Ludacris photographed on Jan. 17, 2015 in Los Angeles.
The Scene Stealer
For Christopher ”Ludacris” Bridges, all it took to crack Hollywood was a quick audition tape shot backstage while on tour with Eminem. Director John Singleton, known for plucking talent from hip-hop for films like Poetic Justice and Boyz N the Hood, gave him a shot for 2002’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second installment of what would become a billion-dollar franchise. Since then, Ludacris, 37, has excelled in both fields: As a rapper, he has released eight studio LPs and broadened his acting range to include comedies (New Year’s Eve) and Oscar-winning dramas (Crash). This year, with his ninth album, Ludaversal, out March 31 (days before his latest film, Furious 7, opens on April 3), Luda is playing both sides of the fence better than ever.
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“All rappers act to a degree; we’re acting out our own thoughts. But acting is a craft, and it’s not as easy as everyone thinks it is. When you’re acting, it’s someone else’s script, so you’re only taking on a role. It’s more challenging to be in someone else’s shoes. When you’re doing music, it’s easy to be yourself: You have a blank canvas to do whatever you want.”
Hitmaking Vs. Hollywood
“I make sacrifices all the time for music or movies, just because I’m focusing on one. I was supposed to be in [2007 film] American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, but I turned it down so I could finish recording [2006 album] Release Therapy. And I actually won a Grammy for that album, so that’s something I don’t regret. I set out to win best rap album that year, and that’s what I did. I can guarantee I would not have the album turned in on time if I took a month to do that movie.”
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A Fellow Double-Threat’s Advice
“Ice Cube sat me down one day and said, ‘Be patient and pick the right roles, as opposed to taking whatever comes to you.’ He said that over time, it’s going to pay off. That’s exactly the path that I’m on: I’m strategic and selective about everything I do.”
– He has won three Grammys, including best rap album for Release Therapy in 2006.
– His 11 films have grossed $916.6 million.
– Ludacris first broke into showbiz as Chris Lova Lova, a DJ-personality on Atlanta radio station WHTA.
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of Billboard.