In modern day America, celebrities are amongst the most influential and powerful members of our society. They are the first to set fashion trends, dance trends and most recently, has been the driving force behind multiple social justice movements. While people praise celebrities for their stature and fame, people rarely consider the journey it took to get there. Many celebrities have started from humble beginnings, similar to the lives of average Americans. I am impressed with their destination, however I am more interested in dissecting the details of the journey it took to get there. In this essay, I will be analyzing the journey of multi-platinum, award winning rapper, Ludacris. Ludacris and I are from the same hometown and I hypothesize that we will have similar experiences that shapes our passions and ambitions.
Ludacris was as born Christopher Brian Bridges on September 11, 1977 in Champaign, Illinois. He was born to Roberta shields and Wayne Brian Bridge and was the only child. Roberta Shields was an economics student and Wayne Brian Bridges was a business major at the University of Illinois when Ludacris was conceived. Due to his parent's success, Ludacris says "(he) comes from a family of go getters. (he) feels like he was genetically pre-disposed to having his ambition". Though Ludacris parents were never married, they raised him together in a loving home infused with music. Ludacris tell stories about how he remembers waking up in the morning and hearing his father playing Prince, Frankie Beverly and Mays, and Michael Jackson and at that point the music became a part of him; this was where Ludacris developed his passions for music and his calling in life.
The year 1977, the year which Ludacris was born, was an amazing year for music. In 1997, Prince started recording his debut album, for you, and Parliament released "Flash Light", a song that was widely accepted as the defining song of Funk music. During this year, funk music was extremely popular. Funk is a form of music that combined soul music, R&B, and jazz; funk emerged in the mid 1960s but became popularized in the 1970's. Funk became so popular because it moved away from soft melody and chord progression and emphasizes a strong rhythmic groove with electric guitars, bass guitars and drums. Funk was also known to be colorful and flashy, performers would wear tuxedos, furs, hats, other fashionable street attire, sequin, and bell bottoms. Funk is considered to be a form of "escapism for social problem" because its music discusses how life was rough, whether it be economically, relationships, or socially, and it encouraged listeners that they should temporarily forget their troubles and dance them away. Funk was introduced at best time and provide good times to listeners during that time period.
As Ludacris continues growing up, his father not only gave him a wide variety of music to listen to as a child, his father also gives him a story of his own to tell within his music. Unfortunately, his father was a hard-drinking alcoholic. He became very controlling and aggressive, which created tension between Roberta and himself. Roberta decide to leave to Wayne because of the addiction, and once they separated, Wayne moved to Atlanta. A young Ludacris could not understand why his father left, however he just decided to focus one thing that he loved, that being music. He looked up to rappers like LL Cool J to new role model now that his father was no longer in the house, which pushed his musical abilities and interest even further.
LL Cool J was born as James Todd Smith in Queens, York. He is a widely known rapper than has also built great representation in being an actor, author and entrepreneur. He released 12 hip-hop albums ranging from the years 1987 to 2013. His most popular album, Mama said knock you out was released in 1990 and coincided with the growing new school rap scene, which also marked the beginning of hip-hop's "golden age" and the replacement of old school hip hop. LL Cool J's music was considered to be raw and aggressive, which was very influential in aiding Ludacris in developing his own style. Ludacris was widely influenced by the environment and music around him and this contributed to him becoming an amazing artist one day.
At age 12, Ludacris joined a group of MCs' who called themselves Tick- Tack-Toe. Tick-Tack-Toe was a group of young rappers from Chicago who created rap music together. Unsurprisingly, Ludacris emerged as the lead MC with his creative metaphors and catch phrases. Ludacris lyricism gained the attention of many people, but his father has always been his number one supporter. Even though Ludacris's father was in another state, he was never an absentee father; Ludacris would talk to his father every day and spend his summer in Atlanta with him. He made the decision to move to Atlanta not only to learn to be a man, but also to further his music career. At the time many young rap groups such as ABC and Kris Kross were being discovered, and Ludacris felt that he was just as good as those groups. Ludacris deems his bold decision to move to Atlanta as one of his wisest decisions and is forever grateful for the many opportunities the city presented.
