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Ludacris

Ludacris

1978—

Rap musician

Most radio stations can only play clean versions of Ludacris's hit singles, and most of his lyrics "cannot be reprinted in a family magazine," wrote Entertainment Weekly critic Tom Sinclair. However, the Atlanta-based rapper is a multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-award-winning star. His 2000 major-label debut, Back for the First Time, sold more than three million copies, fueled by the hit singles "What's Your Fantasy" and "Southern Hospitality." His 2001 release, Word of Mouf, was similarly successful. He is "more than just a party- and sex-obsessed MC (though he is that, too)," claimed music critic Touré in Rolling Stone. "He's a guy with a bagful of flows and tones, whose voice is an instrument that he's taking full advantage of." The humor and danceability of his songs can sometimes get him off the hook for his often harsh and sexually demeaning lyrics. Having catapulted to fame with such music, Ludacris then explored more serious themes in his music and acting, to critical acclaim.

Born a "Little Entertainer"

Ludacris was born Christopher Bridges and spent his first 12 years in Champaign, Illinois. As a child, he was a natural talent. "Since I was a kid, I was always a little entertainer," he told Fridge magazine. His parents, who were still in college when their only child was born, used to take him to parties to provide entertainment. He grew up around hip-hop music, and recalled writing and recording demo tapes when he was just a child; his first song included the lyrics "I'm cool, I'm bad, I might be ten, but I can't survive without my girlfriend," he told Teen People. He was only nine when he wrote it, he continued, "but I needed something to rhyme with ‘girlfriend.’" He moved with his family to Atlanta when he was 12 years old.

Ludacris told Fahiym Ratcliffe in an interview with the Source that despite his years in the Midwest, "Atlanta is where I spent most of my life and [where] my years of real growth and development took place." He wrestled and played baseball at Banneker High School, and his high school cohorts eventually became his Disturbing tha Peace entourage. After graduating in 1995, he attended Georgia State University as a music business major for a while, but dropped out to pursue his rapping aspirations. He also developed Ludacris, his outlandish alternate persona. "I have a split personality," he joked in Showcase. "The nickname is something I made up—part of me is calm, cool, and collective, while the other side is just beyond crazy." The rapper counts MCs Scarface, Q-Tip, and Rakim among his influences, as well as comedians Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Cheech & Chong.

Ludacris competed in local hip-hop talent shows, and sent a demo tape to Atlanta's Hot 97-FM, which earned him an internship at the radio station. He started recording promotional spots that aired on the station, graduating to his own primetime show under the moniker "Chris Lova Lova," where his voice was heard throughout Atlanta. A major break came when hip-hop producer Timbaland hired him to work on the single "Fat Rabbit" from his 1998 album Tim's Bio, after he heard Ludacris's demo. Soon after, popular hip-hop artist Jermaine Dupri hired him to voice the John Madden 2000 video game. Motivated by the hype he was getting, but with no sign of a record deal, Ludacris decided to release his first record on his own. His debut, Inconegro, on his own Disturbing tha Peace label, hit Atlanta record stores in 2000. It ended up selling 30,000 copies and generating considerable word of mouth for the artist. The success resulted in his signing on as the first artist to Def Jam Records' then-new Def Jam South imprint.

Part of the Dirty South Sound

Ludacris is part of a surge of hip-hop that has risen out of the South, overtaking the national charts, and he is one of a list of contemporary R & B and hip-hop luminaries, including Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin, Arrested Development, TLC, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Organized Noise, and Too Short. "The East Coast had a time when it was reigning supreme," Ludacris explained in Vibe. "The West Coast had a time when it was reigning supreme. And now the South's reigning supreme."

Def Jam South repackaged Inconegro and released it as Back for the First Time in 2000. The release was a breath of humorous fresh air on the serious hip-hop scene. "When my album came out," Ludacris told New York, "it seemed like no one wanted to be fun or crazy anymore." According to writer Kris Ex in XXL, "What's Your Fantasy," the album's first single, "established [Ludacris] as an NC-17 rapper: full frontal nudity, but more artistic than sleazy." On the second single, "Southern Hospitality," Ludacris declared his love for his adopted hometown and the song became a smash hit. Back for the First Time sold more than three million copies and "solidified him as the South's prince of rhyme," according to the Source. Though he was known for his outlandish lyrics, Ludacris maintained that he was a more complex artist. "I don't worry about being typecast as one type of rapper," he said in the Source, "because if they really listen…then they'll find that there's more to acting crazy and being stupid. Sometimes it's being…serious and talking about real-life situations on stuff that I go through."

Ludacris turned out his follow-up release, Word of Mouf, during the next year. Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Mystikal, and Organized Noise were among the hot hip-hop talents Ludacris called upon to help out on the album. Ludacris explained in Rolling Stone that "Cold Outside" and "Growing Pains" recall his struggle to the top, and "Saturday" describes "what people do on their best days." On the Timbaland-produced "Rollout," Ludacris not-so-subtly urges people to mind their own business instead of his. The hit single "Area Codes" is about having girlfriends all over the country, features rapper Nate Dogg, and is "one of the high points" of the album, according to Boston Globe critic Keri Callahan, who declared the album "not for innocent ears." "They say the number-one promotion is word of mouth," Ludacris said in Fridge. "So I'm trying to tell everybody that if there was no radio and there was no television, this album is going multi-platinum by word of mouth alone. That's how good I feel it is." It was a hit album, as was his next two, Chicken-n-Beer, which released in 2003 and Red Light District, released in 2004.

Expanded His Horizons

While working on new albums, Ludacris also dabbled in acting. He appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious, Hustle and Flow, and Crash. He also narrated for The Heart of the Game, a film about the triumphs and tribulations of a high school girls' basketball team. Ludacris told Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times that rapping prepared him well for acting. As a rapper, "you got to be able to do your thing with a bunch of people staring dead at you waiting for something to happen," Ludacris explained. "That all gets you ready to be an actor…. That's why rappers have been doing all right in movies. But I still think they have something to prove." Ludacris proved himself as an actor in Crash. The film's producer Cathy Schulman called him "the great, great discovery of this movie," according to the Los Angeles Times. His performance as a car thief in Crash won Ludacris a Screen Actors Guild award in 2006.

At a Glance …

Born Christopher Bridges, c. 1978 in Champaign, IL. Education: Attended Georgia State University.

Career:

Rapper. Interned at Atlanta Hot 97-FM radio station; Disturbing tha Peace, record label, founder, 2000-; Def Jam South, recording artist, 2000-; Ludacris Foundation, founder, 2001-.

Awards:

Grammy Award, for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, 2004; Grammy Award, for Best Rap Album, 2006; Grammy Award, for Best Rap Song, 2006; Spirit of Youth Award, 2007.

Addresses:

Web—www.defjam.com/site/artist_home.php?artist_id=308.

Ludacris' commercial appeal as a musician had generated millions in album sales and garnered him several multi-platinum albums. Yet with his Release Therapy album of 2006, Ludacris also won critical praise. The songs included serious messages, as in a song implor- ing prisoners to stay strong during their sentences, and a song about an abused child who runs away, as well as a song commenting on the commercialization of rap. Ludacris took the serious messages further. With his charitable foundation, he partnered with the National Runaway Switchboard to help address the issue of youths running away from home in America. He and the Ludacris Foundation were honored for their efforts with a Spirit of Youth Award in 2007. The serious slant to his music struck a chord with listeners. The songs "Money Maker" and "Runaway Love" from the album both reached the top of the Billboard charts. Ludacris won two Grammy Awards in 2006 for Best Rap Album and for "Money Maker" as Best Rap Song. His awards in 2006 marked an apex of Ludacris' status in both the music and film industry. Yet it seemed a high point that he might be able to surpass.

Selected discography

Albums

Inconegro, Disturbing tha Peace, 2000.

Back for the First Time, Def Jam South, 2000.

Word of Mouf, Def Jam South, 2001.

Chicken-n-Beer, Def Jam, 2003.

Red Light District, Def Jam, 2004.

Ludacris Presents Disturbing Tha Peace, DTP/Def Jam, 2005.

Release Therapy, Def Jam, 2006.

Sources

Periodicals

Boston Globe, January 3, 2002, p. CAL12.

Entertainment Weekly, December 7, 2001, p. 102.

Fridge, fall-winter 2001-02, p. 67.

Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2005, p. E18; September 24, 2006, p. E42.

New York, September 10, 2001.

Rolling Stone, December 6-13, 2001.

Showcase, December-January 2002.

Source, February 2002, p. 80.

Teen People, summer 2002, p. 68.

Vibe, November 2001, p. 102; June 2002, p. 92.

XXL, December 2001, p. 91.

On-line

All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (August 20, 2002).

The Ludacris Foundation,www.theludacrisfoundation.org (April 6, 2007).

"Ludacris Official Website @ defjam," Def Jam,www.defjam.com/site/artist_home.php?artist_id=308 (April 6, 2007).

Other

Additional information was provided by Def Jam South publicity materials, 2002.

                                                             —Brenna Sanchez and Sara Pendergast

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Ludacris

Ludacris

Rap musician

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Ludacris emerged from the Atlanta rap scene as the first artist signed to the new Def Jam South label in 2000. By the end of the year, the label had rereleased Ludacriss self-produced debut album as Back for the First Time, which sold more than two million copies. After appearing on the bill of OutKasts Stanklove: The Tour concert series, the rapper went back into the studio to make his next album, Word of Mouf, which was released in late 2001. Ludacris also Manáged to take on a cameo role in the movie The Wash, a remake of the 1970s film Car Wash. In it, he plays an irate customer who verbally abuses rapper Dr. Dre. I liked doin it, he admitted during an interview for the Virgin Mega website. I like raisin my voice and actin ignorant sometimes.

Ludacris was born Chris Bridges in 1977 in Chicago, Illinois, where he spent the first 12 years of his life. After his parents separated, he moved from Chicago to Atlanta, Georgia, with his father. Throughout grade school and high school, he took up the microphone whenever the chance presented itself, usually at lunch-time rap contests; his first rap performance had been at a family reunion at the age of nine. After graduating from high school, Bridges enrolled at Georgia State University, but his studies took a back seat to his job as a deejay at popular hip-hop radio station WHTA. Bridges also made about 20 demo tapes of his original raps and handed them to anyone he thought might help his career along. As he later told the Hiponline website, I was already rapping before I even got on the air. People want to think that I was a radio jock who started rapping, when really it was the other way around.

