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Ludacris goes global with new album
By Elizabeth Kieszkowski / firstname.lastname@example.org
In pop music, it doesn’t hurt to be a character. Dolly Parton and Nicki Minaj are bodacious Barbies on stage, but don’t think for a minute they aren’t sharp underneath all that padding. Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber were the kids next door, until they started trying on more adult personas.
Ludacris is the guy who likes to ice down some beer or shots, invite a few pretty girls over for a barbecue and a pillow fight, and make it into a show.
“I feel inner peace when I’m out of my mind,” he raps on his latest single, “Rest Of My Life,” which soars with all the persuasive power of a liquor ad, entwining Usher’s angelic vocals, Luda’s party patter and David Guetta’s Ibiza buzz beats into a paean to getting high. Of course it’s ludicrous to think you could live this way for the rest of your life — unless you’re a hip-hop star, in which case anything’s possible, right?
LUDACRIS WITH BIG K.R.I.T.
Where: Blaisdell Arena
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Info: ticketmaster.com or 800-745-3000
If Ludacris has a “philosophy,” it’s not too complicated. In “Rest Of My Life,” he sings: “Written on my tombstone it should say, ‘Women, Weed and Alcohol.’”
The true secret of his appeal is in his assured, rubber-band vocals, and what he calls his “sense of balance,” which gives him the good sense to pace his music between bangers and ballads, bravado and romance — sometimes all in the same song.
He’s got a sly sense of fun, and his beats and vocals are elastic, with a voice that can loop into a drop and stretch out into a loose, lusty bridge.
Ludacris, born Christopher Brian Bridges, chose his name well. It signals his persona and his understanding that it’s over-the-top.
His happy-go-lucky style has its appeal: He’s sold more than 20 million albums, and has his own imprint with Def Jam, Disturbing Tha Peace.
And while he cultivates a ladies’ man persona, his spiel toward women comes off as affectionate, not hostile.
While it’s tough to imagine a woman relishing the sound of his buddy on the bill, Big K.R.I.T., spitting out “Why the f— you here?” to a chick in his crib — Ludacris paired up with K.R.I.T. on the track, “What U Mean (you ain’t nasty)” — it’s not hard to think that women, too, could potentially get with the fantasy of “Representin’,” his 2012 duet with Kelly Rowland, or the fleshy fantasy “Jingalin,” explicitly inspired by a 1989 L.L. Cool J track.
LUDACRIS called from Atlanta last week, speaking into the phone with his familiar, deep and honeyed voice.
In conversation, as in his music, Ludacris sounds like he’s grinning from the inside out.
He said he’s been in his home city working on his new album, due out this year though it was originally scheduled for release in 2012.
“I’m working on it now, I would say I’m about 60 percent done,” he said.
“It had to get pushed back because I was shooting the movie ‘Fast and Furious 6′ out in London — and basically now it will be coming out this year.”
When he gets to Honolulu, he said, “I’ll probably hit the city, hit the island and see what’s going on.”
He was recently on Maui for vacation: “Man, I did everything from helicopter rides to horseback riding,” he said.
IN CONCERT, Ludacris said, Honolulu is going to get a blast of his new music, including beats he’s picked up from collaborating with Guetta, the Neptunes and others on his new album.
“I’ve never been one to shy away from being multifaceted and using different genres of music, as long as we incorporate them the right way into a show,” he said.
“Besides that, I think people like variety, so that’s what they’re going to get, along with 10 years and eight albums full of great material.
“You know we’re going to be picking songs from the past, present and the future.
“I’ve been waiting to come back, so I’m very excited,” he said, recalling that it’s been nine years since his last performance here.
American audiences are ready for international beats, he said. “A lot of artists are incorporating it into their music now, so it’s not necessarily unfamiliar.
“Not too long ago, people would say, ‘You need to come up with an international (version).’ … Maybe four or five years back, they’d say, ‘You make one album and you make another with songs for an
international audience.’ Basically, I’m putting my international songs on my deluxe album now.”
“REST OF My Life” came about after Guetta, one of the titans of electronic dance music, reached out to Ludacris to collaborate on a 2011 track called “Little Bad Girl.” When that worked out, Guetta gave the hip-hop artist some more beats to listen to.
“I found a beat that I absolutely loved,” Ludacris said.
“It took me a minute to figure out what I wanted to do with it, but once I creatively got an idea, it all came together. So it was great working with him.
“Personally, he has a house in Ibiza, Spain, so getting introduced to that whole world of EDM was cool.
“And it was ironic, because I got on a plane with Usher, he sat right next to me, I let him listen to the track and he loved it, so that’s how I got him on it.
“I’m feelin’ really good about how that happened. It was meant to be.”
LUDACRIS is no lone wolf. Collaboration is built into his DNA, as he acknowledged when asked about his earliest days, working with Timbaland just a couple of years out of high school in 1998.
“To have consistency and longevity, that’s one thing that I’ve always liked, collaborating with artists,” he said. “That’s one thing that fans like, too, to hear their favorite artists working together.
“It’s just part of the creative process, that you can learn from each other, continue to progress.
“The name of this new album is ‘Ludaversal,’” he said. “I’ve been traveling all over the world reaching fans in different concepts that I’ve never got to touch before. I’m just a product of my environment, and when you’re traveling all over the world, you get introduced to new things.
“I’m simply doing what comes natural in terms of expanding my horizons. ”
AS FOR “Fast 6,” as Ludacris called it, it’s due out on Memorial Day.
“It’s going to be even bigger and even better,” he said. “I can’t even tell you!
“I can divulge that our entire team, including The Rock (onetime Hawaii resident, professional wrestler and actor Dwayne Johnson), go up against a rival team, so it’s almost like Justice League versus Legion of Doom.
“Just when you think the stakes can’t get any higher, they do.”
The music may be a party soundtrack, but Ludacris takes care of business, with film and television work most every year over the past decade.
“Sometimes I actively pursue work, and try to juggle and balance and still keep music No. 1, and there are some times where people pursue me,” he said.
“If the project is right and I like the project and the people involved, then it’s something I will definitely consider.”
“When it comes to the business, that’s the more serious side,” he said.
“When it comes to the music, I just try to have fun.”