Rapper Ludacris blends music, movie personas

Mon Sep 1, 2008 7:05pm EDT
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By Gail Mitchell

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Best-known to music fans as Ludacris, Chris Bridges is contemplating a new moniker.

"I have a new album and two movies coming out within two weeks of each other, so Mr. October is my new nickname," the rapper says with a laugh.

Like the original Mr. October, Major League Baseball's clutch hitter Reggie Jackson, Ludacris is positioning himself to hit several home runs out of the ballpark this fall. He is completing the final tracks for his sixth album, "Theater of the Mind." Bookending the album's October 21 release are his co-starring roles in "Max Payne" (October 17), adapted from the popular "Rockstar" videogame, and Guy Ritchie's "RocknRolla" (October 31).

That's not counting his earlier at-bats this year. Ludacris opened his first restaurant, Straits Atlanta, almost six months ago. On the heels of that opening, he launched two Web sites, WeMix.com and MyGhetto.com. There's also his co-hosting stint with Motley Crue rocker Tommy Lee on environmental reality show "Battleground Earth," which ends its run on cable channel TLC in September.

Amid these forays into film and new media, Ludacris and co-manager Chaka Zulu are busy restructuring their Def Jam-based label, Disturbing Tha Peace. And prefacing the rapper's upcoming album are his guest stints on several other projects, including the song "Chopped & Screwed," recently chosen as the second single from T-Pain's third album, "Thr33 Ringz," slated for October 28.

Rapper. Actor. Entrepreneur. These personas are in keeping with Ludacris' and Zulu's concerted efforts to transition the artist beyond the short career spans most contemporary rappers encounter. It's a music-and-more balancing act that jump-started in earnest with his last album, 2006's "Release Therapy."

Following critical and popular acclaim for his acting roles in "Crash," "Hustle & Flow" and TV's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," Ludacris cut his trademark braids and adopted a more serious demeanor for his fifth album. Club jams ("Money Maker") shared equal time with more emotional and introspective tracks ("Runaway Love" featuring Mary J. Blige; "Freedom of Preach"). The album earned him his first Grammy Award for best rap album in 2007.

"I felt like I reincarnated myself as a rapper," says Ludacris. "I know this is album No. 6, but I consider it No. 2 after 'Release.' There's LL Cool J working on album No. 13 and Jay-Z, who's on album No. 10. I'm energetic and I'm hungry. So I'll continue to strive."   Continued...

<p>Chris "Ludacris" Bridges attends the HFPA Installation Luncheon in Beverly Hills, California July 30, 2008. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>