Ludacris Q&A: His Next Album, Mourning Paul Walker & Vin Diesel's Rap Skills

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Host Ludacris during Billboard Music Awards rehearsals, May 2014.

Rapper, receiving BMI President's Award this weekend, is looking at November for personal 'Ludaversal' album.

This weekend in Los Angeles, rapper Chris "Ludacris" Bridges will be given BMI's President's Award, a honor for songwriting and impact on pop culture that has previously gone to Adam Levine and Taylor Swift. Before he accepts the award at a private ceremony, Luda spoke at length with Billboard about past, present and future.

Ludacris Tapped as BMI President's Award Honoree

Opening up about his forthcoming album, Ludaversal, the records that shaped him, and how he and his Fast & Furious castmates carried on following the death of co-star Paul Walker, Bridges takes us into his world.

What does the BMI President's Award mean to you?

I know that there have been very few artists that have gotten this award. So to be in any elite number of individuals that receive this award is just an honor. It's a humbling experience and it always makes you reflect on what's gone on over the past 15 years. Sometimes we work so hard and move so fast that we forget to take a look back and congratulate ourselves on the accomplishments and things that we've had. So I've exceeded my expectations and I'm just very proud that people are recognizing it, especially BMI.

When you do reflect a bit, what are one or two of the things that popped up for you? And since this is a songwriter's honor, are there one or two songs that stand out for you?

Yeah, pretty much all of the damn songs. But if I had to say there are a couple that stood out, like "Runaway Love," the ones that had a real movement or just changed people's lives, even "Yeah!," a song with Usher, and definitely "Move, Get Out the Way" [aka "Move Bitch"]. In terms of performance, I feel like music is always about emotion, so any of the songs that were able to emotionally attach to people and it's kind of like a time capsule, whenever they hear it they remember what they were doing at that time of their lives. Those are the greatest songs -- that was just to name a few.

What were those songs that had that emotional connection for you as a fan?

I would go toward the movement that kind of motivated me to get where I am at, and I would even say the whole Outkast Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik album, [Dr. Dre's] whole Chronic album, Notorious B.I.G.'s first album and even 2Pac. I think those are what were ingrained in me and just motivated me to be a solo artist, but definitely in terms of the South, Outkast and Goodie Mob, I couldn't even say a song, both albums were entire pieces of work that you could listen to from beginning to end.

That is a good segue into Ludaversal: What are the songs there that spark that emotional connection?

We haven't officially wrapped the entire album Ludaversal, so in terms of me naming exact songs it would be hard. But I can definitely tell you in a nutshell there are a bunch of songs that define moments and are very emotional just for the simple fact this will be my most personal album to date in terms of talking about a lot of things that have gone on in my life and just really diving into who Chris Bridges is as a person. So that's what Ludaversal is all about, it's, "Welcome to my world, this is where I live, this is what I go through on a day-to-day basis."

As a fan, are there albums for you that have been very successful in terms of being personal and taking fans into the artist's world?

As crazy as it sounds even Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, or Adele's last album, those are two R&B albums, but you know they were going through something in their life. Even Sade, a lot of the stuff that she has. But in rap, I'm trying to think of those really personal albums. When I say Notorious B.I.G., he was definitely one that talks a lot about what was going on in his life; Life or Death would be a good example. People just take you through what's going on in their life at the time. Even Jay Z, I would say Blueprint was a good album. He doesn't really get too personal, but he kind of gives you hints. And Nas' last album, that is a great example.

Did the writing dictate this album would be more personal, or was it just time to take people into your world?

It was a mixture of both, it was time, and it was also 'cause I've done so many movies, I've been away for so long on the music side, that I finally had a lot more to talk about.

Was there one song early in the writing process that defined this as a more personal album?

There's a song called "Money" on the album that's just really talking about all of the ups and downs with money, but in my personal life. There's also "Burning Bridges," where you talk about friends that have crossed you and you think everything is gonna be cool. But you realize being in the industry and having fame and fortune, it's inevitable you're going to have to sacrifice certain relationships just because when you get all this success, people think you're the one changing, but they're the ones that changed based on your success.

When people see you in movies and TV, they think they know you. So was it also time to show them who you really are?

I think a lot of rappers are purposely and consciously one-dimensional so they aren't able to get figured out so much. But I think with me, I am showcasing so many different sides of my personality, it might be hard for people to lock in with one, or it's the exact opposite. It's a gift and curse. They see all of them and it's like, "I love that he's able to do all of these things." But when it comes to the music, they want to lock into one particular thing at a time, I can't just be all over the place. So this is more of an album that's more on the serious tip and not so much funny Ludacris.

Audiences sometimes have a hard time of letting go of past successes and letting artists change. How has the initial response to the album been?

Yeah, anything that I've put out is how artists these days are just kind of throwing music out to help satisfy the core fan base and not necessarily any official first single. Even with the Usher record, that was more Fast & Furious-based, because it was based in London, so we were playing with this type of music. We've blown music out, so we're gonna come with another official first single. And the one with Pharrell, like you said, it is what it is. There are gonna be a certain amount of fans that grow with you, and then there are gonna be a certain amount of fans that just want you to be the same as you always are. They're just gonna have to embrace the progress and change if they're true fans. And it's about me putting out and making the best music that I can possible and making the best album I can possible. And that's what I'm gonna do.

Is there a release date for the album?

We're thinking around November. We're putting a single out this month and we're hoping for November. We're getting all our ducks in a row. Again, it's right now as I do another movie, the whole thing with Fast & Furious and how we had to stop production and start again. There was a whole plan to drop the album when I had time and then the whole movie got pushed back seven months. So I want to make sure there is a clear lane for me to just focus on music and go out and promote, as opposed to just dropping an album and not being able to back it up.

With Fast & Furious, I am sure it's one of those things where everything falls by the wayside for a bit.

Yeah, we were all mourning, and it's very hard, but we all got back together after the three-, four-month hiatus and we understand what our job is, to carry on this man's legacy, and we were 75 percent done shooting the movie before his untimely death and we came back to finish the film and I think people are gonna be very pleased with the final outcome of it.

Having worked on the other movies, was it important and more personal to you to carry on his legacy?

Absolutely, man, and I think everybody did. There was a piece missing, but we had to fulfill that piece 'cause we know he's with us, and that's what kept us going and that's what kept us motivated.

Vid Diesel just busted out videos singing Beyonce and Sam Smith. Have you ever rocked karaoke with Vin?

[Laughs] No, I have not. I know we play around on set a lot, but I don't recall us busting out any karaoke at all.

What would be the one or two Luda tracks you want to see Vin try?

He has tried some stuff behind closed doors. He loves "All I Do Is Win," he likes that fast rap, so I do recall him reciting that. That was maybe during [Fast] 5.

How is he as a rapper?

Vin used to rap and breakdance, so he comes from the whole hip-hop culture. It's a natural element for him.

What else do you have coming up?

I have a VH1 documentary coming out about Atlanta and about the South and about the rise of Atlanta in hip-hop, from the beginning stages to where we are now. I'm one of the producers on it. It's supposed to come on in September. And I'll be on camera as well.


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