Ludacris Talks Favorite New Punchline Rappers & ATL Hip-Hop Evolution
Throughout history, there haven't been many emcees quite as dynamic as Ludacris.
Ever since he first emerged onto the scene with his debut album Back For The First Time, Luda has continuously proven himself as an innovator and imaginative lyricist. Priding himself as a jack-of-all-trades in the flow department, he made a point of experimenting with different styles and expanding his repertoire to suit any occasion. Even today, with the mainstream sound having altered completely since his arrival, shades of Luda's influence can still be discerned.
Having expanded his brand well beyond hip-hop -- he recently starred in F9, which has grossed over $600 million worldwide -- Luda has been on the continuous search for a partnership that suits his lifestyle. Evidently, he found exactly that with Jif Peanut Butter, who teamed up with Cris, Gunna, and director Dave Meyers for their brand new video "The Return."
The "Lil Jif" partnership proved to be a match made in heaven for Luda, who epitomizes what it's like to be a peanut butter fiend. Not only did he get to collaborate with like-minded creatives in promotion for a product he eats damn near every day, but he also found unexpected inspiration for his brand new single "Butter.ATL." In the wake of its release, we had the honor of speaking with Ludacris about his new collaboration with Jif, as well as his vast musical legacy -- past, present, and future.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
WATCH: Ludacris in "The Return -- Jif® Peanut Butter"
HNHH: Hey, how you doing, Luda?
Ludacris: What up dude. Man, I'm a fan of HotNewHipHop, so all love bro.
I'm a fan of you, man. It's always an honor to speak with a hip-hop legend.
Thank you man, that means the world. They don't throw that legend word out there loosely like that, so that means the world.
I'll have you know that I got that Word Of Mouf album when it came out, bought that physical copy.
But where's it at now? Did someone steal it or have you misplaced that thing? That’s the question.
You know, it's kind of a sad story. I left all my favorite rap CDs at my ex-girlfriend’s house back in the day.
[Laughs] Now that’s hilarious. Ain’t no telling what she did to them.
Congrats on all the success lately. F9 is making bank, and now this new partnership with Jif peanut butter.
Yeah man. I always tell everybody and I mean this. Everybody has that one thing that they can eat every single day never get tired of -- I promise you, the one thing is Jif peanut butter for me. It's one thing for people to get on and make things up about partnerships, but man, this is so organic to my lifestyle. The Most High in the universe made this partnership happen because they knew that I loved Jif peanut butter, straight-up. You ask anybody, and they'll tell you I eat peanut butter every day. Not only do I eat it every day -- I eat it multiple times a day.
Are there any unconventional peanut butter combos that people might not be expecting?
That's actually a good question. It's tradition to put it on bread and all that, but I put it on french toast. I put it on pancakes. I was putting it on graham crackers last night. You know how you can make s'mores? My s'mores consist of marshmallows, graham crackers, and JIF peanut butter. I can think of a million things but the first thing that came to mind was what I was doing last night. Sunday's my cheat meal day and that's what I do. So I put it on everything, man.
Image via ArtistThis campaign sounds like a truly appropriate match. Did you realize the scope that they were going with this campaign, especially with the video? I mean, you got Dave Meyers directing--
Dave Meyers did my "Stand Up" video. He did "Splash Waterfalls." He's one of my favorites, if not my favorite director. When they said that they were putting him on there, it made it even more creative for me to come up with this "Butter ATL" song to go synonymous with the video. I just love having fun, and I love stretching my imagination and augmenting and exaggerating things. So did you get a chance to see the commercial yet?
Yeah, it was great.
That's where the whole concept came from. Again this is my dream collaboration, and I mean that because it's organic to my lifestyle. Plus everyone that's involved are people that I've either worked with before or wanted to work with.
I think a lot of longtime hip-hop fans who have been listening to hip hop for 20 plus years -- they've seen a big stylistic shift in the sound of mainstream rap. I think that the video actually sparked a bit of conversation about that, kind of poking fun at some of the stereotypes while having fun at the same time.
I always love to have fun with whatever conversation is going on in hip-hop. But also, I love making fun of myself. I don't take life too seriously and I like to increase conversation about what people love. And as Ludacris, it's about just having fun with different flows. I think that's one of the most important things because when people look back at it, they’re like “this guy, there's no flow that he can't do.” In terms of being melodic, in terms of rapping fast and certainly rapping slow, humbly speaking, I feel like I'm a jack of all trades. To be able to incorporate some of those newer flows in here with the inspiration of Jif peanut butter -- especially while taking a scoop of it -- that's what makes it even more fun to me.
