The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.
I got a big weed stash
Pocket full of cash
Just seen a big ol’ ass
System on blast
Cops just passed
Just seen a big ol’ ass
Look, the heart wants what it wants. And sometimes all my heart wants is the good-natured raunch and silliness of Ludacris. Look at that ridiculous chorus. The dude is a virtuoso with wordplay and delivers these bars with a constantly-shifting style, cadence, and volume. You never quite know HOW Ludacris is going to deliver a line, and even now, after having listened to him for the better part of two decades, he still kills me. Two examples, and then it’s back to “Saturday.”
In “Area Codes,” he delivers my all-time favorite rap line when he says, “I keep my condoms in a bigass SACK. I’m slingin’ this dick like a New Jack, BEEYOTCH.” He hits the word “sack” so hard at the end of that first line, it feels like a punch in the face. And then he just straight up shouts BEEYOTCH so goddamn loud to punctuate that line, I laugh literally every time. I’m a 100% sucker for this line. If a timeshare salesman managed to say these lines in a convincing enough Ludacris facsimile, I’d buy on the spot.
In his guest verse on Usher and Lil Jon’s “Yeah,” Luda shows up and delivers a concise, randy few bars in a song that’s pretty much already about how fun it is to feel horny with his trademark rollercoaster delivery.
And rraww, these women all on the prowl
If you hold the head steady, I’ma milk the cow (yeah!)
And forget about game, I’ma spit the truth (what?)
I won’t stop ’til I get ’em in they birthday suuuuuiiiiiit
“Birthday suit” is such a dad term and Luda delivers it with maximum slide whistle silliness. It’s why it’s hard to take any of this shit as anything more than guileless horndoggery. It’s why I was always sort of amazed that of all the rappers to pick a fight with, noted dickface Bill O’Reilly chose this one because he supposedly degraded women. Interesting claim from O’Reilly considering he was fired from Fox News because Fox had to settle five lawsuits for O’Reilly for his own misconduct with women. Meanwhile, no such allegations exist against Ludacris.
Anyway, I was riding shotgun, half in the bag in my own car when this song came out. My friend Conor drove us to some party across town and I made him play it over and over again because this song is packed with moments that delight and surprise and entertain. Like these lines:
How you gonna act like I don’t rock crowds?
And leave a lot of people with a gap tooth smile
If I recollect right then you sound like dirt
But I guess what you don’t really know don’t hurt
It’s hard to convey just how unpredictable Luda’s delivery is here, so I’ll just trust that you’ll listen to the song on your own. He hits the word “dirt” very hard, and it halts you immediately like you’re boarding a crowded airplane, progressing slowly but assuredly, and then the line just stops and you nearly plow into the woman in front of you. The last line is a rapid fire, stop-start pea shooter that takes forever to memorize and get right. If you wrote it out with punctuation, I suppose it would be like ButIguess. Whatyoudon’t. Reallyknow don’t HURT.
In early 2023 Kristin and I traveled to San Antonio to catch the WWE Royal Rumble for our friend Jim’s birthday. Jim’s wife Jamie is Kristin’s best friend, and the four of us always have an outstanding time when we’re together. We love these folks. Thing is, there were 5 other people on this trip, and we knew none of them. You’d think we’d be on our best behavior, right?
The first night we’re there, we’re heading to the Riverwalk for dinner. I call an Uber, which costs like $11 for an XL. We’re close as hell, and the town was crazy cheap. While waiting, I hit the weed pen to loosen up a little more. The Uber XL is a giant SUV – think Cadillac Escalade or GMC Yukon, and it’s really nice. Since I’m paying for it, I ride shotgun. Turns out this vape pen is a strain I’ve never had before, and it hits me square in the face with a huge wave of euphoria and confidence which translates to being STRONGLY in the mood for Ludacris.
If you know me, you know I’m chatty with Uber drivers anyway, and now I’m high. After exchanging pleasantries, I say to him, “Sir, if you can play some Ludacris, I will tip you 30%.” I hear some snickering from the other dudes in the back (we’re segregated by gender for some reason on this trip). And so I say, “Y’know what? Fuck that. If you play the song ‘Saturday’ by Ludacris before this ride is over, I will tip you $15 on the spot.” I even got the tip cued up in the app and showed it to him.
Like clockwork, and not one to turn down taking advantage of a confident, stoned passenger, the driver finds it, and hits play. I confirm the tip, and here we go!
This new strain is fucking with my mind and I can’t remember the lyrics properly or keep up with Luda’s herky-jerky delivery, so I’m coming across as a juggler who didn’t practice enough before the talent show as I attempt to sing along. I hear Iain whisper to Jim in the backseat, “I’m not sure this song was worth $15.”
I whip my head around and snap at him, “Hey! You don’t hear me talking over YOUR $15 song, do ya? Now shut the fuck up.” Everyone thankfully laughed, and I knew these cats were gonna be alright to hang with all weekend. Sometimes when the heart wants what it wants, and you listen to it (with an assist from weed), you make new friends in the process. They might even tell this story more than I do.
Up next: Games, changes, and fears… when will they go from here? When will they stop?