Also Credited As:Chris Bridges, Christopher Bridges, Christopher Brian Bridges, Ludacris
|Actor, Producer, Music|
|Christopher Brian Bridges on September 11, 1977 in Champaign, Illinois, USA|
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Born Christopher Bridges on Sept. 11, 1977 in Champaign, IL, he was the only child of Wayne Brian Bridges and his wife, Roberta Shields. He began writing and recording hip-hop as early as the age of nine, and joined his first group just three years later. After studying music management at Georgia State University's School of Music, he found initial fame as an intern and later disc jockey at WHTA 107.5 (now 107.9), the biggest hip-hop radio station in Atlanta, GA. Billed as "Chis Lova Lova," he gained a following for rapping between promotional spots on the station, which brought him to the attention of producer Timbaland. Using the stage name "Ludachris," he was featured on the song "Fat Rabbit" from Timbaland's 1998 album Tim's Bio.
With the money earned from that collaboration, he released his debut CD, Incognegro (2000), on his own label, Disturbing Tha Peace. Ludacris, as he was now billed on the album, would sell over 50,000 copies of the set, largely from the trunk of his car with virtually no advertising. This knack for self-promotion attracted the attention of Geto Boys rapper Scarface, who also served as president of the newly launched Def Jam South label. Ludacris became the label's first signed artist, and a cadre of top producers, including the Neptunes, Jermaine Dupri and Organized Noize were tapped to orchestrate a handful of new songs for a repackaged version of Incognegro titled Back for the First Time (2000).
Anchored by its lead single, "What's Your Fantasy," which shot to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, Back for the First Time broke into the Top 5 on the albums chart. Its follow-up, 2001's Word of Mouf, was an even greater success, spawning four hit singles, including "Area Codes," "Rollout (My Business) and "Saturday (Oooh Oooh), which sent the record to No. 3 on the albums charts. Word of Mouf also scored Ludacris his first Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album, but the award was captured by Eminem's The Eminem Show. Disturbing tha Peace was soon made an imprint of Def Jam South, and Golden Grain, a collaborative record featuring Ludacris with many of his labelmates, was released to minor sales in 2002.
That same year, Ludacris found himself the center of a controversy when he was hired to promote Pepsi in a series of television commercials. The ads incurred the wrath of political commentator Bill O'Reilly, who called for a boycott of Pepsi products for their endorsement of a rapper whose music he claimed contained strong language and violent references. The soda company capitulated to O'Reilly's demands following considerable protest from his viewing audience, which in turn prompted a response from Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, who pointed out that Pepsi had also retained Ozzy Osbourne and his famously profane family as spokespersons, but with no complaint from the media. Simmons would eventually call for a boycott of Pepsi product by the African-American community, which generated a settlement in which Pepsi would contribute to various African-American causes but still chose to retain the Osbournes despite the outcry.
While disentangling himself from the Pepsi fiasco, Ludacris made inroads towards an acting career with a major supporting role as a former street racer in "2 Fast 2 Furious" (2003). He also provided the Top 40 single "Act a Fool" to the film's soundtrack. Next up, Ludacris was among the featured subjects in "Paper Chasers" (2003), an independent documentary about the hip-hop scene. After completing his screen duties, He finally returned with his third full-length solo CD, Chicken-n-Beer (2003), which became his first album to debut at the top spot on the albums chart. However, its first single, "P-Poppin'," failed to reproduce the success of his previous material, and the record was deemed an underperformer. But Ludacris quickly bounced back with the sophomore single, "Stand Up," which rocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and its follow-up, the steamy "Splash Waterfalls" (2004), reached the Top 10. That same year, he scored one of his biggest hits to date, as well as his first Grammy, with his guest vocals on Usher's colossal dance hit "Yeah!"
The remainder of the decade saw Ludacris retain his grip on the hip-hop business while enjoying a respectable second career as a feature film actor. His fourth album, The Red Light District (2004), debuted at No. 1 and produced three Top 20 singles, including "Get Back" and "Number One Spot." That same year, he gave solid dramatic turns as a carjacker who learned a shocking lesson about the value of human life in the Oscar-winning "Crash" (2004), and as a Memphis rapper who has lost sight of his roots in "Hustle & Flow" (2005). His fifth album, 2006's Release Therapy, was a decidedly more sober affair than his previous efforts, but the change in tone had no effect on sales: the record became his third No. 1 album, while two singles, "Money Maker" and "Runaway Love," also reached the top of the charts. His feature film career too was littered with hits, including "Fred Claus" (2007), "RocknRolla" (2008) and "Max Payne" (2008). Ludacris was also prominently featured on Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie's single "Glamourous," which reached No. 1.
In 2008, Theater of the Mind was released, but became one of his lesser-performing albums, despite an all-star lineup of guests that included Jay-Z, Common, Chris Brown, director Spike Lee, comedian-actor Chris Rock and Lil Wayne. Its two singles, "What Them Girls Like" and "One More Drink," scraped the lower depths of the Top 40, while the album itself was his first to debut below the top spot since 2000. If there was a bright spot to its release, it was the single "Wish You Would," which ended a long-standing feud between Ludacris and fellow-actor rapper T.I. He would wait two years to release his seventh studio album, Battle of the Sexes (2010), which clearly benefited from the wait, as shown by its debut at the No. 1 spot on the albums chart. Its three singles also returned him to the Top 10, with "My Chick Bad" scoring a 2011 Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance.
Ludacris also enjoyed three successful film hits in 2011 with "Fast Five" (2011), for which he reprised his "2 Fast 2 Furious" character, as well as the comedies "No Strings Attached" and "New Year's Eve" (both 2011). That same year, Ludacris began previewing songs from his eighth album, titled Ludaverse, which was slated for a 2012 release. He also celebrated the 10th anniversary of his non-profit organization, The Ludacris Foundation, which sought to provide inspiration to youth through education, while joining forces with Dosomething.org and Better World Books to collect books for libraries in New Orleans.
By Paul Gaita