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Ludacris: Masterpiece Theater

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On the evening of February 26th, New York’s City’s premier showcase venue Spotlight Live hosted another exclusive RnB Live production with Def Jam/Disturbing Tha Peace. Co-founders Ludacris and Chaka Zulu introduced performances by artists Steph Jones, Shareefa, and Bobby Valentino, while luminaries such as LA Reid and Kevin Liles sat in attendance. Presiding over a VIP penthouse reception where everyone was clamoring for his attention, Ludacris appeared graceful under pressure, the epitome of a southern gentleman.  One guest who threatened to claim more than his fair share of Luda’s time was a jeweler who came armed with dozens of iced out, elaborately designed watches.  Looking dapper in a burgundy velvet blazer, the platinum selling rapper studied the tantalizing bling catalogue with an interest that alarmed the reporters in attendance.  But in spite of such distractions, everyone got their moment with the rapper, actor, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and newly established restaurateur.   In a brief conversation, Luda updated AllHipHop.com on his most recent projects, entertained the possibility of becoming the next Presidential MC, and vouched to defend Hip-Hop to its detractors by any means necessary.AllHipHop.com: With the leadership you’ve shown in building DTP, would you consider filling the top spot at Def Jam?Ludacris: Oh the president? I could see myself doing it, but with the many hats that I wear currently, I am doing way too much other stuff to be able to focus on that right now. The best candidate in my opinion would be my business partner Chaka Zulu, right now. But I would definitely see myself doing that if I wasn’t doing so many other things. I know I can do a lot of the same business ventures that I’m doing, but as far as me doing the acting and being pulled away to different cities and countries for long periods at a time, there’s no way to hold down a presidential position and being called [to] go to New Zealand and shoot a movie. But I definitely would consider it; I could see myself filling that position.  AllHipHop.com: On the “I Get Money” remix, you talk about your strength on feature appearances. Do you think anyone in the game can hold a candle to you in terms of killing the features?Ludacris: I don’t think they can, and at the same time, I consider myself the MVP of rap. It’s almost like the summation of all; when it comes to record sales, when it comes to the guest appearances, when it comes to my own songs, just being extremely versatile. Whether it be rapping on subject matters, telling stories, whether its street stuff, pop stuff radio, club — I just feel like I’m the MVP of rap, that title is me.AllHipHop.com: Your last album Release Therapy was a departure with the range of subject matter you were getting into, is Theater of the Mind going to go in the same direction?Ludacris: It will be a little but of both. I would say Theater of the Mind is kind of like all my albums summed up in one.  So if you just put them all together, as far as staying hungry, and also having some of the story stuff… it almost plays out like a movie, the whole album does. You’re going to feel like you’re a part of it. Each song, it all blends itself together and it’s theatrical. Music is supposed to be emotional, you put yourself in the environment, you put yourself in the atmosphere, it’s kind of like that.AllHipHop.com: You’re known for being very versatile as an MC, and you also play a lot of different types of roles in your acting career.  Do you feel like the talent overlaps with both the music and the acting?  Ludacris: Yeah, that’s kind of what Theater of the Mind is about. So to answer your question, yes, it definitely does.  People would always say that the movies are a transition from the music, just because you’re in front of the camera so much. When you write songs and you do videos, there’s a sense of you acting out what you’ve already done in the first place. And it goes right back, when you do movies, they go hand in hand with one another.  So all of that coming together, that’s what Theater of the Mind is about.AllHipHop.com: How have recent roles like RocknRolla stretched you as an actor?Ludacris: Kind of like what you were saying about being versatile, I try and take on roles where I’m just doing something different every time. Each and every one of them challenge me. And it’s a good thing, because even though people are giving me a lot of good reviews about acting, I still feel like I’m new to it and have a lot to learn. The more I do and the different roles I take on are kind of completing me more as an actor.  And then there’s another movie called The Gang and Gerard Butler is the star of that. It’s kind of like a futuristic action movie. I don’t know if you ever saw that movie Crank with Jason Statham, where he had to keep his heart beating? Well the same guys who wrote and directed that [Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor] do The Gang. And the latest news is I’m working on a movie [called] Max Payne, you know that video game? They’re making a movie out of that, and Mark Walberg is a star and I have a small role in that, too. So that’s going to be filmed in Toronto.AllHipHop.com: Your latest business venture is a restaurant you’re opening with Singaporean cuisine, how did that come about?Ludacris: Yeah, the Straits. It came up originally because of a real estate deal that I did, and I just bought a building in the middle of downtown Atlanta.  And next thing you know, two months later, I wasn’t even really looking to get into the restaurant business because I know how crazy it is, but I went to my Foundation dinner and I met this guy through a mutual friend who had his own restaurant for over 20 years out in San Francisco. And I went out there on a trip and tasted the food, and one thing led to another, and we just ended up doing business together. We partnered together, and now that particular restaurant is coming to Atlanta, of course with me trying to change a couple of things on the menu, making it cater to the South to a certain degree. It should be opening at the end of April, and it’s called Straits Atlanta.AllHipHop.com: As a spokesperson for Hip-Hop, does it get very frustrating having to defend it to people who are outsiders to the culture, such as Bill O’Reilly and Oprah?Ludacris: Yeah, sometimes it does get a little frustrating. But at the same time, the people who criticize it to me are a lot of hypocrites out there.  If you’ve never said a curse word or you’ve never gotten angry…  When I say Hip-Hop is about emotion and we say certain words, it’s realistic, it’s the truth. So I feel like a lot of those individuals are scared of the truthAllHipHop.com: Do you find it ironic that you’re targeted like that, but you’re one of the artists who is doing the most charity work and good for the community?Ludacris: That’s only because I’m one of the more popular ones, they tend to try and target me more.  But to go back to your original question, it does get frustrating. But you have to say to yourself, Why are you trying to explain something to people who don’t want to understand?  They don’t want to understand, they don’t listen.  AllHipHop.com: I guess that given your position, you have no choice but to address these people.Ludacris: Right, and I will continue to defend myself and defend Hip-Hop.  It does get frustrating, but I will continue doing that if I have to, for sure.AllHipHop.com: You’ve traded some darts over the years with T.I.  How do you feel about his current situation?Ludacris: All I can say is God bless him and his family through these times.  AllHipHop.com: When Scarface originally recruited you to be with Def Jam South, what was the vision and how do you feel it pans out today?Ludacris: I look at is as success, mission accomplished and then some. ‘Cause if I would’ve at that point imagined that all of this would have happened…I kind of just hit the ground running. I didn’t look 10 years ahead, I was thinking of what was happening that particular year. But the fact that I made it to album number six alone, it’s just amazing to me, it’s a blessing. And I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I’m very grateful and very blessed and I’m happy. I don’t see a limit, there’s no limit to where I feel we can go.  AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like you’ve paved the way for the South, as one of the first rappers to break out nationally?Ludacris: I would say a little bit, but I owe other people that paved the way for me. When you talk about Goodie Mob and Outkast, that’s really who I attribute…  I was looking at who paved the way for me, not so much who I paved the way for. I’m humble when it comes to stuff like that.[Ludacris f/ Small World "Pinky Shining"]

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