In the past five years, Ludacris has starred in three Fast and the Furious sequels (the latest, Furious 7, is out now) and released exactly zero new albums. But don't count him out of the rap game just yet: His latest LP, Ludaversal, is his strongest in years. "I'm my biggest critic, but this shit is out of control," says the rapper, 37.
Key tracks on the LP range from "Ludaversal Intro," where he does lyrical backflips over a David Banner beat, to the emotional "Ocean Skies," dedicated to his father, who died in 2007. Luda called RS from his Atlanta home to talk about it all. "My whole goal was this: What the fuck is gonna make somebody go buy a Ludacris album after seven albums? How could he even reinvent himself? Well, damn it, here you have it."
A few of your new songs feel like they're taking aim at people who think you fell off. Is this your "Forgot About Dre" moment?
Without sugarcoating it, I'm reminding everyone that I didn't go any-fucking-where. I just shot a couple movies. Some people think that rappers that have been in the game so long that they go shoot movies forget about the passion and the hunger for what got them there in the first place. God damn it, I still put music as Number One. Don't you ever forget it.
Why do you even care what anyone says about you? You're already rich and famous.
The moment you stop caring, you're your own worst enemy. So I do care. I know a lot of people just say shit to say it, because they have no idea who I am or what my life is. At the end of the day, it's between me and God. I know I'm the best rapper there is. I know that I will slaughter any rapper that is out there. And to the people who feel like I might not be as good, I'm going to continue to slap you upside the fucking head until you wake up.
Why does the game need Ludacris in 2015? What do you bring to the table that other rappers can't?
I bring a little bit of humor to it. Not everything has to be so goddamn hard and gangster. We all have a sense of humor, it's just that 90 percent of rappers don't show that side.
At one point you announced that you were working with dance-pop producers like David Guetta and Cashmere Cat, but none of that stuff made the album, right? What happened?
No, no, no. That was just me trying to keep my fans' appetite whet. I was shooting Fast 6 in London, trying out different sounds from my world travels. One of those songs went platinum in Australia. But I don't want to put out a trendy album. I want to put out songs that if you play the shit five or 10 years from now, it's going to be timeless.
You get into some deep personal subject matter on this album. What was the hardest thing to open up about?
The record about my father was very hard. My father was an alcoholic, man. I did everything in my human power to get him to stop, and he just would never stop. Then it ended up with him having diabetes, to him having the liver and kidney malfunctions. . .I just wanted to open up about people who have this disease. And it is a disease. I'm sure there are people who can relate to what I went through, where their parents may be alcoholics, or even themselves. I just want them to get healthy, because there are people that love them. It's important to get healthy and stop [drinking], because I lost him.
On "Grass is Greener," you say you actually quit drinking for a while yourself. What brought you to that place?
I stopped drinking for the entire year of 2012, just to see if I could. I was on vacation with Kevin Hart one December, and I drank so much fucking alcohol that month that I said to myself, "Yo, let me see if I can stop drinking for a month." That month turned into two or three more months, and then I was like, "I'm trying to see if I can make it the whole year." It was a discipline thing. I don't even know how the fuck I did it. At the end of the year, I was like, "I made it happen!" Then I started drinking again, and it was all downhill from there. [Laughs.]
Did you stop smoking weed, too?
Um, no. I never said that!
You got married a few months ago. How's married life so far?
So far, so good. I'll call up Rolling Stone and let you guys know if anything changes.
You had a triple-platinum album by the time you were 23. Ever miss those days?
Sometimes it's good to reminisce about it in the mind – money, hoes and clothes, man. Buying everything you can think of. Got a house, getting cars, getting jewelry, having area codes. But at the end of the day, I'm very happy where I'm at now. I was able to satisfy a lot of my curiosity. I could be out partying every day and night, but I'd rather be with my kids, so it's slowed down a lot.
How long do you want to keep doing this? Are you going to keep rapping into your forties, fifties, sixties?
Nah. I definitely don't want to be rapping in my sixties. I'd rather be producing or doing something behind the scenes. I'm not going to be rapping with a cane.
Last question. Can you use the word "Ludaversal" in a sentence?
Yeah. Welcome to my world: Ludaversal.