Atlanta became very popular after the 1996 summer Olympic, however that popularity came with a price. With a number of new and diverse families moving to Atlanta, the crime rate began to skyrocket. This environment was very toxic to many young children. Children began to join gangs and distributed illegal drugs. Furthermore, the conditions of this environment influenced the type of music that was being made in Atlanta. Atlanta began to hear a lot more thug and gangster rap. This thug and gangster rap has reflected in some of Ludacris most popular songs such as "Move Bitch" and "Get Back"
While in Atlanta, Ludacris exposed to a totally new lifestyle. He lived in a low-income area with a fairly high crime rate. In this new environment had to learn to maneuver his dad's alcoholism and parental style, while also focusing on his own music. Ludacris managed to graduate from Banneker High school in 1995. In 1998, he studied music management at Georgia State University. He also got an internship with the new radio station Hot 97.4, now known as Hot 107.9. Since he was working in the early morning hours, the radio owners felt that the name "Ludacris" was too harsh for the crown, instead they named him Chris Lova Lova. During his internship, he became extremely popular, DJ'ing at large parties like FreakNik and collaborating with major artist like Timberland, Dallas Austin, and Jermaine Dupri.
Ludacris had not lost his dreams of being a rapper, and it wasn't until 1998 when he released his debut album, "Incognegro", that that dream was fulfilled. Even though, the album had low sales it solidified Ludacris's sound as new, wild and a unique twist for southern rap. In 2000, Ludacris released "incognegro" under a major record label and renamed it "Back for the first time", this time the album reached #4 on the U.S. Billboard and was a major success. On this album he had special guest appearances from major artist such as Timberland, Foxy Brown, UGK, and Pastor Tory. Ludacris momentum did not stop there, he promptly completed his next album "Word of Mouf" in 2003 and Splash Waterfalls in 2004. Ludacris coined the phrase "Dirty South Music" to describe his music and had a large influence on southern rappers during the time. Ludacris's music is timeless, he is music is till played all around the world and I personally even hear his music being played during events at the University of Georgia.
Ludacris currently has 8 different studio albums and is in the process of making his ninth. He himself is a staple if Atlanta, and not just in terms of music. He, along with T.I, and Andre 300 played a vital role in creating the southern sound in rap music. When listening to Ludacris's music, he has a very distinctive sound. Sometimes he is able to freestyle rap, however he normally raps over a beat. This beat is usually prerecorded and a fast pace melody. While the rhythm and beat of rap music are essential to its basic structure, the strength of rap music lies in its lyrics. When listening to Ludacris music its remind me of a spoken word poem, that needs further dissecting. Some rap artist chooses to focus on partying and boating, but Ludacris actually has meaningful content within his music. With this content and substance Ludacris has touched the hearts of many individuals.
He was one of the pioneers of creative marketing in hip hop music. His music videos were extremely innovative and unique to its time. He has also even played a large role in uplifting all types of women in his music, regardless of their physical appearance. During that time, very few hip-hop artists used their platform to uplift women, instead they would objectify and sexualize them. I believe Ludacris going against the norm of objectifying women has had an unintentional domino effect in hip hop music. I think a lot of his respect of womanhood stems from the strong presence of his mother in his life. He was taught a lot of things from a women's perspective, as a result, he understands the many struggles that women face in America. Even though some rappers still chooses to objectify women, we also hear a number of rappers uplifting and respecting our women.
One of Ludacris's most popular song called "Run-away love" a single from his 2007 album, Release Therapy. He partnered up with the R&B singer Mary J Blige, who is a contemporary advocate for African American womanhood. Many women loved this song because it shows true narrative that African American women face in society. Please see the excerpt from Run Away Love:
Little Nicole is only ten years old
She's steady tryin to figure why the world is so cold
Why she's not pretty and nobody seems to like her
Alcoholic stepdad always wanna strike her
Yells and abuses, leaves her with some bruises
Teachers ask questions, she's makin up excuses
Bleedin on the inside, cryin on the out
It's only one girl really knows what she's about
Her name is little Stacy and they become friends
Promise that they'll always be tight 'til the end
Until one day lil' Stacy gets shot
A drive-by bullet went stray up on her block
Now Nicole's stuck up in a world on her own
Forced to think that hell is a place called home
Nothin else to do but get her clothes and pack
She says she's 'bout to run away and NEVER come back
In this song Ludacris described the struggles of three young girls, however I will be analyzing the life of Nicole. Nicole is described as an insecure ten-year-old, who feels like an outcast amongst her peers, and a burden to her family. Erica also deals with an alcoholic stepdad at home who abuses her physically, mentally and emotionally. I feel that Ludacris decided to shine a light on alcoholism because of his father's addiction and I think a piece of Ludacris is this Nicole character. Ludacris understands the multiple effects that an alcoholic parent can have on a child and decided to use his musical platform to address the issue. In continuation, Nicole has a one friend who is her motivation and driving factor, however that friend was killed by a stray bullet in her neighborhood. In spite of this story's sadness, this is the reality that young African Americans have to face. According to the Washington Post, a college-bound girl in the District hit by a stray bullet and a 17-year-old Reston girl attacked by a stranger as she walked to a mosque during 2017 Ramadan. Gun violence has been at the center of today's social advocacy movements and also has been realized to be a problem by rappers such as Ludacris. Though Ludacris never confirms if these stories are based on a true story, the narratives are very familiar to the Black Community.
