Born Chris Bridges in 1977 in Chicago, IL. Addresses: Record company--Def Jam South Records, 1349 West Peachtree St. Northwest, Atlanta, GA 30309, website: http:://www.defjam.com. Website--Ludacris Official Website: http://www.defjam.com/ludacris/.
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 Ludacris's self-produced debut album as Back for the First Time, which sold more than two million copies. After appearing on the bill of OutKast's 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 managed 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 lunchtime 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, Bridges--now known as "Ludacris" as a play on his first name--won 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 it's who you know in the music industry that gets you put on--well, 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 rapper's 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, 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 Ludacris's 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 Ludacris's explicit sexual lyrics. "What's 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 don't want somebody that's just gonna be the same person all the time and not wanna try something new. It's all about, 'What can I do to make you happy?' Lemme go to certain lengths to get you excited and try something you've never tried before." Another single from the album, "Southern Hospitality," pays homage to Ludacris's "Dirty South" roots.
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 I'm 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, I'm probably gonna have a song called 'Hoesband.' Husbands are hoes, y'know. So I'll redeem myself, if women are thinkin' I'm 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 there's 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 Elliott's "One Minute Man," and "Gossip Folks," Mariah Carey's "Loverboy," and Jagged Edge's "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 it's 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."
Ludacris's 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 rapper's 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. "It's not exactly the most sophisticated rap album of the year--especially if you compare him to hometown contemporaries OutKast--and it pretty much covers the same ground as 2000's 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 Timesreview of Word of Mouf, writing, "Ludacris stuffs so many pop culture references into his work that you're 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, they'll never become banal." Most critics agreed on the quality of Word of Mouf's standout track, "Saturday Night (Oooh Oooh!)," which Q4music.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 Billboard's Hot 100.
by Timothy Borden
Released debut album Incognegro, 2000; first artist signed to Def Jam South Records, 2000; released Word of Mouf, 2001; toured with OutKast, 2001.
- Selected discography
- Incognegro , Disturbing tha Peace, 2000.
- Back for the First Time , Def Jam South, 2000.
- Word of Mouf , Def Jam South, 2001.
February 13, 2005: Ludacris shared the Grammy Award for best rap/sung collaboration for "Yeah!" with Lil Jon and Usher. Source: Grammys.com, www.grammys.com/awards/grammy/47winners, February 14, 2005.
August 28, 2005: Ludacris won the MTV Video Music Award for best rap video, for Number One Spot. Source: Yahoo! News, http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050829/ap_on_en_mu/mtv_awards_list_2, August 29, 2005.
- 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.
- 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).