Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Culture Lesson: Ludacris

Ludacris co-hosted Live! with Regis and Kelly this morning. (Regis Philbin is on vacation.) In the middle of attempting to explain the hip hop star's existence, I was tasked with defining Bret Michaels' importance. I think my reasons and definitions were decent, but if my Facebook and Twitter feeds are any indication, legions of you are just as baffled by both of these men by my mom. I thought a Very Special Bonus Lesson would be a good idea.

Let's start with Ludacris! The 32-year-old actor and rapper was born Christopher Brian Bridges in Champaign, Illinois and is considered the greatest-selling Southern rap artist. (Southern hip-hop is a subgenre of hip-hop. The culture, sound, and content is generally radically different than the work associated with Los Angeles or New York. This is best covered in a separate lesson.) His name is a portmanteau of "ludicrous" and "ridiculous". Ludacris' origin city is Atlanta, where he graduated from high school, went to college a year (Georgia State University), and lives with his wife and daughter (who he called his "best friend" on television this morning).

My mother pointed out that last bit particularly odd because I noted that the content of Ludacris' music is vulgar. When I said that, I was thinking of his feud with Oprah and his 2000 song "What's Your Fantasy." The song was (and still is) wildly popular upon its release, climbing as high as #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and #5 for Billboard Hot Rap Singles and Billboard Rhythmic Top 40. I feel uncomfortable quoting the song with my mom reading, so here is the video:

(I would like to add that I know all of the words to this song, and other not being a fan of Ludacris in general, it wasn't until college that I started to appreciate hip-hop. The song was just wildly popular with Young People and very pervasive.)

A short list of his other well-known hits (links will take you to his Vevo channel) include 2001's "Roll Out", 2003's "Stand Up", 2004's "Get Back", 2008's "What Them Girls Like" and "One More Drink", 2009's "Nasty Girl", and this year's "How Low". Ludacris receiver a Grammy for appearing on Usher's 2004's hit "Yeah". He also receiver a Grammy for "Money Maker" and his album Release Therapy in 2007. His most recent album was released in 2008 and title Theatre of Mind. The "sequel" is expected this year and titled Ludaversal.

Ludacris' acting credits include 2 Fast 2 Furious, Hustle and Flow, Crash, Fred Claus, RocknRolla, Max Payne, Gamer, and Repo Men. (He also appears as himself in a number of films.) He received an award from the Screen Actors Guild in 2005 for Crash, and was nominated the same year for Hustle and Flow.

Ludacris also has a deal with TAG body spray, a collaboration with Birkedal Hartmann for Conjure cognac, and his own foundation.

In 2002 he went head-to-head with Bill O'Reilly, who called for Pepsi to drop the rapper from a lucrative partnership. In 2003 the company reached an agreement, with the help of Russell Simmons and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, to donate $3 million dollars in three years to the Ludacris Foundation. Pepsi offered a new series of commercials, but Ludacris declined.

Four years later, Ludacris started a small yet memorable feud with Oprah. He said Oprah heavily "edited" his comments from her show (he was promoting Crash). He complained that her anti-rapper stance was biased, considering her apparent non-editing with guests Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock:
"She edited out a lot of my comments while keeping her own in. Of course, it's her show, but we were doing a show on racial discrimination, and she gave me a hard time as a rapper when I came on there as a rapper. Initially, I wasn't even invited on the show." The rapper reveals Winfrey insisted on further lecturing him on his lyrics once the show was over. He adds, "After the taping, she pulled me into a room and we had a five-minute conversation. What I got was that by having rappers on her show, she feels like she's empowering in them. "It was like being at someone's house who doesn't really want you there." The rapper admits he'd think twice before agreeing to return to the show: "I don't see why (comedians) CHRIS ROCK and DAVE CHAPPELLE, who I am huge fans of, it's OK for them to go on Oprah. "They speak the same language as I do, but they do it through comedy, so I guess that's acceptable to her (Oprah)."
The moratorium has been lifted; Oprah had Jay-Z on her show this year. Not that it should matter to Ludacris, he's co-hosting the most boring, mundane, and inoffensive talk show on television!

Additional Resources:
Ludacris Wikipedia article
Ludacris Blasts Opinionated Oprah, Contact Music
Russell Simmons And Pepsi Reach A Firm Agreement, Yahoo! Music

Late tonight: Bret Michaels!

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