There is something happening in the life of Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. You could sense it as he strolled into our Midtown Atlanta photo studio to shoot his exclusive rolling out cover. When the talented rapper-actor sat down for his interview, his passion for the host of upcoming projects — Furious 7 in theaters April 3, and his long-awaited album Ludaversal — he edged to the front of his seat, as if that singular move would help him get his point across that much faster. The enthusiasm was appreciated, and the love for his work was palpable.
Here’s an inside look at our time with Ludacris, in the moments leading up to his two major releases both in film and music.
You’ve been promoting your new album really hard lately, and your excitement is evident in your voice. It feels like you haven’t been this excited in a long time.
This is the longest time I’ve taken between albums. It’s been four, almost five years. Of course, when shooting movies the number one stereotype is when rappers start shooting movies and take all this time off, they don’t rap the same. So, this album is to prove to you that I’m still hungry, and never forgot where I came from. I think all the aggression and the tone is 100 percent matching up and it’s believable. I tell you, this album is incredible. It’s kind of like a rebirth. It’s getting back to the basics, and it’s just me beasting out on every single song. It’s going to be crazy!
So what is the source of the aggression? Is it just that you’ve been hungry to release something new, or is it to silence the critics and naysayers?
The source of the aggression is literally because I feel like I have something to prove — not only to everybody [else], but I have to prove it to myself. I have to prove that I will destroy any rapper that you think is the best out there, and still come with an entire album with content from beginning to end. We are in a climate where people are back to loving just the creativity of it and not so much paying attention to every single element when it comes to how many radio spins you get, or how much this [or that] you have, or how much bling you have; it’s all about the music right now.
There is so much that has changed in the music industry since your last album. How different is the landscape now?
The landscape is a hell of a lot different. I dropped seven consecutive albums where I kind of had to take a backseat and chill out for a second and live some life, to sit back and get some inspiration and some motivation, to come back and do it all over again. Because I think I owed it to my fans not to just continue doing the same thing over and over again, so the best way to describe this album is the old Luda mixed with the new Luda. But, yeah music has changed and what’s keeping me afloat is me staying hungry and passionate and staying very, very competitive, not only with the people that [have] been in the game as long as me, but all the newcomers as well.
You appear to keep a small circle. Why do you think it’s important for you to have the right kind of people in your ear?
I keep a small circle because it’s kind of the evolution of what happens in the industry. The Burning Bridges EP is an example of me saying, “my circle got smaller, but my vision got larger.” You start seeing people’s motives that are around you and you can only trust so many individuals when you get to this level of the game. So the higher you climb, the less weight you’re trying to carry.
Let’s talk about the new film, Furious 7. Describe the passion that the fan base has for this booming franchise.
When I first did 2 Fast 2 Furious, I had no idea that it would make it this big and get to sequel seven with it still keeping its integrity. Most of the time, the stereotypes of movies are that they get worse and worse every sequel. This one seems to be getting better, and I can’t thank the fans enough. I am humbled to be a part of this franchise. I think a lot of it has to do with the family [aspect] in each and every film, and, of course, car culture, and the love for a great theatrical experience. We have different characters that everyone can identify with, and to be honest, a lot of it is just escapism with people living vicariously through us.
What was it like coming back to the set after you guys took a hiatus?
Man, it was extremely difficult coming back on set after Paul’s [Walker] death. Everybody had their own mourning process and when we did finally start production back, [there] was a lot of prayer and a lot of us coming together and saying we need to finish this film in his honor, and be as strong as possible because he didn’t finish 80 percent of this film of no reason.
We’ve witnessed your growth as an actor. What has that process been like? Do you have an acting coach?
That process is a constant learning experience. Man, you know I feel like I always have room to grow and improve. I’ve never had an acting coach, but I can say that it’s not something that I would disagree with, if it were to come in the future. But, I just think the best teacher for me has come with experience and just being able to talk to directors and the people I’m doing the scenes with, and making things organic and doing the best that I possibly can.
What is one mistake that you have learned from while transitioning back and forth between Hollywood and the music industry?
Let’s just say I will never wait four years to put out an album again. You know what I mean? It’s about momentum; it’s about continuing to remind people what type of great music you can put out, and at the end of the day, the attention span of people is really short nowadays because everyone is throwing out music. So, I’m here and I want to continue to compete.
Music has changed from the standpoint of artists going into the studio to make a classic album, as opposed to now just focusing on making something for the club.
Yeah, that’s not me. I went completely against the grain on this album. I made something I wanted fans to be able to listen to content wise from beginning to end. I wanted to give something that has cohesiveness to it. I think that’s what people are gravitating more toward as opposed to saying I need to make this kind of record, or this particular type of record. Nah, it’s about putting together a great body of work.
Who were some of your favorite people you enjoyed working with on this record?
Man, Usher … I always enjoy working with him; Da Internz; Mike Will; Just Blaze; David Banner; Miguel; and my cousin, Monica. Like I said, I think it’s a great body of work and I just can’t wait for people to hear it.
I’m sure you get asked all the time to compare your albums to each other. Can you compare this album to your previous albums?
I think it’s the old Luda mixed with the new Luda. I listen to the fans, whether it be through social media or keeping my ear to the street and I hear a lot of people saying, “we want the old Luda back.” Well, you’re not going to get that old Luda back per se … however, I’m here to remind you that I can still do everything that I did back on those albums. There’s also a new Luda brewing and an ever-evolving and ever-progressing Luda. So, what I did was I matched what I wanted and what the fans wanted together and made that balance for this album.