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Double threat: chart-topping, Grammy-winning, Hillary Clinton-bashing rapper Ludacris is infamous for his brash lyrics and comical antics. Chris Bridges, his Hollywood persona, is more serious and versatile. In either industry, the artist is no dabbler. With the release of his seventh album and a slew of movies, the world will witness the second calling of Chris.

After dropping six solo albums-five of which have garnered platinum sales--Ludacris must be ready for a break. But the prolific rapper has proven tireless, simultaneously establishing a career as a respected thespian. Crossover trailblazers Queen Latifah, Will Smith and Ice Cube welcomed him onto the big screen, and well-regarded actors such as Thandie Newton and Samuel L. Jackson have complimented his work. He is ready for his close-up.

Known in Hollywood by his birth name, Chris Bridges, the rapper/actor, who made his film debut in 2001's The Wash, is beginning to reap the spoils of joining cinema's A-list. Director Guy Ritchie personally requested him for his London heist movie RocknRolla. In addition to that role, Bridges appears in Max Payne and the independent project Ball Don't Lie. He is also focusing on his seventh album, Theater of the Mind, which drops October 21. Lights, camera, action!

GIANT: Why title your album Theater of the Mind? Sounds a bit eerie.

I used to work in radio, which allows you to deliver audio and have people use their imagination and visualize what you're doing in the studio. It's a kind of theater of the mind. I've also been involved in film, from movies to videos, being in front of the camera and understanding a scene from a director's perspective. There are a lot of movie elements to every song, and I want to marry the visuals and try to do a video for each, even if some go directly to YouTube.

What does the album sound like, and who else is featured on it?

I don't have features on the album. I have co-stars. Chris Brown, The Game, Common, Floyd Mayweather Jr.--he's not rapping; he's talking on a song called "Undisputed." It's a perfect example of the theater theme. The premise is that I'm in a boxing ring and being competitive, but instead of fighting, I'm rapping. I'm saying that I'm the best like a lot of boxers did, like Muhammad Ali did. Mayweather is coaching me to go out there and let these people know I'm the best. When you hear the song, your imagination flies.

Common's song is called "Do the Right Thang." It's an uplifting song, along the same lines as "Runaway Love." It tells people that they don't just have one choice. They can use their street and book smarts to get them out of situations and accomplish whatever they feel. Spike Lee is actually talking on "Do the Right Thang."

Some of your fans miss Ludacris as the funny character. Is Theater of the Mind going to be humorous or serious?

I feel like Theater is all of that. If you combine every album I've made, whether I was being funny or serious or introspective, all of these different things are combined into the album. You're getting the best in one.

Looking back, your 2006 album, Release Therapy, won that year's Grammy for Best Rap Album. Did you intend for it to be your stepping-stone to Hollywood and Grammy accolades?

That was 100 percent me saying, "I want to win Best Rap Album." I can look back and say that I recorded Release Therapy specifically to win a Grammy. I was so adamant about winning, and I would definitely love to win more, but I'd been nominated for almost every single previous album, and I was tired of losing. What's most important is that with each album you make a goal for yourself and accomplish it. With Theater of the Mind, I wanted not only to reinvent myself but also to be more creative than I have been in the past.

Do people take you more seriously now?

My true fans know exactly when to take me seriously and when I'm joking or being tongue-in-cheek. In my acting career people take me very seriously, and I love it. I still make songs that have comedic value, but I think people know the difference.

So what happens when people don't know the difference, like with your mixtape song "Politics as Usual," which denounced New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate John McCain?

What happens when people don't know the difference? That's a good question. You'll have to ask those people. But my name does comes to mind. It becomes ... ludicrous.

Were you surprised by the backlash?

I'm going to have to say no comment and go vote on November 4.

OK, another subject then. Let's talk about acting. Do you have a dream role?

I won't know it until I see it, but I know exactly what I want to do. I'm very strategic as far as choosing certain scripts because I don't want to be typecast. I'd really want to do something that challenges and stretches me outside of who people think I am. My own mother saw me on Law & Order: SVU and said that she didn't recognize me. That's the type of acting I want to do. This is the person that birthed me, and for her not to recognize me in the role that I'm playing, it must mean that I'm doing pretty well.

You have never taken any formal acting lessons. What did you learn from your Crash and Hustle & Flow castmates?

Larenz Tate is a good friend now, and I learned a lot from him about studying your craft. When I was doing Crash with Terrence Howard, he told me, "A director is always going to give you exactly what his name implies: direction. But you wouldn't be here as an actor if they didn't want what you personally can add to this character. So take what the director says into consideration, but do what the hell you want to do."

Do you follow that advice?

Absolutely.

For more: giantmag.com/ludacris

photography melodie mcdaniel
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Author:Crosley, Hillary
Publication:GIANT
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2008
Words:967
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