Ludacris Ready To ‘Get Back In The Music Game’; Nas, Kanye Or Lil Wayne? It’s Your Call: Mixtape Monday

Plus: LL Cool J considers putting out another tape this year; Yung Joc talks up Hot Stylz's red-hot single.

Artist: Ludacris

Representing: ATL

Mixtape: Gangsta Grillz: The Preview

411: Cassius ‘Cris! Ludacris is still laying the competition down like Muhammad Ali. Pound for pound, line for line, he’s one of the nicest ever — end of conversation.

“I feel there is no rap style I cannot do,” ‘Cris said in Atlanta, standing next to DJ Drama during a round of pool. “Unlimited amounts of ways I can come on the microphone. I feel like I’m the best doing the damn thing.”

This down-bottom dream team (shout-out to Dram’s original hometown of Philadelphia, though) is putting the last touches on Luda’s new mixtape, The Preview. It’s a return of sorts for the mic smasher. ‘Cris is offering free downloads of the street CD via his Web site WeMix.com.

“Album number six is on the way. It’s called Theater of the Mind, ” Luda said. “So with that said, we got the mixtape, The Preview — the preview to the damn movie. It’s all about lyrical exercise. I been gone, opening up a restaurant [in Atlanta], doing a couple of movies here and there, just a little bit of everything. It’s time to get back in the music game. It’s been a long time, but we back on that ass.

“You gonna get a mixture of freestyles, new songs, snippets from Theater of the Mind, [past] songs where samples couldn’t clear and make the album, but they still crazy-ass records. And me and Barack O’Drama talking a gang of sh–. It’s as simple as that.”

“The first-ever Luda/ DJ Drama Gangsta Grillz!” Dram jumped in. “This sh– is history. It’s the preview, the coming attractions. Get your popcorn. This time, [the production of the tape] worked out through the conversation. Luda already had the concept of the tape, it being the preview … for the Theater of the Mind. When I heard [the word] ‘preview,’ my mind started immediately racing of how we should put it together. I said, ‘Every beat, everything you get on has to be a movie.’ On the microphone, he’s already a monster, so it’s kind of an easy thing. I like to give everything a beginning, middle and end. With a concept like The Preview, ['Cris] kinda made it too easy.”

Luda — who has the films “RocknRolla” and “Max Payne” dropping this year — said his album is gonna be even crazier than the tape.

“Just as the name implies, the album is theatrical,” he revealed. “Conceptual-wise, every song you hear plays out like a scene from the movie. Whether it’s storytelling, me giving you the real of what’s going on in the world, you gotta look at it as your imagination is gonna run wild every song you hear.”

Joints To Check For

» “Still Tippin’.” “Of course this is from the Slim Thug, Mike Jones and Paul Wall song,” Luda said. “Always one of my favorite songs. But instead of ‘still tippin’ on four-fours,’ we ‘sippin’ on some merlot, ducking the po-po/ Hatas is cold, ’cause I get over $100,000 for one show.’ So that’s basically what it comes down to. Like I said, lyrical exercise, letting you know our status in the game. We already got our money. I’m doing it for the love. I’m letting you know how much I love hip-hop and I love the South.”

» “Blue Magic” freestyle. “The beat, I always loved,” ‘Cris said of the song from Jay-Z‘s American Gangster. “My man Pharrell did it for Jay, so I’m just spitting on there. Of course, magic, magic is what it’s all about. It’s a movie, so we gonna have some special effects. Whenever I get in the booth, Drama on the beat, it’s magic. Sometimes I hear certain beats and be like, ‘I wish that beat was mine!’ That is why we are doing the mixtape The Preview. I’m taking some of the beats that should have been mine and putting them on the damn tape. I’mma tell you what beat I always wanted. Pharrell did it [for Birdman and the Clipse] — that ‘What Happened to That Boy’ beat. That beat was tough. That and that Clipse beat ‘Grindin’.’ ”

» “Big Ass House.” “Instead of the Rick Ross and T-Pain [lyrics] ‘I’m the biggest boss you’ve seen thus far,’ I’mma be honest with you: I’ve got the biggest house you’ve seen thus far. It’s in Atlanta, Georgia, 22 acres of land, 15,000 square feet. I’ve got a big-ass house, man. Let’s talk about it.”

