Chris Bridges was born on Sept 11, 1976, in Atlanta, Ga. In May 2000, under the name Ludacris, he recorded his debut album, Incognegro. After signing with Def Jam South, the album was remixed by producers Jermaine Dupri and Timbaland, among others, and released as Back for the First Time; he has since become one of the best-selling rappers in the world. On Wednesday afternoon, Ludacris talked to Max Abelson and a handful of other college students about hip-hop, Napster, and poultry. His new album, Chicken and Beer, is out Oct 7.
scene: What up, Ludacris?
Ludacris: What up, man?
So what makes your new album different from your previous ones?
Well, practice makes perfect. As time goes on, I feel I get better and better. I’m in another chapter of my life; I’m more versatile. Like I tell stories, which I’ve never done before. It’s the same Ludacris that satisfied the core fans, but I’m innovating. That’s what music is all about: being innovative, staying the same person but being different.
Is there any particular inspiration for the new album?
You mean the title of the album? It’s Chicken and Beer. Out Oct 7. [Laughs]
No, I mean is there anything special that motivated you?
Nothing particular, I’m just a self-motivator. Music is about emotion. Some songs are based on where I’m at in my life right now, but some are about trying to have fun or women. I can talk about how life can be hard sometimes, or about my life story.
What sort of music influenced you?
LL Cool J and Scarface, let me see, definitely Jay-Z.
You’re on Def Jam’s Southern label. How would do you think southern rap is different from east or west coast hip-hop?
It’s got a sound of its own, especially when it comes to emotion. It’s really, really aggressive, it can motivate me to damn near punch someone. You also hear a lot more instrumentation most of the time.
How do you see yourself separating from the Atlanta scene?
What sets me apart from southern rap, and everyone else [pause] I feel like I’m the most versatile MC out there. Doing collabos shows my versatility. Fast, slow, women, laugh, cry, I can do it all. Over time I’m starting to drill that into everyone’s brain. I want to be the most versatile.
Russell Simmons, who co-founded Def Jam, is getting involved in changing the ridiculously harsh New York state drug laws. What do you think about his political work?
I think to each his own, and he’s doing real good job. He’s a family man, he’s a father, and he’s making a difference. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got into politics. Man, he could be mayor or President. (Laughs) Yeah. He’s putting down groundwork for making a difference.
Do you think you’ll leave the rap game, and pursue the business world?
It’s way too early in my career to even consider an answer to that question. I’m nowhere near thinking about it.
What about promoting other acts?
Well Chingy [“Right Thurrr”] is just the first one to break out, but there’s a lot more coming. We’re working on young rappers all the time.
Are you moving closer to being an actor?
Having an acting career and being a rapper, balancing the two is kinda crazy, but at the same time, I take both seriously. I like focusing on one at a time.
What do you love about hip-hop?
I love that it changes everyday: you have to keep yourself afloat in order to stay grounded in it. You don’t have to change as an individual, but you have to change with the times as far as music is considered.
What do you think the rap industry is doing to help the whole music business bounce back from its problems with peer-to-peer music traders?
You mean on the Internet?
Well hip-hop music is the number one seller right now. The way they’re trying to handle the problem with lawsuits, in my eyes, I think it’ll be a benefit because it’s really out there. There should be a good outcome, especially because now the artists are going to get paid. But with the free downloads for new artists, it’s good and bad, because they get exposure but no money.
So what was the best part of being at the MTV Video Music Awards the other night?
I guess the normal answer is the kiss [laughs] between Madonna and Britney. But Mary J. Blige, man, every time she performs she really puts her heart into it. It’s heartfelt no matter what song, or from what album, she gives 110 percent, and that’s hard for an R&B artist. To exert that kind of energy and to sing with that wonderful voice at the same time, I just have to give it up to her.
At the BET Award Show you were hyping an earlier release date. Wasn’t it supposed to be in September?
They pushed it back one week, man; it’s being smart as a record label. It’s being smart, just smart marketing, man. It’s nothing bad, it’s all good; first of the month, instead of the last week, or whatever. It’s that and other key record company things.
How do you think your experience at Georgia State affected you? Did you learn about the record industry?
To be real with you, I didn’t graduate, I had to leave college because of my career. I learned a lot about music management so far as marketing and things like that. But being at a radio station [Hot 97] taught me more about the industry than college, because of the experience. But I think college is important in helping you to think like yourself and as an individual.
So how do you like your chicken and beer?
Mmm– Fried. But I eat two meals of chicken a day, man. Fried, rotisserie, baked, grilled. But beer, you don’t have to have it a certain way, just brewed [laughs hard].
So what’s your favorite beer?
Well, right now, I’m working on three different endorsement deals, so ask me again in a few weeks.
I’m having some chicken and beer right now. Do you want some?
What? [Laughs] Oh, that’s funny. Yes I would.
Alright, last question: What would you like to tell Bill O’Reilly [who called for a boycott of Pepsi because the foul-mouthed Ludacris was its spokesman]?
I’d say: Buy the album. But I handled him in a very intelligent way. I say his name in two songs on the new album. Like this: Shout out to Bill O’Reilly, throw you a curve. You’re mad cause I’m a thief, I got away with words. For the rest you’re going to have to buy the album.