When the Dirty South movement broke nationwide at the turn of the century, Ludacris rode it to immediate widespread popularity, becoming arguably the most commercially successful Southern rapper of the time. In 2000 the Atlanta-based rapper signed to Def Jam’s newly established Southern rap subsidiary, Def Jam South, and became the label’s flagship Dirty South artist. Def Jam repackaged his underground album Incognegro (2000) as Back for the First Time (2000) and issued “What’s Your Fantasy?” as its lead single. The song soon became a national hit, beginning a long string of hits that would include Billboard Hot 100 number ones (“Stand Up,” “Money Maker”) and Top Tens (“Move Bitch,” “Splash Waterfalls,” “Pimpin’ All Over the World,” “Runaway Love”), as well as a bunch of Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Top Tens (“Southern Hospitality,” “Area Codes,” “Rollout [My Business],” “Saturday [Oooh Oooh!],” “Get Back,” “Number One Spot”). Plus, Ludacris became a reliable featured guest, gracing Top Tens for Missy Elliott (“One Minute Man,” “Gossip Folks”), Mariah Carey (“Loverboy”), LL Cool J (“Fatty Girl”), Chingy (“Holidae In”), Usher (“Yeah!”), Ciara (“Oh”), Jamie Foxx (“Unpredictable”), Fergie (“Glamorous”), and others. Moreover, Ludacris established himself as a versatile actor, notably appearing in such mainstream films as 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), Crash (2005), and Fred Claus (2007), among other films and TV series. Along with associate Chaka Zulu, Ludacris also founded his own boutique label at Def Jam, Disturbing tha Peace (aka DTP), which released albums by such diverse rap/R&B acts as Shawnna, Bobby V., Field Mob, and Playaz Circle.
Ludacris continued his output the following year, with The Red Light District (2004), another number one album loaded with hit singles (“Get Back,” “Number One Spot,” “Pimpin’ All Over the World”). Disturbing tha Peace (2005), a second collaborative album featuring the label’s roster of talent, was Ludacris’ only release for the year, and he kept a relatively low profile until the release of Release Therapy (2006), an introspective album on which he vowed that he would be taken more seriously than in the past. Another chart-topper, Release Therapy included only two Hot 100-charting singles, yet both were smashes: “Money Maker” (number one) and “Runaway Love” (number two). In 2007, Ludacris got a lot of airplay as the featured guest on Fergie’s number one hit “Glamorous.” A year later a mixtape with DJ Drama called The Preview preceded the November release of Theater of the Mind. The long list of guest stars included director Spike Lee and comedian/actor Chris Rock. His 2010 effort, Battle of the Sexes, was originally planned as a joint release with Shawnna, but when the female rapper left the DTP family, it became a solo Ludacris album. In 2014, the rapper announced his ninth album and released the EP Burning Bridges as a preview. Ludaversal followed a year later, with Usher, Miguel, and Big K.R.I.T. on the guest list, along with production from David Guetta, Rico Love, and Cashmere Cat.
~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi