Ludacris started rapping at the age of 9 and always had his eyes set on rising to the top. As an adult, he worked at a local radio show in Atlanta in order to get his foot in the door. In addition to hosting parties as well as segments, he eventually saved enough money to fund his albums.
In the early 2000s, he started to establish himself as one of the best artists in the South by giving himself a proper push. He dropped coveted albums like Word Of Mouf (2001) Chicken-N-Beer (2003) and Release Therapy (2006), all while simultaneously building his acting career. He secured roles in productions like Fast & Furious, Crash and Hustle & Flow. Overall, Ludacris has built a strong reputation of being a thoroughbred entertainer, which is highlighted throughout the entirety of this three-hour-plus conversation.
1. On Atlanta’s rap scene
As an OG who parted a path for newer rappers to walk through, Ludacris chimed in on Atlanta’s dominance in the rap game over the last decade. “It amazes me since I started because I come from the Goodie Mobs and the Outkasts — they paved the way for me. So after all this time, in retrospect, seeing what has happened over all that time and just Atlanta artists working together, just the camaraderie and everybody becoming a powerhouse…” Ludacris began, “When you do these records together and you see that they continue to climb these charts all this time later, it feels f**king amazing. And I don’t feel like it’s going anywhere.”
2. On his favorite acting role
Ludacris’ filmography is lengthy. Over the last 20 years, the award-winning actor has been in over two dozen movies. When tasked with declaring his favorite role of all time, he said, “The role in Crash is the favorite role I’ve ever played, to be completely honest with you.” In the production, which won Best Picture at the 78th Academy Awards, Ludacris played Anthony and co-starred among other A-list thespians such as Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard and Larenz Tate.
3. On the late John Singleton
According to Ludacris, legendary director and screenwriter John Singleton originally reached out to Ja Rule to reprise his role in the Fast & Furious franchise. However, after the New York rapper declined the opportunity, Ludacris took the spot. He mentioned how the late director also recruited him for Hustle & Flow and went on to discuss Singleton’s impact: “He took Ice Cube and he put him in Boyz n the Hood, he’s taken Tyrese [Gibson] and put him in Baby Boy. So he takes people from the music world, notices a talent in them and then literally puts them in movies. Next thing you know, [it] catapults to a whole other level of their lives. Iconic. So may he rest in peace. I’m forever grateful, forever thankful.”
4. On some of his biggest hits
Throughout the conversation, Ludacris gave away a solid amount of insight on some of his catalog standouts. For “Stand Up,” he saluted Kanye West’s production: “Producers, sometimes, you don’t see these muthaf**kas touching electronic equipment in person. It was literally just me, Kanye and the engineer and that muthaf**ka made that beat in like five minutes on a godd**n [Ensoniq] ASR-10 keyboard, by himself,” he said. “Soon as I heard that s**t, I knew it was a hit.” Luda also declared “Move B**ch” as the “greatest record of all time.”
The rapper also got into the story of how “Lovers and Friends” came about with Usher and Lil Jon after the success of “Yeah!,” a track off of Usher’s Confessions. “Me and Jon showed up for Usher’s show down here in Miami… and this n**ga Usher was like, ‘N**ga I got another one,’” he recalled. “So I was like, ‘Word let me hear that s**t.’ So before he goes on stage, they let me hear it and I’m like, ‘We out of here, again. On a whole other level.’”
When “Pimpin’ All Over the World” came up in the discussion, Ludacris praised the sonic contributions of Polow da Don and revealed a hidden feature on the track. “Keri Hilson wrote that hook,” he noted. “That was one of those records that he sent to me, and I already knew what it was.”
He even went on about later hits such as “How Low” from his 2010 album Battle of the Sexes. “At that stage in my career, to make a statement with a new producer and come out with a f**king hit, it means something. Because you constantly have to prove yourself over and over again,” he voiced. “To just come out of the gate like that, it meant everything and that s**t went to the top of the charts too.”
“My Chick Bad” also came up as a talking point, so he continued, “Same album as ‘How Low’ and taking a producer that was definitely well-known in the midwest and Chicago: [The Legendary] Traxster. But, in terms of putting him onto a bigger audience and making a hit with him, that was another moment.” Ludacris also spoke about how Nicki Minaj got on the song: “She was in Atlanta [at] the time. I believe she was managed by Debra Anteny, same as Gucci Mane. And somehow we got together. And she was just like, she loved the track and got that muthaf**ka, man.”
5. On winning Best Rap Album at the Grammys
Ludacris’ sixth studio album Release Therapy took home a Grammy award in 2007 for Best Rap Album, beating out Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, The Roots’ Game Theory, Pharrell Williams’ In My Mind and T.I.’s King. In the conversation, the rapper opened up about the intention behind finally securing that win after losing many nominations. “When they called my f**king name bro, that did it for me,” he remembered. “It was like over a decade of loss and then finally getting that recognition. And then Best Rap Album at that, which you already know is hard as f**k, and then they weren’t really giving the rap category what they needed.”
6. On lyricists who inspired him
The Atlanta-based rapper has established himself as one of the South’s premiere lyricists. When asked about other acts who influenced his pen game, he said, “I think definitely Redman, I said LL Cool J made me wanna rap, definitely Outkast. I definitely wanna say Common Sense was another muthaf**ka that I love. So, that’s just to name a few. Those are the ones that shaped and molded me.” Later on, he added Scarface to the mix as someone who contributed to his lyrical ability.
7. On signing Chingy
Surrounding the success of “Right Thurr,” Ludacris signed Chingy to his record label, Disturbing Tha Peace Records. In the interview, he spoke about why he recruited the St. Louis rapper and showed love to his longtime manager Chaka Zulu for putting him on. “Chaka was really the one who spearheaded that entire movement and situation,” the platinum-selling rapper said. “When that song was out, we knew it was good and we just wanted to help catapult it to a whole other level.”
8. On rappers who have the most creative music videos
The iconic music video for “Rollout (My Business)” was almost scrapped by Def Jam Recordings back in the day until Ludacris and Zulu came up with the idea to turn the rapper into a bobblehead. That knack for being creative is why Luda is respected among fans for having some of the best visuals.
When N.O.R.E. asked him if he thought he was one of the top five in making music videos, Ludacris responded, “Hell yeah, 100 percent. You gotta put Missy [Elliott] in there, you gotta put Busta [Rhymes] in there. Who the other two are? I don’t know but I’m in that muthaf**king top five” he said. Ludacris went on to cosign the video for Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” as one of the best he’s seen in recent times.
9. On the Def Jam Vendetta video game
Def Jam Vendetta is arguably the best rap-related video game to ever exist. The roster of Def Jam Recordings at the time, which included Ludacris and N.O.R.E., made up the main pool of characters. Luda’s character, a member of D-Mob’s Crew and tough matchup, was equipped with the Blazin’ Moves Throw Dem Bows, Ludacrisification and Stand Up, which all established him as one of the most difficult players to go up against.
When asked about his memory of the creation, the award-winning rapper said, “I [have] been trying to work out my whole life to get my stature to the way it is in f*king Def Jam Vendetta.” The wrestling game continued for a few more iterations, but ultimately came to an end. Though his character was still available to play with in Def Jam Fight for NY and Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover, Ludacris revealed that he declined to participate in the following features because he wasn’t being compensated properly.