Born Christopher Bridges on September 11, 1977, in Champaign, IL, Ludacris moved to Atlanta during his high school years and attended Banneker High School there. He then studied at Georgia State University. His entry into the rap industry came via radio; he worked as a disc jockey at Atlanta-based urban station Hot 97.5 (which later became Hot 107.9), where he was known as DJ Chris Lova Lova, and this was how he became acquainted with Timbaland. The producer featured Ludacris (then billed as Ludichris) on the song 'Fat Rabbit' from his album Tim's Bio (1998), and with such a high-profile feature to his credit, the groundwork was laid for the rapper. Ludacris proceeded to record an independent album, Incognegro (2000), which he in turn released regionally himself, on the label Disturbing tha Peace. Ludacris primarily worked with producer Shondrae for the album, though also with Organized Noize, the acclaimed production team behind the early albums of OutKast and Goodie Mob. Incognegro sold well enough to break into the Billboard 200, and Ludacris was approached by Scarface of the Geto Boys, who as a representative of Def Jam was interested in negotiating a recording contract.
In late 2000, Def Jam repackaged Incognegro and released it as Back for the First Time, adding a few new songs: a U.G.K. collaboration ('Stick 'Em Up'), a Neptunes production ('Southern Hospitality'), and a remix of his previously released song with Timbaland (retitled 'Phat Rabbit'). The album's lead single, 'What's Your Fantasy?', became a major hit nationally, peaking at number 21 on the Hot 100, and the follow-up single, 'Southern Hospitality', was similarly popular, charting at number 23. This pair of hits helped drive sales of Back for the First Time, which climbed all the way to number four on the Billboard 200.
The follow-up album, Word of Mouf (2001), was an even greater success for Ludacris, charting at number three and spawning a series of hit singles that carried over well into 2002: 'Area Codes', 'Rollout (My Business)', 'Saturday (Oooh Oooh!)', 'Welcome to Atlanta', and 'Move Bitch'. After these singles had run their course, a collaborative album, Golden Grain (2002), was released, showcasing the assembly of talent signed to Ludacris' revived Disturbing tha Peace label, which was now in partnership with Def Jam. The following year was a busy one for Ludacris, as he appeared in the film 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) and released his third album, Chicken -N- Beer (2003), his first to reach number one on the Billboard 200. Chicken -N- Beer brought with it another series of hits, including the Hot 100 number one 'Stand Up' and number six 'Splash Waterfalls'.
Ludacris continued his output the following year, with The Red Light District (2004), another number one album loaded with hit singles ('Get Back', 'Number One Spot, 'Pimpin' All Over the World'). Disturbing tha Peace (2005), a second collaborative album featuring the label's roster of talent, was Ludacris' only release for the year, and he kept a relatively low profile until the release of Release Therapy (2006), an introspective album on which he vowed that he would be taken more seriously than in the past. Another chart-topper, Release Therapy included only two Hot 100-charting singles, yet both were smashes: 'Money Maker' (number one), 'Runaway Love' (number two). In 2007, Ludacris got a lot of airplay as the featured guest on Fergie's number one hit 'Glamorous'.
A year later a mixtape with DJ Drama called The Preview preceded the November release of Theater of the Mind. The long list of guest stars included director Spike Lee and comedian/actor Chris Rock. His 2010 effort Battles of the Sexes was originally planned as a joint release with Shawnna, but when the female rapper left the DTP family, it became a solo Ludacris album.