Now that Ludacris is late in his career, he has stared in over 24 movies, with his most famous charter being Tej Parker for the series Fast and Furious. The Fast and furious franchise has bought in over 3.9 billion at the world ide box office and has at least two more installments. The franchise, which interestingly has made 67% of its money overseas, currently ranks as the ninth biggest film franchise of all time, beating out the likes of Paramount's Transformers, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean and Universal's Jurassic Park. Fast and Furious remains Universal Pictures' biggest franchise of all time. (Forbes) Ludacris also has his own non-profit organization called the Ludacris foundation. The Ludacris foundation aims to inspire the youth through education, memorable experiences and helping the youth help themselves. The focus is what Ludacris calls the "3Ls": Leadership and Education, Living Healthy Lifestyles, and LudaCares.
Equally important, Ludacris became a father in August of 2001 to a beautiful baby girl named Karma Bridges. He had his second daughter in December in 2013, her name is Cai Bella Bridges. In 2014, Ludacris proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Eudoxie Mbouguiengue and they welcomed a baby girl in the world in June 2015. Ludacris has now settled down and is a family man that resides in Atlanta, Georgia. He still has a passion for music but, he has put his album on hold to focus on other business ventures.
Now that I have given background information on Ludacris and his upbringing, I want to add context to my thesis. I think that Ludacris and I share a lot of the same attributes because we came from the same hometown and graduated from the same high school. In addition, we also dealt with a lot similar situations that happened within our family. Though our situation is not exactly similar to Ludacris, there are definitely some commonalities.
One thing that I really relate to with Ludacris's story is his dad's alcoholism. While my father was not an alcoholic, my mom is. Mom unfortunately has been under the grips of alcoholism since I was in middle school. Similar to Ludacris's father, my is mom is able to function normally and go to work daily, however she does have episodes of extreme drunkenness. As a result of her alcoholism, it has caused a lot of problems within our family, some of our family split up and don't even speak anymore. Even though my mom has an alcohol addiction, she has been the best mother I could ever ask for. She's been really essential in my growth and development and she support me in all of my endeavors. Now I'm at the point in my life where I wish that she would stop drinking for the sake of her own health, but since I'm in college I am not directly impacted by it. My mom is currently in therapy and they are working to get to the root of her alcoholism, I do believe that one day my mom will be free from the grips of alcohol.
Another thing I think that Ludacris and I have in common, is using our tough environments as a driving factor of motivation. I come from an all-black, low income neighborhood and I have seen a lot of traumatizing things. I use those traumatizing events and situations to motivate me when I am not motivated. Since I have come to the University of Georgia, I've been able to achieve miraculous things such as becoming the first all Black SGA ticket and becoming an Orientation Leader. Although Ludacris and I have different career paths, we have both achieve amazing goals due to our unique upbringing.
In closing, I am completely inspired by Ludacris' achievement and work ethic. He has managed to become a cultural icon, even though he came from a very under privilege community. Ludacris and I share a lot of the same experiences and it has created a drive for success in us that is unmatched. As I continue to grow with in my career, I will always keep in mind that Ludacris has been through similar experiences as myself, however he did not allow that to deter him from reaching his goal. I know that life has its challenges, but I think it's only right to use those challenges as a motivational factor.
...(download the rest of the essay above)