Ludacris Talks 'Chicken-N-Beer' Turning 15, His Most Underrated Music Video & Partnering With Propel

ludacris propel
Stephanie Noritz

Lil Fate and Ludacris perform at the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival at Revel Fulton Market.

For nearly 20 years, Ludacris has axed his naysayers with buoyant raps and sizzling anthems. With an indomitable catalog in both music and acting, consistency and timing are Luda's two best friends. In order to deliver an A-plus performance in either arena, he always works hard at staying in tiptop shape, especially if he's penciled in for a live performance.

This past weekend, Luda touched down at the Propel Co: Labs Fitness Festival in Chicago. The festival -- which just entered its third year -- promotes the power of fitness through a series of musical performances and workouts. With Luda now a self-proclaimed gym rat obsessed with dieting, he aligned himself with Propel to deliver a fiery performance for fitness enthusiasts and avid fans of his music. 

Though hitting the gym six times a week seems like an arduous task, the rap hyphenate relishes a hard workout and seeing maximum results. "I just really like being a part of things that are a part of my lifestyle at this point in my career," Luda told Billboard. "It was already great performing and I love to exercise, so when you put those two together, I’m on cloud nine."

Billboard spoke to Ludacris prior to his performance at Propel Co: Labs Fitness Festival to speak about his partnership with the company, his love for working out, maintaining his prowess as a top-notch performer, Chicken-N-Beer turning 15 and why Rae Sremmurd is his favorite act to watch onstage. 

Tell me about your partnership with Propel and how it came about.

Well, I am a gym rat myself. I work out like six days a week with two different trainers. I think the partnership has a lot of synchronicity going on. We came together to give people a different experience because we have the fitness festivals that have been going on and we added a new twist to it by having live music. I just really like being a part of things that are a part of my lifestyle at this point in my career. It was already great performing and I love to exercise, so when you put those two together, I’m on cloud nine.

Because you’re an energetic performer with such a deep catalog, you always gotta be in great shape to hit the stage. You just touched on it, but what steps have you taken to maintain your stage presence?

Stage performance is extremely important to me and that whole moving the crowd thing, I just take it really seriously. I feel like all the time it’s paid off because it kind of reigns throughout the industry -- and thank you for saying that -- that we literally are the ones who go above and beyond what is asked of us onstage. That word of mouth gets around from different audiences, not only in the country, but around the world. That’s kind of what keeps me motivated and inspired to make sure I always give an energetic performance. It’s really just internal, man. Just making sure that I never forget that I’m living out my dream, loving what I’m doing. I think that’s it.

Which rapper from your class do you enjoy seeing live or do you believe has great stage presence? 

I would say before me, Busta Rhymes. That’s a hard question because, no disrespect to anybody, but I can’t think of anyone that is that... actually, I’ll say Rae Sremmurd. They remind me a lot of the energy that I possess. I love how they go out and give a crazy good time.

Was there a certain show of theirs that won you over?

We had a show together. We were somewhere in Europe and we had two shows together. It was one of those festivals in the summertime in Europe. It was Norway or Sweden or some crazy shit like that.

With you working out six days a week and having two trainers, I assume you had to give up certain kinds of foods. What did you end up giving up? 

I just don’t eat as much fried food or pasta or sugary drinks. I’ll have a cheat day or cheat meal depending on what my goals are, but I definitely didn’t give up alcohol, nah, none of that. It was more about being a little more disciplined in terms of eating those cheat meals.

In October, it'll be the 15th anniversary for Chicken-N-Beer. That album really solidified your stardom. You had “Splash Waterfalls” and “Stand Up,” which became a No. 1 record. Do you have any special memories from the recording process or just in general?

That’s a good question, because no one has ever really asked me that. If you listen to “Stand Up,” I was recording it at a studio and I remember it being distorted when I was doing the actual lyric, and because I loved my take so much, we figured out in the record that it was distorted and they wanted me to do the verse over again so we could have better sound quality. I was just like, “Man, y’all got so many tools and shit in the studio. Why don’t y’all do something and put a filter over it.” It’s an energetic record so it doesn’t matter if there’s a little distortion. If you go back and listen to “Stand Up,” if you have a keen ear for mixing and mastering, we kept the take that was kind of distorted.

Among you, Busta and Missy, I feel like when it came to hip-hop videos in the 2000s, y’all would be considered savants in that area. Do you have a video of yours that you feel like was maybe underrated in your eyes? Like maybe a “Number One Spot” or “One More Drink"?

It’s hard for me to say. That’s a hard question, because the ones that were really popular like “Stand Up,” “Get Back” and “Number One Spot,” the ones that really needed that attention, they got that attention. Maybe if I go early on, maybe the “Southern Hospitality” video when I was like upside down. People were just catching on and they liked it. If you go back and look at that video, it’s some real crazy shit.

Next year, it’s going to be 20 years since Incognegro. With you being an accomplished veteran, pick one word to describe your legacy and why.

I would say versatile, because when I want to rap, be funny and humorous, I can do that. When I want to rap with the best of the MCs, I’ve done that. If you want to go bar-for-bar, I’ve done that. Fast as fuck, I can do that. Slow as hell, I can do that. Raps over R&B records, hard-hitting records, nostalgic records, I just stay versatile. That’s one of the things that I want to go down as, being multifaceted. When people say they want Luda on the record, I don’t feel like it matters what type of record it is. I’ll kill it regardless and that’s what I want to be known as.

Is there anybody who you're still dying to scratch off on your bucket list in terms of collaborations? 

Probably Dr. Dre in terms of production. I’ve been in the studio [with him] before but he’s just really busy and he’s really particular, but I’d love to be on a Dr. Dre beat.

Any artists?

Artist-wise, I kind of checked that off the list. That’s Biggie and Tupac, even though I would have wanted to do it while they were alive but those were my two.