"I always love to have fun with whatever conversation is going on in hip-hop. But also, I love making fun of myself. I don't take life too seriously and I like to increase conversation about what people love. And as Ludacris, it's about just having fun with different flows. I think that's one of the most important things because when people look back at it, they’re like, 'this guy, there's no flow that he can't do.'"
John Parra/Getty ImagesIt's effective too because you can test the waters. You can drop the song with the context of the commercial and see how people react to it.
[Laughs] That's a very good point. Even in "Welcome to Atlanta," at the end when I was like "Chil-li-li-li-li-n, fli-pi-pi-pi-pi-n," a lot of people don't even know where that came from -- but the whole world was singing it. It actually came from a radio station here in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was something that somebody had done a drop, and they had a tongue twister that they messed up. But the person kept drop like that. So when I did that verse -- because it was specific to Atlanta -- everyone in Atlanta knew what I was talking about. I mean that to say, it's like with the Jif peanut butter and being able to come up with different flows...Everyone may not get it at first, but they'll eventually understand it over time.
Would you say that it awoke something within you, a new creative direction to perhaps pursue in the future?
Oh hell yeah. 100%. That's really what this whole campaign is about. Inspiring new flows and inspiring more creativity. Because I have to continue to reinvent myself as every artist does. It becomes more challenging to keep people interested the more albums you put out and the longer you've been in the game. I love being put up to that challenge. It's a lot easier when you are putting out your second album or third album then when you're putting out your eleventh album.
I can imagine. So this new style for lack of a better term, I feel like Atlanta really pioneered it. What was your initial reaction when it first started becoming the popular hip-hop sound?
For those who want to do some hip-hop homework, I could name a bunch of songs where I experimented with that sound. "Blueberry Yum Yum." I kind of had the melodic thing. So this is like this is nothing new to me it's just like, oh okay. When I said that whole thing about humbly speaking me trying out so many different flows, it's like, whatever is going on at the present moment or whatever I feel like is spreading the transition for what's to come, I'm willing to do it all. I'm willing to bring it to the forefront because I feel like it's already a part of my foundational hip-hop flow arsenal. [Laughs] I'm cool with it either way. I'm ready. It's almost like we go into war, okay what type of guns are we pulling out? I don't really want to go to guns as an analogy but you get what I'm saying.
Yeah, absolutely. Like you said you were experimenting with those flows years ago, but at the same time, you could get on a track with JAY-Z and Nas and hold your own lyrically. Not everyone can do that.
"For those who want to do some hip-hop homework, I could name a bunch of songs where I experimented with that sound. "Blueberry Yum Yum." I kind of had the melodic thing. So this is like this is nothing new to me."
Exactly. So don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years. [Laughs]
So what was it like working with Gunna on this?
Oh man, we went to the same high school. A lot of people don't even know that man -- not at the same time, obviously. But Banneker High School, College Park, Georgia. When I say this whole campaign was organic -- I've met Gunna before, I had conversations with him, so the fact that he's a part of this campaign, a part of this commercial....again, a dream collaboration.
"Oh man, [Gunna and I] went to the same high school. A lot of people don't even know that man."
Image via ArtistWere there any talks of a possible collaboration?
There are talks of collaborations right now, so we'll see, man. Hopefully the world will be able to get one of those.
I remember seeing a while back that you and Timbaland were working on some new music. Is that still something in the cards for the future?
Absolutely. We have it we have a bunch of songs already done. There'll be another announcement by the end of the year about new music, so I got you covered. I just can't speak on it at this present moment. But I can say this whole "Butter.ATL" and this commercial are kind of the catalyst for a movement of new music to drop.
We can look at it as the first stages of a rollout.
Exactly, you got it.
One last question for you. You're one of the best punch line rappers of all time, so I'm wondering -- who do you think can hold their own with the punch lines in this current generation?
That's a good question. Let me see -- who are the good punch line rappers, man? When you say new generation, like J. Cole and Kendrick?
I say they're one generation removed. More like the 2015-to-now era.
I love Conway. Not only Conway, but the whole Griselda. Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher. Conway is out of this world. I don't really want to say that he's underrated but I love Conway, I would definitely Conway.
I'm glad you guys linked up. "Scatter Brain" was one of my favorite tracks this year. I was very happy to see that, that's for sure.
"I love Conway. Not only Conway, but the whole Griselda. Westside Gunn, Benny the Butcher. Conway is out of this world. I don't really want to say that he's underrated but I love Conway."
Me and you both, man.
I'll let you get back to it, but thanks again for taking the time. I'm happy that you're still killing it, and I'm looking forward to the new music.
Thank you, sir. Appreciate it. Take care.
Listen: Ludacris - Butter.ATL