Words: Jason Birchmeier
Ludacris' second album for Def Jam, Word of Mouf, is a superstar affair that aims for mass appeal with a broad array of different styles. Nearly every track features some sort of collaborator, either hitmaking producers like Timbaland and Organized Noize, big-name rappers like Mystikal and Twista, hook-singing crooners like Nate Dogg and Jagged Edge, or fellow Disturbing tha Peace group members I-20, Shawnna, Lil' Fate, and Tity Boi -- and sometimes a combinations of these various ingredients. The resulting album is surely impressive, propelled by lively production, colorful guests, and an omnipresent touch of humor. More hilarious than before, Ludacris lightens his lyrical style here, leaving behind much of thuggishness that had characterized his previous album, Back for the First Time, in favor of witty puns and sly innuendoes. A particularly humorous highlight is the previously released (on the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack) single "Area Codes," a tongue-twisting, good-spirited Jazze Pha production. Less humorous though likewise standout is the lead single, "Rollout (My Business)," a rallying Timbaland production with a simple yet inescapable hook. Other highlights include the Organized Noize-produced booty-shaker "Saturday (Oooh Oooh!)," the Jagged Edge-sung "Freaky Thangs," and the Beats by the Pound-esque posse track "Move Bitch." There's also a hidden bonus track here that's likewise an explosive collaboration, the Jermaine Dupri-led "Welcome to Atlanta." There are a lot of highlights here; however, amid all of these various team-ups you do lose a little bit of the sincere, personal edge that had characterized much of Ludacris' debut. Even so, it's overall a worthy exchange, since there's something here on Word of Mouf for everyone, signaling Ludacris' leap from the Dirty South underground to the pop-rap mass market.
Words: Jason Birchmeier
If it seems odd that an album as bravado-filled, trash-talking, and schoolboy horny as this one comes with the title Battle of the Sexes, perhaps it can be explained as a leftover title from what was originally planned as a joint release from Ludacris and his DTP protégé, Shawnna. After the album’s better half left the project -- along with the DTP family -- the title was never readjusted, and there are further confusing traces of the original concept, such as the “us vs. them” intro, which opens an album that’s almost entirely “us.” Still, quality control is less important than titillation when it comes to the porno-style album, and Battle of the Sexes delivers on that level. Redd Foxx-like ideas, such as making limbo instructions sound especially nasty (“How Low”) or having fun with the Tiger Woods sex scandal ("Sexting"), are coupled with safe and slick beats from the likes of the Runners, Swizz Beatz, and the Legendary Traxster. Luda is inspired enough to drop at least one belly laugh-worthy punch line per track, while the numerous guests are, at worst, on point, and at best (that would be Nicki Minaj), on fire. The less-sexed “Everybody Drunk” barely fits into the mold, but it’s still a party time highlight, and when you add the very R. Kelly-esque “Sex Room,” plus Lil' Kim getting vicious on “Hey Ho,” you’ve got more prime material than expected. The album is limited and a little patched together, but if cheap thrills are what you’re after, this one puts the dirty back in the dirty south.
Words: David Jeffries
When Def Jam signed Ludacris in 2000, the Atlanta rapper had already released a regionally successful independent album (Incognegro) with a hot single ("What's Your Fantasy"). So rather than send Ludacris back into the studio to record a follow-up album, Def Jam chose to repackage Incognegro as Back for the First Time (the title a play on the re-released nature of the music) and append some new material. The decision proved wise. Incognegro had been a strong album debut, produced largely by talented newcomer Shondrae, along with Organized Noize (who produce "Game Got Switched") and Jermaine Dupri ("Get Off Me"), and featuring a roster of hungry underground rappers (I-20, Fat Wilson, Shawnna, Pastor Troy, 4-Ize). Plus, "What's Your Fantasy" was already a proven hit, if perhaps too explicit for mainstream radio play. The real difference between Incognegro and Back for the First Time, however, is the newly recorded material -- four songs, each a standout: the Neptunes-produced club-banger "Southern Hospitality," the previously released Timbaland-produced "Phat Rabbit," the rowdy U.G.K.-featuring "Stick 'Em Up," and the provocative Trina and Foxy Brown remix of "What's Your Fantasy." The most significant of these additions is "Southern Hospitality," a feel-good party song that -- sequenced late in the album, at track 14 -- comes as a pleasant relief after the proceeding up-from-the-underground hardcore tone of Incognegro/Back for the First Time.
