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Twelve Years of Ludacris

By The Hip Hop Writer
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer

Life comes with only one guarantee, death. The time in between will always be a mystery, but in a world focused on a power struggle, one is forced to fight while alive. Many have lost this fight and faced death at what many would consider a young age. Others, however, live life to the fullest, making dreams come true. Ludacris spent yesterday in Washington, DC, giving the president a customized version of his headphones, from his latest business venture.

It was twelve years ago when the hip hop world was introduced to Ludacris. In his early years, the Atlanta rapper lived up to his name. Ludacris, comics aside, proved to be one of the best rappers in the game. Along with his talent, his followers learned of his drive, determination, and his fearlessness. The early stages of his career were met with controversy, as Ludacris publicly feuded with fellow Atlanta rapper, T.I., and Fox News personality, Bill O’Reilly.

In the wake of many self-made hip hop millionaires, Ludacris was eager to add his name to the list. Representing Atlanta, Ludacris made a name for himself as a radio personality. Many fans in the Atlanta area only knew Ludacris as Chris Luva Luva. However, during the summer of 1999, the popular radio DJ decided to pursue his dream and begin rapping. Ludacris put together his debut album, Incognegro, and released it on the streets of Atlanta under his Disturbing Tha Peace brand, which became an outlet for Atlanta rappers.

Selling copies of the album out of his car, Ludacris nearly sold 1 million records. At the same time, Def Jam was in the middle of an expansion. Only four years earlier, the label was falling apart. However, Def Jam was saved by the addition of several stars and was searching for someone to become the face of their Southern brand. Legendary Southern rapper, Scarface, was named the head of Def Jam South and he signed Ludacris as the first artist. From the beginning, Ludacris saw more for himself than simply being the face of a new sub-label, he envisioned an empire.

Always business-minded, Ludacris negotiated to make sure Disturbing Tha Peace was also included in the deal. Following the re-release of Incognegro, as Back For the First Time: The Album, during the summer of 2000, Ludacris officially signed several artists he had been working with. Ludacris also treated fans with entertaining music videos, such as “Southern Hospitality.” Soon, Ludacris returned with his second studio album and more entertaining music videos. Even when Ludacris took a year off, he released an album, but it was with the DTP family.

Inspired by the likes of Master P, Jay-Z, and Sean Combs, Ludacris knew there was much more than music involved with remaining relevant in the rap game. During the summer of 2002, Ludacris was offered an endorsement deal with Pepsi. The deal would have been legendary, if not for the negative commentary from Bill O’Reilly. Losing out on several millions, Ludacris and O’Reilly soon began exchanging insults through the media. Ludacris juggled the feud, along with a growing roster of talent and his own music, cementing his legacy by the time he released his third album, Chicken & Beer.

By 2004, Ludacris had been absorbed into the main Def Jam label and was the focal point. While Def Jam had big plans for Ludacris’ rap career, he was considering retirement. Ludacris released The Red Light District to much success in 2004, as the album continued to dominate in 2005. However, no new music came from Ludacris until late in the summer of 2006, when he returned with Release Therapy. While not retiring from the game, Ludacris made it clear he wanted to focus more on his acting career and his business ventures, as opposed to simply rapping.

Release Therapy was noticably different from the previous Ludacris albums, as he cut his trademark braids and the album had a serious tone. Known for his comedic style and battle raps, Ludacris touched on major social issues, garnering him critical acclaim from even his biggest detractors. Delivering some of his best work, Ludacris’ mind was still wandering, as he put together one of his “final” albums, Theater of the Mind. Two years later, Theater of the Mind was released, meeting more critical success, but it was clear the passion which once drove Ludacris was gone and the album, despite featuring collaborations from T.I., had no lasting impact.

Fulfilling a promise from nearly three years prior, Ludacris and Shawnna finally began recording their Battle of the Sexes album. From the beginning, Shawnna had been by Ludacris’ side, but she was making her own moves. Without consent from Ludacris, Shawnna ditched DTP and signed with T-Pain’s Nappy Boy label. Disappointed, Ludacris understandably, removed Shawnna from the album and began recording it as a solo release. Ironically, Ludacris seemed to fall back in love with music on the album, as the passion in his voice returned and the album had a bigger impact than his previous release, while suffering from lower sales.

In the time since then, fans have been waiting on a new Ludacris album. Last year, he delivered his 1.21 Gigawatts mixtape, which came off as more of an album. This year, he is treating fans with his Ludaversal album, which will be his eighth studio album. For twelve years, every year, Ludacris has provided his fans with something. Ludacris is still one of the most-relevant rappers in the game and is now considered a legend. Twelve years ago, how many imagined the big-afro rapper from the “Southern Hospitality” music video would be well on his way to becoming the next Jay-Z?

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