This past Thursday was an evening of wet anticipation. Unscathed by sneaky showers, a crowd of feverish New Yorkers lined the side of Tribeca Cinemas in downtown Manhattan. Not a chunky heel or fresh kick tapped with impatience. All were eager to see what three-time Grammy winner Ludacris had in store for the screening of his sixth studio album Theater of the Mind.
Throats were greeted with complimentary cocktails, but it wasn’t until the man of metaphors arrived at the balcony of the DJ booth, that mouths really started talking. “I call this a motion picture album. With every song you’ll be able to put a picture to it,”Â explained Luda. “I’m not the rapper, I’m the lead role and there are no featured artists. [Instead] I’m calling them my co-stars.”Â
Co-stars indeed. Lil Wayne, T-Pain, T.I., Spike Lee, Trackmasters, and Rodney “Darkchild”Â Jerkins, are only a snippet from the impressive talent roster standing by the leading man. While guests got friendly, Luda draped the space with five muffled, yet solid cuts from Theater of the Mind. And although technical difficulties would surely have assassinated any average listening session, things were staged differently that night. After all, this was a screening.
The intimate theaters that seated guests showed no weakness. A 15-minute film showcased a montage of Luda’s widespread work, behind-the-scenes video footage of “What Them Girls Like”Â featuring Chris Brown and Sean Garrett, as well as a showing of “Undisputed,”Â in which a flexed and buff Luda trains with boxer Floyd Mayweather, throwing endless brass-knuckled jabs at haters and a dwindling industry. But when the curtains closed, the multi-platinum artist wasn’t done yet. Luda had some venting to do.
On not gaining enough respect as an artist: “I’m patient. So in time, I know it’ll come. And it’s motivation. If someone feels I’m not to that point, it gives me reason to get there. With every album I do, I set out to achieve a certain goal. When I came out with Release Therapy, I honestly set out to win a Grammy and it changed my heart because I accomplished it. So this album is set out to get the credit I deserve as an MC—to prove that I got lyrics. That’s why I made sure to put a lot of people on there. So you make sure I son their motherfucking ass out! Competition is great.”Â
On deciding to work with Southern rival T.I. on “Wish You Would”: “We had been talking under the radar for a really long time. We were trying to figure out when would be the right opportunity to surprise people. We live in Atlanta and Atlanta is small as hell. We have the same circle of friends. It wasn’t really what I would consider beef. Between me and him it was just little stuff said on records. It really wasn’t what people made it out to be. With everything going on in the music industry now, we just felt there was no better time to make it happen than now.”Â
On what people should always remember him as: “I feel like I can do everything. If you want me to make a hit single that gets a lot of radio plays, I can do that. If you want me to get on a song with other rappers and make sure I throw at ’em, I can do that. You want me to spit fast as hell, I can do that. Spit slow, I can spit slow. Subject matter. Not talking about shit. Anything you want me to do, I can do it.”Â
On rumors of retirement: “I was sitting down talking to someone at the Toronto Film Festival and they asked me what I liked better. I said music is in my blood, it’s something I’ll continue doing for the rest of my life, but I don’t see myself making albums as Ludacris for the rest of my life. When I’m about 40 years old, I don’t necessarily think I’m going to be making rap records.”Â
On his greatest disappointment: “I feel like any disappointment I had was supposed to happen, so it just makes me a greater person. I can’t really think of a major disappointment because anything that happens to me that I feel is bad, I honestly feel like it’s actually good to help.”Â
As far as sequels go, Luda states the possibility of a Theater of the Mind part 2 and 3, but for now his projects include two movies, as well as a Battles of the Sexes album with fellow DTP member Shawnna. Theater of the Mind will be released in stores and online November 25th.
–Tracy Garraud in New York