Words: Jason Birchmeier
Audacious on his rhymes and indulgent with his appetites, Ludacris may flaunt the cartoonish side of his personality, but he isn't just another unreconstructed Southern rapper. Chicken -N- Beer, his third album (to go along with dozens of guest spots), shows a rapper balancing the weed, women, and fried chicken with shots at those who've crossed him and a look at a few celebrity perils, delivered with his lightning-quick phrasing and cutting wit. That he's able to harness all this to his usual rollicking, all-in-good-fun persona is a testament to the best rapper in the business, one of the few who's actually celebrating something -- and having a great time doing it. The steamy sex rap "Stand Up" may be the hit single, but most of the highlights here come toward the end, where Luda invites friends and family for some uproarious tracks -- producer Erick Sermon on the surrealist dozens of "Hip Hop Quotables," Snoop Dogg on a hilarious tale of the night after the show, "Hoes in My Room" (as in "Who let these hoes in my room?"), and Disturbing tha Peace partners Chingy, I-20, and Tity Boi on the hardcore gunshot "We Got." Ludacris also has a response for the doubters, on the first full track ("Blow It Out"), proclaiming, "If you mad I'm on top, then wish me gone/If you mad I'm on the road, then wish me home/And if you mad that I'm right, punk, wish me wrong/But after your third wish, blow it out your ass." And, as expected, he gets in a few digs at Bill O'Reilly, the FOX News personality who objected to him as a "thug rapper" when hired for a Pepsi ad campaign (apparently, O'Reilly is the culprit behind "Hoes in My Room"). He may not be ready for that Pepsi spot (much less a shot at prime time), but Ludacris made the best record of his career with Chicken -N- Beer.
Words: John Bush
Ludacris' never-ending run of guest verses rolled on through 2004 (for better or worse), as did the hit singles from 2003's Chicken -n- Beer. He still managed to find the time to come out with The Red Light District, an album with content that rarely reflects the illicit-sounding title. There's nothing as squalid as "Splash Waterfalls," for instance -- the low point of the MC's career, regardless of chart success -- and yet, at the same time, there's nothing as immense as "Stand Up," and there isn't anything quite as ferocious as "Southern Fried Intro/Blow It Out." Bragging, boasting, clowning around, getting high, dispersing words of wisdom -- these are the overriding themes. Ludacris is more relaxed than ever, his mix of off-the-wall wisecracks and lofty proclamations established immediately after the intro. No other MC could rattle off a stream of Austin Powers riffs without sounding corny, which he duly proves over Green Lantern's apt spin-cycle treatment of Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova": "Causin' lyrical disasters, it's the master/Make music for Mini-Mes, models, and Fat Bastards/These women trying to get me out my Pelle Pelles/They strip off my clothes and tell me, 'Get in my belly!'/Stay on the track, hit the ground running like Flo Jo/Sit back in time and never lost my mojo." Luda hasn't slipped into the complacent lap of luxury as deeply as some of his fellow platinum contemporaries, but it's evident that he's not as hungry as he once was. A handful of top-level productions help make up for this, such as the Medicine Men's sufficiently rowdy work on "Get Back," Timbaland's tribal/safari-like backdrop on "The Potion" (one of his most radical productions since Ms. Jade's "Big Head," with owl hoots and wild-bird caws in place of synth notes and percussion accents), and L.T. Moe's squirting/jingling loose-booty funk on "Spur of the Moment" (which could be mistaken for a DJ Quik track, especially since he MCs on it).
