Ludacris takes on many roles beyond rap

CHICAGO Fri Aug 7, 2009 6:22pm EDT

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Grammy-winner Chris "Ludacris" Bridges has won fans, and critics, for lyrics in songs such as "Pimpin' All Ova the World," but like other artists, the hip hop star says his detractors often misinterpret his raps.

His fans just keep coming back for more, which has given Ludacris not only a career in songs, but also television, movies and even a restaurant in Atlanta where his work as a radio DJ launched his rap career.

In fact, Ludacris is "Ludaversal," which is the name he chose for an upcoming album. But before that record drops in 2010, Ludacris has a new movie, "Gamer," debuting in U.S. theaters on September 4, and late Thursday he kicked off the Heineken Red Star Soul concert series here in Chicago.

He told Reuters before the show that futuristic flick "Gamers" is a departure from his turns in Oscar-winning drama "Crash" and highly acclaimed "Hustle & Flow."

"It is about controlling peoples' minds and playing them in a video game," Ludacris said. "I look at projects regardless of them being independent or big budget. I like being in involved in what I feel are life changing projects," he said.

On his upcoming studio album, "Battle of the Sexes," he collaborates with rapper Shawnna, the daughter of the famed Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy.

She is the only female rapper signed to Def Jam company DTP records, where Bridges is chief executive officer -- just one more of the many hats Ludacris wears.

"Fans can expect me and Shawnna at our best, just going at it, head to head," Ludacris said.

The album will cover relationship topics, debate which gender should -- or does -- rule the world, and other issues from both a male and female perspective, he said.

OFTEN UNDER FIRE

No stranger to social politics and controversy, Ludacris sometimes comes under fire for his rap songs' lyrical content.

In 2002 conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly bashed Pepsico Inc when it chose Ludacris as spokesperson to appear in the soft drink maker's commercials. O'Reilly, a commentator for the Fox News Channel, said Pepsi chose a rapper whose songs were demeaning, sexually degrading, and promoted antisocial behavior.

O'Reilly specifically pointed to Bridges' 2002 hit "Move B****," featuring fellow rappers Mystikal and I-20, which uses strong language in some of its lyrics.

More recently, politicians and women's right groups blasted Bridges during President Obama's campaign for his controversial song "Politics" on what was deemed offensive lyrics about current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sen. John McCain, and former President George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, Ludacris shrugs off his detractors.

"They're going to criticize...they're going to say what they want. The real fans of hip-hop music, they understand what I'm saying," Bridges said.

"Ludaversal" is slated for release in the Spring 2010, and Ludacris said it will have something for everyone.

"It's just that, universal," he said, playing the role of good publicity man and not divulging too many details to keep his fans guessing.

(Reporting by Meredith Davis; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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