Black History Month: Atlanta icon Ludacris’ major impact on music, culture
Rico Wade: ‘He most definitely helped push Hip-Hop forward’
ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Ludacris is best known as a ground-breaking and award-winning rapper, actor, and producer. But, he also had a monumental impact beyond the music world and in the community that he has proudly represented since he first moved to Atlanta as a kid.
The fierce MC showed the world that Southern Hospitality was more than just the smash single off of his debut hit album, “Back For The First Time.” It is a way of life for many Hip-Hop artists in the south.
Rico Wade, one-half of the Atlanta-based super producer group Organized Noize, spoke to Atlanta News First about Ludacris and his rise from a hungry and underrated young MC, to one of the best, most influential, and most powerful musicians and innovators of all time.
“I got a chance to work with Ludacris early on. He was a radio personality at [Hot 97.5] in Atlanta]. His album was independent at first. Before it got picked up at Def Jam,” said Wade. “We [Organized Noize] produced the song “Game Got Switched” and it was an incredible album. Then we did “Saturday Ooh Ooh” off of his hit sophomore album, “Word of Mouf” and then “Blueberry Yum Yum” off of his fourth multi-platinum album “Red Light District. That became an anthem. You can go online and watch him perform that song overseas so, I’m more and more impressed with him by the day.”
Ludacris, whose real name is Christopher Brian Bridges, first rose to prominence as a radio DJ, formerly known as Chris “Luva Luva” at Hot 97.5 in Atlanta in the mid-1990s.
In October 2000, he released his highly anticipated debut album, “Back For the First Time,” which went on to go triple-platinum.
“He definitely always had a chip on his shoulders,” said Wade. “He opened himself up for people to have something to say. He had a good attitude and he had to back it up and had good energy and an edge. He knew he was going to have to make people believe every time. He was commercial but he was hardcore hip-hop. When he was rapping, he was edgy and knew people would look at it as commercial because of how good it was. He kept the chip and looked at it like some people weren’t feeling him. Because his numbers were through the roof. He had “What’s Your Fantasy?” and Pharell on “Southern Hospitality.” He had anthems.”
Born in Champagne, Illinois to Wayne and Roberta Bridges on Sept. 11, 1977, the rapper and actor have won multiple awards including four Grammys.
In June 2022, Walk of Famer and Chair of the Selection Panel Ellen K announced Ludacris was an honoree to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2023.
He signed with Def Jam Records in 1999 to pursue his rap career, making the difficult decision to drop out of Georgia State University where he was studying Music Management. He was the first rapper signed to the new label imprint Def Jam South.
The doors that he’s opened are endless, National Radio Personality Incognito told Atlanta News First in Sept. 2022. “To watch him take it from a radio personality to being a movie star is a really big deal. At the time when the south had something to say, he really flew the flag for us at that time. He welcomed the world to the lyricism and creativity of the south,” Incognito said.
As great of a rapper and innovator as he is, Wade points to how thoughtful and creative he is, especially early in his career. He remembers Ludacris reaching out specifically for Organized Noize to be a part of his music.
“We didn’t have to hunt Luda down for his albums, he called us. He came to get Organized Noize on every album. That’s the kind of person that he was. I give him credit for that. He was paying us respect. I rock with Luda.”
In 2019, Ludacris partnered with Georgia State University to offer a law class titled The Legal Life of Ludacris. GSU officials said at the time that the course filled up in a matter of minutes.” In May 2022, he received his honorary bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University, even serving as the speaker at the school’s commencement ceremony.
He hosted LudaDay Weekend for Labor Day every year for more than a decade with countless events benefiting his Ludacris Foundation and other charitable organizations.
”When it comes to Ludacris, lyrically, he’s in a category of his own. He was one of the first ones out of the gate after the So-So Def, Dungeon Family, Arista time, to have success and really put Atlanta on his back,” said frequent collaborator and executive DJ Drama. “He’s another artist who stepped out into other arenas with acting, with restaurants, and so many things as a hustler and entrepreneur that he wanted to get his hands involved in.“
He was also recognized by the Screen Actors Guild for roles in the 2004 film “Crash” and the 2005 film “Hustle and Flow” alongside Terrence Howard.
According to the Santa Monica Mirror, he is expanding his famous restaurant Chicken and Beer in the Los Angeles International Airport.
In Sept. 2022, he starred in the thriller film titled “End of the Road” alongside fellow hip-hop icon Queen Latifa. Netflix also released season four of his hit animated show called, Karma’s World.
He has broken countless boundaries, destroyed stereotypes, and kicked down doors for not only Atlanta rap music, but southern rap music as well.
He has released eight albums and has sold more than 20 million records in the United States alone. He is widely regarded as one of the best rappers of all time and one of the most prominent Atlanta rappers of the last 23 years.
He is also working on the 10th installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise. He has starred or played a supporting role in six of the films so far. The films have collectively grossed more than $1 billion.
”He’s a part of one of the biggest movie franchises in history and also still has records that are played to this day that are classics and can’t be touched or duplicated,” said DJ Drama.
In April, Ludacris is scheduled to join Janet Jackson for the Together Again tour, with two upcoming dates set for State Farm Arena.
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