and his ability to "wring the most out of every line", although he also noted the album to be Ludacris most "emotional, autobiographical major-label release to date". Although he dismissed much of the albums production as "duds", Rolling Stone writer Toure praised Ludacris musical style as appealing to genres outside hip-hop music, calling him "cocksure, witty and just hard enough to be taken seriously" yet "playful enough to be pop": he further noted Ludacris to be one of the most technically skilled rappers of the time, stating:
Ludacris is one of the most liquid MCs in the game today. He varies his flows with such dexterity and has so much musicality in his tones that his mouth truly seems like an instrument. Ludacris is an outsize character – hes Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four, perhaps a Southern Busta Rhymes, a guy who started as an Atlanta radio DJ but whose third album. finds him part of the hip-hop establishment.
However, some felt the adult humour displayed on many the songs was excessive, and detracted from Ludacris technical abilities. Jeffries called Ludacris personality "cartoonish": Drumming noted "too many cuts are simply one-note jokes stretched out to three or four minutes", and criticized the albums female-orientated material as "cringeworthy, misogynistic snorefests", but admitted Ludacris to be "a funny guy" and called many of the featured insults and boasts "gut-busting. for days". In contrast, Rabin described Ludacris as "fun incarnate, the joyous embodiment of raps commitment to hedonism at all costs" and felt that few rappers covered sexually-orientated topics as well as Ludacris, "writing few of his peers mine the well-worn topics of freaky sex and drugged-out debauchery with such irreverent glee".
4. Track listing
- co. signifies a co-producer
- "Diamond in the Back" contains a sample of "Be Thankful for What You Got" performed by William DeVaughn.
- "Hard Times" contains a sample of "My Little Girl" performed by Bobbi Humphrey.
- "P-Poppin" contains an sample of "Danger Been So Long" performed by Mystikal.
- "Southern Fried Intro" contains samples of "Walk on By" performed by Isaac Hayes, and "Me and My Baby Got Our Own Thing Going" performed by Lyn Collins.
- "Splash Waterfalls" contains a sample of "Be Ever Wonderful" performed by Ted Taylor.