Words: Andy Kellman
Calling its guest vocalist co-stars and kicking-off with a "the movie's about to begin" intro, Ludacris' Theater of the Mind is dressed-up as some conceptual piece but this hodgepodge of high-gloss tracks just barely sticks together. While his previous effort, 2006's Release Therapy, was much more the thematically tight album and deserved a concept, this loose set of tunes is all-together more entertaining, thanks in no small part to a highly inspired Luda and all the punch lines he lands. Most are unquotable jokes that sound nothing but filthy when taken out of context -- especially the one about rappers so full of something they end up "rhyming in farts" -- but the superstar team-up with T.I. called "Wish You Would" boasts about "So many shoes that my closet look like Finish Line" and brings other reminders of "Pimpin' All Over the World" and its unashamed vision that wealth equals victory. Speaking of reminders, "Call Up the Homies" is a slower version of "the gather up the crew" number with Luda and special guest the Game trading lines in the style of 50 Cent and Eminem's "Gattman and Robbin'," or Snoop Dogg and B Real's "Vato." The only innovation on the track is the working in of Willy Northpole, a new hire at Luda's DTP label who has his international debut ushered in by giants. The whole Luda universe -- a place where albums are now just part of the picture -- gets involved as Hollywood weaves in and out, and a Chris Rock routine that questions the rapper's appearance at the Oscar's is brilliantly flipped into the self-deprecating "Everybody Hates Chris." Ving Rhames doing the James Earl Jones thing, the Floyd Mayweather appearance, and Don Cannon's Edwin Starr meets karate film production on "Undisputed" are other amazing moments, and while the Lil Wayne, T-Pain, and Chris Brown collaborations are all completely unsurprising, they all come with rock-solid hooks. Tacked on the end is a genuine and moving wake-up call where Luda, Common, and Spike Lee ask the urban youth to leave the 40s and the cocaine game behind. "I see the sunshine/Gazing through the windowpane/Blazing like indo flame" is how Luda sells a better life to the kids, proving this very smart, smart aleck may not be as hungry as six albums back, he's hardly a sellout on autopilot.
Words: David Jeffries
Maybe it's the new haircut, maybe it's the budding acting career, or maybe it's just the inevitable step toward maturity that an artist takes after six years of making records, because there's definitely something on Ludacris' fifth release for Def Jam, that makes him move away from the funnier rhymes that made him famous and toward something that's trying to be a little more meaningful. Release Therapy, which, according to Luda, is supposed to be divided into a "release" and a "therapy" side, begins with club-friendly songs about money and getting it on (and often the two are interconnected). "End of the Night," with Bobby V., sits nicely between being a slow jam and a dancefloor track, while "Girls Gone Wild" is about everything the rapper is, wants, and can do for women, and has him spitting, "Just figured out that I'm ahead of my time/With a flow so fast I'm ahead of my rhyme/You clock is off-beat, better set it to mine" (which are about the only non-X-rated lines from the track). "Money Maker," the album's first single, features a bouncy hook from Pharrell (who also, with Chad Hugo, provides the beat) and, while it's fun and catchy, is probably the first time Luda sounds like he was trying really hard to make something fun and catchy. Maybe this is to offset the rather serious nature of the second half of the record, which finds the rapper addressing depression (in "Slap," where he sings, "I know it's strange but my brain's gone really insane/And I'm off the chain, sipping on a fifth of the golden grain," and criticizes Bush and senseless violence, among other things) and the importance supporting friends in jail ("Do Your Time"). He even tackles violence against women in "Runaway Love," which features Mary J. Blige and a pretty, melancholic beat from Polow (who most recently gave the world Fergie's "London Bridge"), and while this is a fairly normal underground Hip Hop theme, it's nice to see a new side to Luda.
Words: Marisa Brown
This album is another solid album for 2005 and showcases most of the DTP roster and i say most because Bobby V is only on 1 song and Shawnna only has 1 song.The single "Georgia"is one of the better songs on the album however not the best."Family Affairs"is a classic song that showcases pretty much the whole roster.Smoke of Field Mob is a great lyricist and stands out on this album along side the General Ludacris."Put Your Hands Up", "Break A N**** Off" and Shawnna's solo effort "Gettin Some Head" are all great songs and are the standouts on the album however there isn't 1 song on the album that is bad.Im not feeling the last track with LazyEye but its not all that bad.This album is one of the best of 2005 and shows that DTP may be the strong clique in the near future although i have yet to hear an artist on the roster that can become a big hit and go platinum with the exception of Ludacris and Bobby Valentino but only time will tell!!
Words: Danno Omen