During his stint at WHTA, Bridgesnow known as Ludacris as a play on his first namewon listeners through his on-air raps over commercials and station promotions. The experience was valuable training for the fledgling rapper. It helped me a lot working at a radio station because of all the artists and producers and record company people coming through to the station all the time, he recalled in an interview on the BBC Radio-1 website. So it was just a matter of time for me to get a hold, get contacts and get into the studio with certain artists and before you knew it, I was in that circle. They always say its who you know in the music industry that gets you put onwell, I knew a lot of people.

With his contacts in place, Ludacris entered the studio in Atlanta in early 2000 to record an album of original material. The result, Incognegro, was released on the rappers Disturbing tha Peace label and immediately became a regional favorite. The album sold about 30,000 copies in a few weeks and led to an offer to join a new division of the legendary rap label Def Jam. Def Jam South, based in Atlanta, sought to take advantage of the wealth of new talent coming out of the region,

For the Record

Born Chris Bridges in 1977 in Chicago, IL.

Released debut album Incognegro, 2000; first artist signed to Def Jam South Records, 2000; released Word ofMouf, 2001; toured with OutKast, 2001.

Addresses: Record company Def Jam South Records, 1349 West Peachtree Street Northwest, Atlanta, GA 30309, website: http://www.defjam.com. Website Ludacris Official Website: http://www.ludacris.net.

including acts such as OutKast and Nelly. In mid-2000 Ludacris became the first act signed to the new label.

Def Jam South decided to rerelease Ludacriss first album under a new title with a few new touches. Arriving in record stores in October of 2000, Back for the First Time sold over 200,000 copies in the first two weeks after its release. In addition to being noteworthy for its brisk sales, the album received a lot of attention due to Ludacriss explicit sexual lyrics. Whats Your Fantasy? suggests a number of sexual acts that push the edge of acceptability on radio play lists. The rapper defended his lyrics as having different meanings for different listeners. Yeah, everybody got a little freak in em, he explained to Rolling Stone. Fantasy is about goin that extra length for women, because a lot of times, women dont want somebody thats just gonna be the same person all the time and not wanna try something new. Its all about, What can I do to make you happy? Lemme go to certain lengths to get you excited and try something youve never tried before. Another track from the album, Area Codes, is a boastful rap about having a woman in each city across the country.

Ludacris defends his use of derogatory terms for women as a measure of gender equality. Addressing his critics in an interview posted on the Virgin Mega website, he explained: They gotta understand that Im just desexualizing the word ho. And I always try to say somewhere in the song where women can definitely talk about the same thing about men. I mean, next album, Im probably gonna have a song called Hoesband. Husbands are hoes, yknow. So Ill redeem myself, if women are thinkin Im trippin. Ludacris also emphasized his hard-core image on stage during the Stanklove tour with OutKast in early 2001. It might get a little kinky up on the stage, he warned Rolling Stone. What do you call it when theres whips and chains?

After earning a platinum sales award for shipping more than one million copies of Back for the First Time, Ludacris was in demand as a guest rapper on other artists tracks. He provided some rhymes for Missy Elliotts Get Ur Freak On, Mariah Careys Loverboy, and Jagged Edges Hometown. He also took time to appear in the movie The Wash, a updated remake of the 1977 movie Car Wash. Near the end of 2001, as many reflected on the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Ludacris spoke of his strengthened commitment to his career. It definitely changed my life, he told Rolling Stone, because it makes me realize you could go any day. You never know how long you have to live on this earth, so you gotta live every day like its your last day for real. You gotta be self-motivating. I gotta do as much as I can, cause you never know when your time is gonna come.

Ludacriss sophomore effort, Word of Mouf, was released in November of 2001 on the Def Jam South label. The album sold more than two million copies in the six months after its release and rose as high as number three on the Billboard chart. Critics were somewhat less receptive to Word of Mouf, however, indicating that the rappers explicit sexual material had worn thin. Oddly enough, Word of Mouf alternates between bleak, nearly joyless hardcore and verbalistic slapstick, wrote Pat Blashill of Rolling Stone. Its not exactly the most sophisticated rap album of the yearespecially if you compare him to hometown contemporaries OutKastand it pretty much covers the same ground as 2000s Back for the First Time, added an Eonline reviewer. Some of the tracks sound like rehashed No Limit production, and get rather monotonous, maintained a Freestyling contributor. The bottom line is Word of Mouf is a decent album. However, the track skip button on your stereo will get a work out. Ludacris continues to improve, but is still not quite on the OutKast or Scarface level.

Soren Baker offered a different perspective in his Los Angeles Times review of Word of Mouf, writing, Ludacris stuffs so many pop culture references into his work that youre almost dizzy trying to keep up. Sure, he focuses on boasts, sex, and the hood, but as long as those topics keep getting reinvented in such a playful manner, theyll never become banal. Most critics agreed on the quality of Word of Moufs standout track, Saturday Night (Oooh Oooh!), which Q4-music.com reviewer Paul Elliott described as a howling party anthem. Released as a single in early 2002, the track quickly hit the top 30 on Billboards Hot 100.

Selected discography

Incognegro, Disturbing tha Peace, 2000.

Back for the First Time, Def Jam South, 2000.

Word of Mouf, Def Jam South, 2001.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, February 17, 2001, p. 22; April 7, 2001, p. 24.

Los Angeles Times, November 25, 2001.

Rolling Stone, December 14-21, 2000, p. 58; March 15, 2001, p. 32; December 6, 2001, p. 46; January 17, 2002, p.53.

Teen People, Summer 2001, p. 84.

Online

Eonline, http://www.eonline.com/Reviews/Facts/Mucis/RevID/0,1107,2573,00.html (April 12, 2002).

Freestyling.com, http://www.freestyling.com/reviews/Ludacris-Word_of_Mouf.html (April 12, 2002).

Hiponline, http://www.hiponline/artist/music/l/ludacris (April 11, 2002).

Ludacris Spreads the Word, Virgin Mega, http://virginmega.com/default.asp?aid=771 (April 11, 2002).

Ludacris Talks to Us Following His First UK Appearance, BBC Radio-1, http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/artist_area/ludacris/5980.shtml (April 11, 2002).

Q4music.com, http://www.q4music.com (April 8, 2002).

Timothy Borden

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Ludacris 1978(?)–

Ludacris 1978(?)

Rapper

South Reigned Supreme

Added Humor to Hip-Hop Scene

Selected discography

Sources

Most radio stations can only play clean versions of Ludacriss hit singles, and most of his lyrics cannot be reprinted in a family magazine, wrote Entertainment Weekly critic Tom Sinclair. However, the Atlanta-based rapper is a multi-platinum-selling star. His 2000 major-label debut, Back for the First Time, sold more than three million copies, fueled by the hit singles Whats Your Fantasy and Southern Hospitality. His 2001 release, Word of Mouf, was similarly successful. He is more than just a party-and sex-obsessed MC (though he is that, too), claimed music critic Touré in Rolling Stone. Hes a guy with a bagful of flows and tones, whose voice is an instrument that hes taking full advantage of. The humor and danceability of his songs can sometimes get him off the hook for his often harsh and sexually demeaning lyrics. In true hip-hop fashion, Ludacris has also performed with other big-name talents, including pop star Mariah Carey, rapper Missy Misdemeanor Elliot, R & B singer Ginuwine, and Timbaland and Magoo.

Ludacris was born Christopher Bridges and spent his first 12 years in Champaign, Illinois. As a child, he was a natural talent. Since I was a kid, I was always a little entertainer, he told Fridge magazine. His parents, who were still in college when their only child was born, used to take him to parties to provide entertainment. He grew up around hip-hop music, and recalled writing and recording demo tapes when he was just a child; his first song included the lyrics Im cool, Im bad, I might be ten, but I cant survive without my girlfriend, he told Teen People. He was only nine when he wrote it, he continued, but I needed something to rhyme with girlfriend. He moved with his family to Atlanta when he was 12 years old.

South Reigned Supreme

Ludacris told Fahiym Ratcliffe in an interview with the Source that despite his years in the Midwest, Atlanta is where I spent most of my life and [where] my years of real growth and development took place. He wrestled and played baseball at Banneker High School, and his high school cohorts eventually became his Disturbing tha Peace entourage. After graduating in 1995, he attended Georgia State University as a music business major for a while, but dropped out to pursue his rapping aspirations. He also developed Ludacris, his

At a Glance

Born Christopher Bridges, c. 1978 in Champaign, IL. Education: Attended Georgia State University.

Career: Rapper. Interned at Atlanta Hot 97-FM radio station, own prime-time show; released Inconegro on his own Disturbing tha Peace record label, 2000; signed to Def Jam South and released multi-platinum selling Back for the First Time, 2000; released Word of Mouf, 2001.

Addresses: Record company -Def Jam, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10019. Website http://www.Ludacris.net.

outlandish alternate persona. I have a split personality, he joked in Showcase. The nickname is something I made uppart of me is calm, cool, and collective, while the other side is just beyond crazy. The rapper counts MCs Scarface, Q-Tip, and Rakim among his influences, as well as comedians Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Cheech & Chong.

Ludacris competed in local hip-hop talent shows, and sent a demo tape to Atlantas Hot 97-FM, which earned him an internship at the radio station. He started recording promotional spots that aired on the station, graduating to his own primetime show under the moniker Chris Lova Lova, where his voice was heard throughout Atlanta. A major break came when hip-hop producer Timbaland hired him to work on the single Fat Rabbit from his 1998 album Tims Bio, after he heard Ludacriss demo. Soon after, popular hip-hop artist Jermaine Dupri hired him to voice the John Madden 2000 video game. Motivated by the hype he was getting, but with no sign of a record deal, Ludacris decided to release his first record on his own. His debut, Inconegro, on his own Disturbing tha Peace label, hit Atlanta record stores in 2000. It ended up selling 30,000 copies and generating considerable word of mouth for the artist. The success resulted in his signing on as the first artist to Def Jam Records then-new Def Jam South imprint.

Ludacris is part of a surge of hip-hop that has risen out of the South, overtaking the national charts, and he is one of a list of contemporary R & B and hip-hop luminaries, including Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin, Arrested Development, TLC, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Organized Noise, and Too Short. The East Coast had a time when it was reigning supreme, Ludacris explained in Vibe. The West Coast had a time when it was reigning supreme. And now the Souths reigning supreme.

Added Humor to Hip-Hop Scene

Def Jam South repackaged Inconegro and released it as Back for the First Time in 2000. The release was a breath of humorous fresh air on the serious hip-hop scene. When my album came out, Ludacris told New York, it seemed like no one wanted to be fun or crazy anymore. According to writer Kris Ex in XXL, Whats Your Fantasy, the albums first single, established [Ludacris] as an NC-17 rapper: full frontal nudity, but more artistic than sleazy. On the second single, Southern Hospitality, Ludacris declared his love for his adopted hometown and the song became a smash hit. Back for the First Time sold more than three million copies and solidified him as the Souths prince of rhyme, according to the Source. Though he was known for his outlandish lyrics, Ludacris maintained that he was a more complex artist. I dont worry about being typecast as one type of rapper, he said in the Source, because if they really listen ... then theyll find that theres more to acting crazy and being stupid. Sometimes its being ... serious and talking about real-life situations on stuff that I go through.

Ludacris turned out his follow-up release, Word of Mouf, during the next year. Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Mystikal, and Organized Noise were among the hot hip-hop talents Ludacris called upon to help out on the album. Ludacris explained in Rolling Stone that Cold Outside and Growing Pains recall his struggle to the top, and Saturday describes what people do on their best days. On the Timbaland-produced Rollout, Ludacris not-so-subtly urges people to mind their own business instead of his. The hit single Area Codes is about having girlfriends all over the country, features rapper Nate Dogg, and is one of the high points of the album, according to Boston Globe critic Keri Callahan, who declared the album not for innocent ears. They say the number-one promotion is word of mouth, Ludacris said in Fridge. So Im trying to tell everybody that if there was no radio and there was no television, this album is going multi-platinum by word of mouth alone. Thats how good I feel it is.

Selected discography

Inconegro, Disturbing tha Peace, 2000.

Back for the First Time, Def Jam South, 2000.

Word of Mouf, Def Jam South, 2001.

Sources

Periodicals

Boston Globe, January 3, 2002, p. CAL12.

Entertainment Weekly, December 7, 2001, p. 102.

Fridge, Fall-Winter 2001-02, p. 67.

Rolling Stone, December 6-13, 2001.

New York, September 10, 2001.

Showcase, December-January 2002.

Source, February 2002, p. 80.

Teen People, Summer 2002, p. 68.

Vibe, November 2001, p. 102; June 2002, p. 92.

XXL, December 2001, p. 91.

On-line

All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (August 20, 2002).

Other

Additional information was provided by Def Jam South publicity materials, 2002.

Brenna Sanchez

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Ludacris

LUDACRIS

Born: Chris Bridges; Champaign, Illinois, 11 September 1977

Genre: Rap

Best-selling album since 1990: Word of Mouf (2001)

Hit songs since 1990: "Rollout (My Business)," "Area Codes," "What's Your Fantasy?"


For successful rappers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were typically two surefire ways to reach the top: amiable pop/rap songs about cars, women, and jewels or aggressive, hardcore rhymes expressing toughness with attacking verses boasting about lyrical unassailability. Atlanta rapper Ludacris became a superstar nearly overnight thanks to his blend of these styles on albums such as Word of Mouf (2001), in which the good-natured, but gleefully foul-mouthed rapper obsesses about sex and material possessions in his elastic, cartoony voice. Ludacris's larger-than-life personality also made him a favorite guest on other artists' songs and a budding movie star, rocketing him from obscurity to near ubiquity in less than two years.

In the rap equivalent of being discovered at the soda fountain, Atlanta rapper Ludacris got his big break when he scored a job recording between-song tidbits for local urban radio station Hot 97.5 in 1998. The humorous, one-minute raps quickly established Ludacris's name in the thriving Atlanta music community.

It was the culmination of a dream that began when toddler Chris Bridges began attending house parties with his college-age parents, during which he soaked up the sounds of old school funk and soul. At twelve years old, Ludacris joined the Chicago-based rap collective Loud-mouth Hooligans, leaving the group when his family relocated to Atlanta in the early 1990s. Battle rapping in the lunchroom at College Park's Banneker High School led to talent shows in clubs, which, eventually, led to the radio gig. A small cameo on legendary rap producer Timbaland's Tim's Bio (1998) helped the developing rapper learn more about recording albums and set the stage for the brash move that would put him on the hip-hop map. With a rap moniker derived from a combination of his given name, Chris, and his self-described tendency to sometimes act ridiculous, Ludacris began his rapping career in a time-honored tradition: He released a self-financed debut album, Incognegro (1999), on his own Disturbing the Peace label.

"Fantasy" Turns into a Reality

When the bouncy, flirtatious sex rhyme "What's Your Fantasy"an explicit duet with Disturbing the Peace member Shawna about sexual fantasies from a man's and a woman's perspectivebecame a regional hit and the album sold 30,000 copies in three months, the rapper caught the attention of Scarface, the president of the record label Def Jam South.

The former Geto Boys member, now a label boss, made Ludacris the first act signed to the southern offshoot of the venerable New York hip-hop label and re-released Incognegro as Back for the First Time (2000). Padded out with three new tracks, the album is a celebration of the "dirty South" sound pioneered by artists such as Outkast and the Goodie Mob: a combination of thick, bass-heavy beats and raucous sex rhymes. Scarface also polished up the album's tracks with additional production from such notable rap producers as Organized Noize, Jermaine Dupri, and Timbaland.

