Long before Hip-Hop seemingly gave way to its vices – misogyny, violence, and drugs – there were The Elements. These cultural fundamentals still are DJing, B-Boying (aka Break dancing), Graffiti, and Emceeing. The climate of Hip-Hop, much like Rock and Roll before it, scared those who didn’t understand the intensity of the expression that resulted in a revolutionary movement.
Ludacris is one of the heavyweights that are pushing this expression and giving a mighty voice to a group who felt like they had no voice. The emcee has voiced the views, opinions and the turmoil delivered in songs like “The Message” and albums like Fear of a Black Planet while celebrating the neighborhood with block party after block party.
Luda remembers and lives the spirit of Hip-Hop and is thirsty to keep it alive. The DTP front man has joined forces with Common to headline the Hip Hop 101 Music & Arts Festival. The festival designed to bring the focus back to the essentials for the purpose of uplifting and motivating through creative expression. With a stellar lineup of Grammy winning artists on one stage, Hip Hop 101 Music & Arts Festival (www.hh101.com) will celebrate Black History Month with Ludacris, Common, and turntablist Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys on Saturday February 21st at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Singer/ songwriter Keri Hilson and Grammy-nominated alternative Afro-Punk singer Janelle Monae are also on the bill for the event.
AllHipHop.com chatted with Ludacris about the importance of bringing it all back to the basics and moving forward at the same time.
AllHipHop.com: The purpose of this event is to provide a platform for embracing Hip-Hop’s culture and unity through the expression of music, graffiti, visual /performing arts and lyrics. Would you say that what’s being expressed in Hip-Hop currently provides a positive and or accurate portrayal of what the culture is about?
Ludacris: I can’t really speak for anyone else, but I know with the whole “Theater of the Mind” album I kinda went toward the true Hip-Hop theme more than I have with any of my other albums, especially the last half of it. That’s the kind of state of mind I’m in right now because of where I’m at. I’m just trying to inject the industry with the things that I feel are lacking, that’s kind of where I come into play and that’s what I think about “Theater of the Mind,” it just gives more of that Hip-Hop feel and I’m glad to a part of that.
AllHipHop.com: I know you said you were inspired by the likes Ice Cube as far as how he painted such a vivid picture of what was going on in society through his music, when people look back 10 years from now what types of visuals will “Theater of the Mind” paint about the current state of Hip-Hop?
Ludacris: As far as the current state of Hip-Hop, I feel there needs to be more people that are trying to paint pictures and creating more complete albums. I think we need to have more people being able to artistically do what they want to do versus listening to record labels manufacturing their songs. Its basically about coming back to the essence and that’s what I feel like Hip-Hop 101 is all about. When I say the essence I mean its really just the passion and heart, you can hear the passion and the heart in certain peoples music, it just comes across and that’s what I tried to do.
AllHipHop.com: What is a component of the culture that you would like to see expressed more in the current climate?
Ludacris: Storytelling. I think the art of storytelling has gotten lost in translation.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think having our new President co-sign his love for certain Hip-Hop artists will open some folks up to the idea of giving Hip-Hop a chance?
Ludacris: Most definitely, I think it will also make some artists a little more conscious about some of the things that they say as well.
AllHipHop.com: If you had to put together a Hip-Hop stimulus plan, what area would you say deserves the most attention?
Ludacris: That’s a good question, I gotta think on that because every artist is different so I don’t want to generalize so we gotta come back to that because I really want to think about what part needs it the most because sometimes Hip-Hop can be as simple as two-turntables and a mic.
AllHipHop.com: I know you do a lot of work through your Ludacris Foundation. So how important is helping to bring funding back into the schools for music and arts programs?
Ludacris: It’s extremely important, I’ve been practicing that from day one. I think one of the most important things Barack said was he can’t do it on his own, so if everybody takes responsibility and does something like volunteer or what have you, then I think we’ll be well on our way to rebuilding not only Urban America but America as a whole.
AllHipHop.com: How do you as an artist balance the level of responsibility in your lyrics vs. being true to who you are in your music?
Ludacris: I think life is all about balance and I would go crazy if there was a lot of monotony in my music, so I think its extremely important to be multi-faceted and show different subject matter to show people there’s different sides to Hip-Hop and there are different sides to me. Humans all have different sides and I think its important to reflect that in my music.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think a lot of artists miss the boat on using the power of Hip-Hop to become brands vs. just wanting to become mere rap stars?
Ludacris: I think some of them did but its never too late. I think its more about people trying to capitalize off of their names and their power, as of now it’s a better time for that than its ever been.
AllHipHop.com: Why is Theater of the Mind your favorite Ludacris album to date?
Ludacris: Theme wise and song wise, as well as the artists I worked with. I feel like there was a certain level of competition on each song and I feel like I was very competitive on each one. I definitely feel like I met my objective of delivering that true Hip-Hop essence, especially on the last half of the album.
AllHipHop.com: How did you come to hook up with Common for the Hip-Hop 101 College initiative concert?
Ludacris: I’ve always been a fan of Common, but actually the promoters approached me about it so I guess my objective of trying to display some real Hip-Hop on this album paid off because I would really have to attribute that to them wanting me to be a part of the concert and I feel real good about that.
AllHipHop.com: This year Black History Month has a special meaning for a lot of folks, what makes it special for you?
Ludacris: This whole year is important for me, but Black History month in particular being that we are witnessing history in the making with our President. It’s a time when everybody should be motivated and we shouldn’t have anymore excuses about what we can’t do.
AllHipHop.com: Obviously he’ll have many obstacles along the way but do you think Blacks will rally together in the name of change?
Ludacris: I think a lot of them are, I can’t say that for everybody, but I do think the ones that are stepping up should reach out and motivate those who aren’t or can’t.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about Lil Wayne getting Rap Album of the year at the Grammy’s?
Ludacris: I think he deserved it, he worked extremely hard for that.
AllHipHop.com: Do you think his personal trials should have affected that result?
Ludacris: With all due respect I can’t even say.
AllHipHop.com: What other projects do you have coming in 09?
Ludacris: I have a movie called The Game with Gerard Butler coming out in the Summer and my next album also dropping in the Summer called the Battle of the Sexes featuring Shawna on a lot of tracks. We’re giving that male vs. female perspective not yet done on one Hip-Hop album. Also look out for Playaz Circle, Willie Northpole(sp) the Block Exchange and Shareefa all set to drop this year.