Rap star, actor and businessman, Ludacris is set to destroy Club CUBIC at their third anniversary party this month.
Ludacris is a man of many names. Born Christopher Brian Bridges in Champaign, Illinois, in 1995 he got his break at Atlanta’s Hot 97.5 radio station under the name ‘Chris Lova Lova’ where he was spotted by Timbaland. They collaborated on his first track ‘Phat Rabbit’ when Chris Lova Lova became Ludacris. And to some of the younger generation, he may be most famous as Tej Parker in 2 Fast 2 Furious, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, a role he has reprised for the next film in the franchise. And of course, he is the self-proclaimed ‘Mouth of the South’, a reference to his pivotal role in the school of Southern Rap.
That he was always obsessed with music is no surprise. The first song his father bought him was U.T.F.O’s ‘Roxanne, Roxanne’, an old school hip-hop classic. After listening to it time and again, the eight-year old star-in-the-making started performing the track for his friends. From that it was a simple evolution to getting involved in his first rap group at the age of 12. But it wasn’t until his break as Chris Lova Lova that he started getting the notice he deserved. In addition to getting the attention of Timbaland, the experience enabled him to finally meet those all important bigwigs in the music industry – producers, record company executives and artists. Not content with networking, Ludacris attended Georgia State University to study music management a few years later.
‘Phat Rabbit’ was the world’s introduction to his smooth, fast rap style, laced with a wicked sense of humour, that was to become his trademark. He followed up in 1998 with Incognegro, an independent release on his own label, Disturbing tha Peace, that saw a development of that track into a full album. Unfortunately, even with Jermaine Dupri’s production credits on the album, the album wasn’t a commercial success. However, it made the record industry pay attention. Two years later, the legendary Def Jam Records set up their Southern Rap subsidiary and essentially reissued the album under the new name Back for the First Time. With Def Jam’s marketing expertise and backing, Ludacris debuted at number four on the Billboard charts. New tracks on the album cemented his relationship with some of the best hip-hop producers in the business: UGK, The Neptunes as well as Shawnna, who was to feature on a number of his later albums.
After that, it was a rapid rise to the top. Word of Mouf in 2001 saw his first Grammy nomination for the video of ‘Rollout (My Business)’. Around this time saw his acting debut as the tech-head Tej Parker in the enormously successful Fast & Furious movie franchise. Juggling his acting career with his music, his ‘one first love’, Ludacris has spent the past ten years jumping back and forth between the two. Unlike other rapper/actors, such as LL Cool J and Ice Cube, Ludacris has been content with supporting roles in both action movies (RocknRolla, Max Payne and the Fast & Furious series) as well as in the critically-acclaimed Crash. Of course, there have been the occasional roles that might end up crossed off his filmography (Fred Claus anyone?) as well as parts in the guest-star strewn Law & Order television show, but the past ten years have seen as many albums released as films: Chicken-n-Beer (2003), The Red Light District (2004), Release Therapy (2006), Theater of the Mind (2008) and Battle of the Sexes (2010).
All this has swelled the bank account of the boy from Champaign, Illinois, earning him ninth place in the Forbes’ list of Hip-Hop’s Top 20 Earners from 2013. While he hasn’t released an album since 2010, numerous live appearances, his co-ownership of Conjure Cognac as well as the well-respected ‘Soul by Ludacris’ headphone line have made sure he’s been amply rewarded. But despite the content of his lyrics, (“Watch out for my medallion my diamonds are reckless / Feels like a midget is hanging from my necklace”) Ludacris has a softer side. His ‘Ludacris Foundation’ tries to inspire inner-city youth through education and experiences and has been lauded as one of the leading philanthropic foundations for black youth in the USA.
Of course, no celebrity makes it completely unscathed through the mill of fame without some scandal attached to his name, but Ludacris is, perhaps surprisingly, untainted by the usual stories. If anything, all gossip columnists seem to be able to get on him (apart from his current custody battle for his daughter) is that he still drives his first car, a 1993 Acura Legend., the ‘drug dealer’s car’.
Perhaps the only real mystery is why it’s taken him so long to release his hotly-anticipated next album Ludaversal. The album was announced in 2010 but to date only a few singles (‘Jingalin’ and ‘Representin’) have been released. (Mixtape #IDGAF was released in May last year, but the last full album was back in 2010). Earlier plans to release the album in 2013 were postponed and now it appears that Ludaversal will finally hit iTunes some time in 2014. Reasons cited include his film career, in which he’s shot five movies in three years. That said, he’s managed to enlist the help of some of the world’s musical heavyweights : Usher, David Guetta, and Kelly Rowland. Perhaps most intriguingly, Ludacris has confirmed the appearance of legendary soul singer Anita Baker on the album. The few tracks that have been heard seem to indicate a new direction for the rapper. Certainly, the EDM feel on ‘Representin’ and ‘The Rest of My Life’ seem like a change of pace. In fact, he’s already said in interviews that Ludaversal represents some kind of ‘evolution’ with definite ‘experimentation’.
Ludacris has cemented his reputation as one of hip-hop’s most exciting artists. His distinct vocals have made him the king of a genre that before him barely existed. His live performances have won him legions of fans, so he’s sure to light up the stage at Club Cubic’s 3rd Anniversary this April.