With the hiccoughing "What's Your Fantasy" now a national hit, the album sold more than 2 million copies and Ludacris became a favorite guest star on songs by other rappers and R&B artists, including Missy Elliott ("One Minute Man"), Method Man, Jermaine Dupri ("Welcome to Atlanta"), Ginuwine, LL Cool J, Mariah Carey, Three 6 Mafia, Jagged Edge, and 112.

Branching out into Movies, Raising the Ire of Conservative Commentators

Featuring influences that range from classic Philadelphia funk and soul to the blue comedy of such African-American comedians as Redd Foxx and Rudy Ray Moore, Ludacris's second album, Word of Mouf, is highlighted by such raunchy songs as "Area Codes" (a hit from the Rush Hour 2 [2001] soundtrack), "Move Bitch," and "Freaky Thangs." The songs are mostly stereotypical male fantasies writ large, in which Ludacris indulges in his imagined status as a lothario without equal. With strong beats and production from such renowned producers as Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and Organized Noize, the album again boasts an insistent set of pop rap hits, most memorably "Rollout (My Business)." The album also features the uncharacteristically sentimental "Growing Pains," a wistful, guitar-inflected soul song about childhood antics and dreams that samples the Stax classic "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" by William Bell.

Ludacris joined the Eminem-headlined "Anger Management" tour in the summer of 2002 and began work on his headlining debut in the film Radio, in which he was to play a radio disc jockey. He also announced plans to executive produce and star in the high school comedy Skip Day, and he began filming his part in the sequel to the hit film, The Fast and the Furious.

In the first hint of controversy in his career, Ludacris was dropped as a spokesperson for Pepsi in early September 2002, one day after conservative Fox News Channel ranter Bill O'Reilly aired his view that Ludacris was a "thug rapper" who "espouses violence, intoxication, and degrading conduct toward women." Two weeks later, the rapper oversaw the release of Golden Grain, a compilation of songs by his Disturbing the Peace crew, which includes Shawna, I-20, Infamous 2-0, and Fate Wilson. A third album, tentatively titled Chicken and Beer, was slated for a spring 2003 release.

With a combination of moxie, charisma, and a flair for infectious choruses, rapper Ludacris established himself as a reliable hit-maker in just a few short years in the late 1990s. From unknown to superstar, Ludacris took his rise in stride, recording his raunchy sex rhymes and plotting a film career as if he had been a pop star his entire life.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Incognegro (Disturbing the Peace, 1999); Back for the First Time (Def Jam South/Disturbing the Peace, 2000); Word of Mouf (Def Jam South/Disturbing the Peace, 2001).

gil kaufman

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Ludacris

Ludacris

Rap musician and actor

Born Christopher Bridges, September 11, 1977, in Illinois; son of Roberta Shields; children: Karma (daughter).

Addresses: Record company—Def Jam, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10019. Website—http://www.defjam.com/site/artist_home.php?artist_id=308

Career

Worked as a DJ for an Atlanta radio station, late 1990s; appeared on the song "Fat Rabbit" by Timbaland, 1998; released Incognegro, 2000; released major-label debut Back for the First Time, 2000; released Word of Mouf, 2001; released Chicken -N- Beer, 2003; released The Red Light District, 2004; released Release Therapy, 2006. Film appearances include: 2 Fast 2 Furious, 2003; Crash, 2005; Hustle and Flow, 2005. Television appearances include: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, NBC, 2006, 2007; Halls of Fame, N, 2007.

Awards: Grammy Award for best rap/sung collaboration, Recording Academy, for "Yeah!" (with Usher and Lil Jon), 2005; Grammy Awards for best rap song and best rap album, Recording Academy, for "Money Maker" and Release Therapy, 2007.

Sidelights

Ludacris, sometimes called hip-hop's "King of the South," became one of the most popular rappers in the 2000s thanks to his witty wordplay, then parlayed his charisma into roles in two of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2005, Crash and Hustle and Flow. The biggest star in hip-hop's Dirty South genre, the Grammy Award winner helped bring raunchy humor back to rap. Between 2000 and 2006, he sold more than 15 million records. "I always dreamed big, because in order to be successful, you have to dream big," he told Kimberly Davis of Ebony.

Born in Illinois, Ludacris grew up in Atlanta as the only child of a strict single mother. "I was always that guy who wanted to, loved to, rap," he told Ebony's Davis. "I was always into music, always went to talent shows and open mics." He credited his interest in music with keeping him from getting involved in the drug dealing and other crimes in his neighborhood.

Ludacris began his entertainment career in the late 1990s as a DJ for an Atlanta radio station. He was in the right place at the right time: In the mid-1990s, Atlanta become the center of hip-hop culture in the South. His rap debut came on famed producer Timbaland's 1998 album Tim's Bio, on the song "Fat Rabbit." He took the name Ludacris as a play on his actual first name, Chris, and the word ludicrous. (For his songwriting credit in Timbaland's album, he spelled it Ludichris.) "Ludacris means crazy and wild and ridiculous," he explained to a writer for Ebony. "My music is a little fun in people's lives."

Building on his popularity as a DJ, Ludacris released his debut album, Incognegro, in Atlanta in 2000 on his own Disturbing Tha Peace label, paying for it with three years worth of savings. It sold 50,000 copies, and the track "What's Your Fantasy?" became a hit in Atlanta. The local buzz attracted the attention of rapper Scarface, who had become a talent scout for the preeminent hip-hop label Def Jam. The label was hoping to start a Southern subsidiary, Def Jam South, to capitalize on the raunchy new Dirty South movement in hip-hop. Scarface signed Ludacris to Def Jam, and the label began putting together Ludacris' major-label debut.

The album, Back for the First Time, released later in 2000, included most of Incognegro, plus four more tracks, including a remix of the Timbaland collaboration, renamed "Phat Rabbit," and "Southern Hospitality," a single produced by hitmaking producers the Neptunes. Def Jam promoted the album heavily, and Ludacris embarked on a national tour with fellow Atlanta hip-hoppers Outkast. The label released "What's Your Fantasy" as a single, and although its explicit content kept some radio stations from airing it, it became a huge hit, blazing a trail for other Dirty South songs. Ludacris later released a remix featuring rappers Foxy Brown and Trina. "Southern Hospitality" and "Phat Rabbit" also became hits.

Word of Mouf, Ludacris' second Def Jam album, was clearly aimed for the top of the charts, with star producers and rappers collaborating with Ludacris on almost all the tracks. The album, released in 2001, reached number three on the Billboard 200 chart. Reviewer Jason Birchmeier of All Music Guide described it as less violent and thuggish than Back For the First Time, with a lighter tone built on "witty puns and sly innuendoes." On one track, "Area Codes," Ludacris joked about the many phone numbers he had collected from women he had been intimate with in different cities around the country. It also included the singles "Rollout (My Business)," also produced by Timbaland and "Saturday (Oooh Oooh!)," produced by Organized Noize. Its hidden track, "Welcome to Atlanta," was a collaboration with Jermaine Dupri.

Established as a hip-hop star, Ludacris began collaborating with other rappers on their hits, such as Missy Elliott on her song "One Minute Man." He also appeared on Golden Grain, a 2002 compilation album featuring members of his hand-picked Disturbing Tha Peace posse, including Shawnna and Lil' Fate. He also toured with the Disturbing Tha Peace crew.

In 2002, Ludacris appeared in a Pepsi commercial. Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly criticized Pepsi for signing him to the endorsement deal, complaining that his lyrics were sexually explicit and profane. After customers complained to Pepsi, the company canceled the commercial. But Ludacris hardly suffered. He still got paid, the controversy increased his fame, and it fueled his writing. First, he teamed up with hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg to insult O'Reilly and Pepsi on his next album, Chicken -N- Beer. "That was a completely racist and hypocritical thing for Pepsi to do, so Snoop and I spoke out on it," Ludacris explained to Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly. He later jabbed at O'Reilly again in the song "Number One Spot" on the 2004 album The Red Light District.

When Ludacris released Chicken -N- Beer in 2003, not everyone was impressed. Neil Drumming of Entertainment Weekly found the album cartoonish, and described its raunchier tracks as "cringeworthy, misogynistic snorefests." (Even so, Drumming could not bring himself to reject the album, giving it a grade of B-minus.) People reviewer Chuck Arnold, noting that Chicken -N- Beer's album cover shows Ludacris about to chew a woman's leg as if it were a chicken leg, warns that the entire album would be "downright tasteless" if not for Ludacris' "fun spirit." The sexual references on the album were vulgar and crude, Arnold complained, but he gave Ludacris credit for some of his funnier lines and put-downs, rating the album with two and a half stars. John Bush of All Music Guide, on the other hand, dubbed Ludacris "the best rapper in the business" and complimented his "lightning-quick phrasing and cutting wit." On the track "Hip Hop Quotables," Ludacris quipped, "One of Mini-Me's shoes got more soul than you" (name-dropping the tiny character from the Austin Powers movies). He promoted the album with a 2004 tour. Rolling Stone writer Jon Caramanica reported that Ludacris delivered 20 songs in a one-hour set in New York City early that year. "Ludacris is the closest thing hip-hop has to a barking circus ringmaster," Caramanica declared. "His delivery is all bombast, roars, and winks."

Ludacris celebrated the release of his next album, The Red Light District, in December of 2004 with a release party that almost 1,000 people attended in Atlanta's Puritan Mills complex. The album went to number one. Ludacris participated in a Newsweek interview in which critic Lorraine Ali told him what she thought of the album and Ludacris responded. Ali complimented him for including tribal beats and imitating old field recordings on "The Potion," and for rhyming "Nevada" and "Impala" on "Number One Spot"—"Ludacris is hotter than Nevada/I'm ready to break the steering wheel on your Impala," he rapped. But Ali told him that she found the song "Get Back," in which he brags about hitting someone in the jaw, too thuggish and tough. "But by putting in the songs you call 'tough,' I'm being versatile," he replied. "The rest of the album is me experimenting, so those songs balance things out. It's important for a certain part of my audience to hear the same Ludacris."

The rapper became an actor in 2003, when he appeared in the summer film 2 Fast 2 Furious. His next film appearance, in the ensemble cast of the Paul Haggis film Crash, was much more serious. He had never taken acting lessons, but co-star Don Cheadle saw him read for the role and lobbied Haggis to cast him, convinced of his star power. The cast also included seasoned actors such as Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, and Sandra Bullock.

