As those who have tuned into the past three Billboard Music Awards know, Ludacris is no stranger to the role of host — the 2017 BBMAs marks the rapper’s fourth year in a row as the night’s emcee. While he’s reached veteran status, though, his co-host this year, Vanessa Hudgens, is just getting her feet wet. The BBMAs are her first hosting gig ever.
In addition to this being Hudgens’ first go at playing host, the BBMAs also happen to be the singer’s first encounter with Ludacris. Despite the fact that they’d never even met prior to their arrival in Las Vegas for BBMAs weekend, Ludacris insists that their chemistry was instant.
“We already have a dynamic going,” Ludacris told Billboard shortly after the two were introduced. “It’s a natural dynamic — she’s just a naturally good energy person, and those are the people I gel with the most. I think this will be good.”
Before Ludacris and Hudgens put that dynamic to the test Sunday night (May 18), Billboard sat down with the hosts just hours after they met to give a little preview of what fans can expect from them and share their favorite BBMAs memories.
What do you think sets the Billboard Music Awards apart from other awards shows?
Ludacris: I think what’s crazy is, it is so many different genres of music all in one building. Not only is it the fans, but it’s also the artists who appreciate all music, not just one specific kind. Because sometimes you have awards shows that just cater to one genre of music. But not only that, the fans are the ones that get [artists] up the Billboard charts and request them for radio airplay, so I think that’s what makes it unique as well.
Vanessa: Yeah, it’s by the people for the people. So us, as people, are just as excited to see everyone who’s here. Just to have all these same musicians under the same roof and celebrate music, which is something we all love, is a really special thing.
You just met this weekend — what were your first impressions of each other?
L: I felt like I knew her for years, just based off of talking to her for literally five seconds.
V: He’s totally what I expected. I was like, “He’s going to be awesome, he’s so talented, he’s going to be a cool guy and it’s just going to be a good time.”
And Vanessa has said that she’s going to bring an energy you may have never experienced before, so would you say that’s true?
L: She’s already done that!
V: We literally met and I was having a little solo dance party to keep me awake. I think we’re just going to have a really good time. Have a little drink beforehand, loosen up a little, and then kill it.
L: Toastin’ it up.
What can fans expect then? Some rapping from Vanessa?
V: There might be some rapping [Laughs]. You never know what’s in store in Vegas!
L: Especially after the drinks get flowin’.
What other performances are you excited for, besides Cher and Celine Dion?
L: Bruno [Mars]! Because I just think he’s a great performer. I really think he’s one of the greats and the culmination of a lot of great artists. From James Brown to Michael Jackson… even Billy Joel back in the day. You can just tell he studies.
V: He was giving me Hendrix vibes off that performance when he was doing the Prince tribute [at this year’s Grammys]. It was so good! He’s such an insane performer. I saw Lorde at Coachella and she crushed it. I think that she’s just growing into such a unique, individual artist, so it’ll be nice to see her on stage.
Do you each have a standout BBMAs moment?
L: You know what was crazy for me? There was one time they had the Michael Jackson hologram, and it kind of sent chills down my spine, just because of how good it was. Missing him so much, it kind of re-lived some of those moments. I remember being here, and I think that was like three or four years ago. That was dope.
V: I came, I think maybe 10 years ago [Laughs]. It was literally in the High School Musical days. We all came as a cast, and I just remember it being such a fun, epic little trip for us. Taking a big leap [hosting for her second time at the BBMAs]. There’s been so many amazing ones over the years — that’s why Billboard is so incredible, they keep turning it out.
The Billboard Music Awards will air May 21 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. The official red carpet pre-show for the BBMAs, the T-Mobile Magenta Carpet Live at the BBMAs, will live stream exclusively on Twitter on Sunday, May 21, starting at 3 p.m. PT/6 p.m. ET. The pre-show will be available to logged-in and logged-out audiences on Twitter and connected devices, and can be found at BBMAs.twitter.com or via @BBMAs.