Don’t Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week

» DJ Envy and Red CaféEviction Notice
» The GameLAX: Security Check
» Hevehitta, DJ Unexpected and DJ Simon Sez – Animaniacs
» Leo G – Blaze Session Vol. 1: The Dynasty Has Begun
» Lil Boosie – Untitled Mixtape (July 4th)
» Makin Moves – That Tsunami Wave (Hosted By Max B)

‘Hood’s Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar

» Ace Hood (featuring Trey Songz) – “Ride”
» Busta Rhymes – “Bass”
» Joe Budden – “Who” parts 1 and 2
» Nas – “Make the World Go Round” and “We’re Not Alone”
» Nelly (featuring Usher) – “Long Night”
» Young Buck – “Soundscan”

Fire Starter: Hot Stylz

Yung Joc has started his own label via Jive Records, Swagg Team, and his debut act is Midwest threesome Hot Stylz. Joc and company are laughing all the way to the bank with the single “Lookin’ Boy,” which has been killing it with a viral campaign. Bow Wow is featured on the official remix, while Cassidy and R. Kelly have dropped vocals for unofficial remixes.

The record is all about cracking jokes. “That’s the way of life in Chicago,” HS member Raydio G said. “It’s called ‘roasting,’ ‘gunning,’ different names. But it’s tradition. We wanted to express it to the world.”

“We was sitting around having fun, roasting on each other,” Meatball added. “And that’s how the song came together.”

The guys’ album, Yo Momma Got a Mustache, comes out in late August. “It’s a bold statement,” final member Krazee said.

“We’re just enjoying life right now,” Joc chimed in. “I’m in the process of finishing up my new project, Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, which is due this fall. We’re also finishing Hot Stylz’s new album.”

Celebrity Faves

In a roundabout way, Nas’ favorite artist this week is himself. He loves to set an example for the younger G’s in the game that hip-hop can always be diverse. He talked about his influence during a conference call last week.

“I feel like this is opening people’s minds up that we can listen to Kanye, you can put Nas in there, put Wayne in there,” he said of having his upcoming, untitled album in the marketplace alongside his fellow platinum peers. “It’s all different kinds of records out. [My album] is showing all the artists that are out that when you reach where I’m at, you can still do something different than what you did on the last three albums. Show us where you are today as a man, regardless of whether or not you’re gonna sell records. Say some things that might piss people off if you have to. Say what you want. There are all kinds of styles of rap. This album is just a different style for me, a different part of me and what I feel.”

While talking exclusively to MTV News last week, Esco talked about the sheer joy of making music with impact for so many years. “Wow! How long it’s been, and I’m still here.”

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

Give it up to LL Cool J. You can’t say that the legendary master of ceremonies isn’t putting in work. He dropped his Return of the G.O.A.T. mixtape with DJ Kay Slay a few weeks back, and he says the reception was so good, he’s thinking about putting another one out. Yes, two LL street CDs in one year.

Keeping in tune with the streets, he’s also made a number of guest appearances both officially (Alicia Keys‘ “Teenage Love Affair”) and as a pleasant surprise to the artist who made the original (G-Unit‘s “Straight Outta Southside”).

“I loved getting onstage with G-Unit the other day,” Cool J told us about joining the Unit at a recent New York concert. “It was fun, crazy. The crowd, like, exploded. They went crazy. I got a lot of love for 50, and he definitely inspired me and kind of tweaked this newfound hunger that I have to keep.”

Cool said that his friend Fif never hit him up directly for any advice, but he said it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he inspired 50 as well.

“He may be watching me,” Cool J said. “This is my 24th year. So we’re in a whole different — we in two different realms. I’m definitely happy for him, excited for him. I know where he’s at, he’s only on his third or fourth album. My fourth album was Mama Said Knock You Out. I know what that is, when you’re brand-new to the world. I just hope that he enjoys the longevity that I’m sure he’d like to enjoy as an artist.”

LL’s Exit 13 comes out later this year. The first official single is “Baby,” featuring The-Dream.

“I made the records I felt from my heart, and I believe the people will respond to great music,” he told us in May. “And I got Def Jam, the whole building, behind me. We’re the new Lakers. The energy is great.” …

We realized Stack Bundles was a beast while he was still here, but in his passing , you can actually have a better appreciation for his work ethic.

Bundles had so many songs, there are volumes of mixtapes on deck as well as an official LP.

“Rest in peace, Stack Bundles,” Jim Jones said. “We put two of the songs he did before he passed away on [the official album]. It captures every emotion you could have coming up, being from anywhere. It has its ups and downs.”

When asked about what other Stack music we can expect, Jones said, “We’re gonna do an album on him.” Jones also promised nothing less than authentic stories from his late friend. “I don’t wanna listen to somebody’s music if he’s not rapping about what he’s been through.”

Last week, still more Bundles cuts were unveiled. Superstar Jay and Big T dropped the mixtape/DVD It’s All About Bundles: The Golden Edition.

For other artists featured in Mixtape Monday, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.