"Once I heard [about] all the people [who] were going to be a part of it, man, I knew I had to step up to the plate, because I was the least experienced actor in it," Ludacris told Hugh Hart of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Half the battle is getting comfortable in front of these cameras where all these people are looking at you while you're trying to concentrate. Being a rapper and doing so many videos, I already got over that hump. The hard part was getting into being an actor and not an entertainer." The film, released in the spring of 2005, attracted critical acclaim and won an Academy Award for best film. Ludacris followed it up with an appearance in another critically successful film, Hustle and Flow, released in the summer of that same year, which paired him up again with Crash co-star Terrence Howard. That year, he also appeared on the second compilation featuring his posse, the collectively self-titled album Disturbing Tha Peace.

Release Therapy, Ludacris' 2006 album, included more introspective songs, his bid to be taken more seriously than in his jokey past. "A lot of people know who Ludacris is but not who Chris Bridges is," he told Evan Serpick of Rolling Stone. Writers even noted, as Ludacris gave interviews to promote the album, that he had shed his trademark cornrows for a shorter, more serious-looking haircut. The album was divided into two sides, a raw and intense Release side and a quiet, thoughtful Therapy side. It won a Grammy award for best rap album in early 2007, and the first single, "Money Maker," a sexually frank dance track and Ludacris' first collaboration with the Neptunes since 2000, won the Grammy for best rap song.

In the track "War With God," Ludacris showed he could still brag with the best of his peers, talking back to rappers and journalists who he felt had disrespected him. "I'm the best and there's nothin' that you can do about it," he rapped. The serious songs on the album addressed issues such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "Do Your Time," about the pain of African-American men in prison, featured guest appearances by three rappers who had done time in prison, C-Murda, Pimp-C, and Bennie Segal. Ludacris declared on his website that he wrote the song to confront the fact that a large number of African-American men are in prison and to provoke thoughts about possible solutions. "Jail isn't something that should be celebrated," the site quoted him as saying. "There are so many black men in jail, and not all of them are guilty."

As the album came out, Ludacris began talking more openly about his daughter, Karma, then five years old. (However, he did not talk publicly about his romantic relationship.) "Runaway Love," with guest vocals from R&B star Mary J. Blige, told the stories of teens leaving their homes to escape abusive and troubled parents and stepparents. Ludacris said having a daughter made him think more about the problems some young women face. "Having a little girl has forced me to broaden my horizons when it comes to women," he said on his website. After the song came out, he began working with the National Network for Youth and the National Runaway Switchboard to let runaway teens know they could call the switchboard for help. Ludacris later told a reporter for Black Enterprise that the switchboard had seen a large increase in call volume after his work with the organization.

As writers took more stock of his serious side, they pointed to the Ludacris Foundation, a charitable organization whose president is Ludacris' mother, Roberta Shields. The foundation gave out $750,000 in charitable donations between 2001 and 2006. It donated 1,000 turkeys in the Atlanta area during the holiday season, organized visits with sick children in hospitals, and started a back-to-school program in 2006 that provided 200 students in Atlanta with shoes, haircuts, health screenings, and school supplies.

As 2007 began, Ludacris was expanding his horizons yet again, becoming more of a social activist. After meeting with U.S. Senator Barack Obama in November of 2006 about how to confront the spread of AIDS, Ludacris joined with the group YouthAIDS to publicize the risks of AIDS among teens. Meanwhile, he was also working on a teen drama for the cable station Nickelodeon's teen network, N. The show, Halls of Fame, will feature two students at a performing-arts school. Ludacris will have a recurring acting role and compose the theme song. Lu-dacris also made his second guest appearance on the TV show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, reprising the role he played in March of 2006 as the troubled criminal defendant nephew of a detective played by rap pioneer Ice-T.

Selected discography

Incognegro, Disturbing Tha Peace, 2000.
Back for the First Time, Def Jam, 2000.
Word of Mouf, Def Jam, 2001.
(With others, as part of Disturbing Tha Peace) Golden Grain, Def Jam, 2002.
Chicken -N- Beer, Def Jam, 2003.
The Red Light District, Def Jam, 2004.
(With others, as part of Disturbing Tha Peace) Disturbing tha Peace, Def Jam, 2005.
Release Therapy, Disturbing Tha Peace, 2006.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, October 25, 2003, p. 65; December 18, 2004, p. 13; December 11, 2005, p. 35.

Black Enterprise, May 2007, p. 144.

Boston Globe, March 5, 2004.

Ebony, August 2003, p. 26; October 2005, p. 210.

Entertainment Weekly, September 26, 2003, p. 59; October 24, 2003, p. 104.

Houston Chronicle, August 30, 2002.

Jet, December 11, 2006, p. 58.

Newsweek, December 6, 2004, p. 86.

People, November 3, 2003, p. 48; September 18, 2006, p. 81.

Rolling Stone, April 15, 2004, p. 157; January 26, 2006, p. 64; September 7, 2006, p. 32.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 2005, p. PK-34.

Online

"Biography," Def Jam, http://www.defjam.com/site/artist_bio.php?artist_id=308 (May 13, 2007).

"Chicken-N-Beer: Overview," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:wxfwxqualdhe (May 20, 2007).

"Ludacris: Biography," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:fxfuxq9kldte&sim;T1 (May 13, 2007).

"Ludacris returns to role on 'Law and Order: SVU,'" CTV.ca, www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/show/CTVShows/20070515.tif/ludacris_law_order_070515/20070515/ (May 20, 2007).

"Word of Mouf: Overview," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gxftxq80ldde (May 13, 2007).

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