Ludacris is a rapper and actor from Atlanta, Georgia, known for his boisterous lyrics and "Dirty South" sound. He made his mainstream breakthrough in 2000 with his second album, Back for the First Time, and has since become a label boss, restaurateur and philanthropist, while still releasing music. He is also a regular in the Fast and the Furious film franchise. What marks out Ludacris as an innovator is his comedic flow, peppered with punchlines — a style that fits his chosen stage name perfectly.
Finding His Voice in Atlanta
He was born Christopher Brian Bridges in Champaign, Illinois, on September 11, 1977, the only child of college students Roberta and Wayne. His parents split when he was young — although he remained close to both — and he moved to Atlanta with his mom around the age of 12. He had been rapping since the age of nine, and before the move to Atlanta was a member of a childhood group, the Loudmouth Hooligans. Times were tough for the teenage Bridges and his mom, but he credits her for being strict with him to ensure he stayed in school and studied hard.
Ludacris had his first brush with stardom in 1998 with a guest verse on Timbaland’s debut album — Tim’s Bio: Life from Da Bassment — rhyming on the track "Phat Rabbit." He was already recording his debut album, Incognegro, with production from Jermaine Dupri, Bangladesh and Organized Noize, which he released independently on his own Disturbing Tha Peace label in May 2000. Much of the material on the album would be repackaged for his major label debut, Back for the First Time, after he was signed to Def Jam South in 2000, including the hit single "What’s Your Fantasy." The song was remixed for the new album, with additional guest verses from Trina and Foxy Brown, while the second single, the Neptunes-produced and Pharrell-featuring "Southern Hospitality," was another new addition. The album reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200, eventually selling more than 3 million copies. Rolling Stone picked up on Ludacris' lively rap style, calling him “that rare brand of rapper who shows you his skills as much as he tells you about them.”
'Word of Mouf' Spreads, Pepsi Controversy
Ludacris kept the charge going in 2001 with his next album, Word of Mouf. Its lead single, "Rollout (My Business)," was nominated for a Grammy and followed up by three more singles. Collaborations with Nate Dogg and Twista made the album a lively affair that racked up more than 3 million sales in the U.S. alone. Critics again singled out Ludacris’ verbal dexterity, with the Los Angeles Times praising him for keeping "the laughs coming, injecting some sort of humor into nearly every line of the 19 songs.”
Ludacris showcased the artists signed to his DTP label on his 2002 compilation Golden Grain, including a then-unknown MC called Tity Boi who would later go on to find fame as 2 Chainz. Ludacris struck an advertising deal with Pepsi around this time, which erupted into minor scandal when the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly called for a boycott of the drink for choosing someone who used obscene lyrics. Pepsi subsequently dropped Ludacris, but after action by Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, the company eventually agreed to make $3 million in donations to urban charities.
'Chicken-n-Beer' Goes to No. 1
The following year saw even greater success for Ludacris with the release of Chicken-n-Beer. The album sold more than 400,000 copies in its first week and was later propelled by hit singles "Splash Waterfalls" and "Stand Up," the latter a club banger produced by Kanye West. Chicken-n-Beer topped the US Billboard Hot 100, giving Ludacris his first No. 1 album.
Acting in the 'Fast & the Furious' Franchise
That same year, Ludacris starred as Tej Parker in 2 Fast 2 Furious, the sequel to The Fast and the Furious. According to its director, John Singleton, Ludacris was cast in 2002 after fellow rapper Ja Rule, who was in the original movie, “got too big for himself” and turned it down. Ludacris would also go on to appear in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth installments of the series, and has many other TV and film credits to his name.
Nas and DMX were among the guests on The Red Light District in 2004, another No. 1 album. Ludacris received his first Grammy award in 2005 — having been previously nominated more than a dozen times — for "Yeah!," a collaboration with Usher. Ludacris would pick up two more Grammys in 2007, for his single "Money Maker" and album Release Therapy. His first concept album, it interspersed party and dance tracks with more reflective and political moments although maintaining, as The New Yorker concluded, “a concise demonstration of his midnight-blue humor and bumptious oratory.”
Latest Albums and Personal Life
While his later albums — Theater of the Mind in 2008, Battle of the Sexes in 2010 and Ludaversal in 2015 — show a decline in both sales and productivity, much of this is down to Ludacris’ focus on other aspects of his career, including acting and philanthropy. He opened a Chicken-n-Beer restaurant at the Atlanta airport at the end of 2016 and has a stake in Conjure Cognac. His Ludacris Foundation is more than 10 years old and focuses on community outreach to youth.
In 2014 Ludacris married Gabonese model Eudoxie Mbouguiengue, and they have a daughter, Cadence Gaelle. He has three other daughters from previous relationships — Cai Bella Bridges, Karma Bridges and Shaila Scott.
(Profile photo of Ludacris by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
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