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Show 'n' tell: Ludacris

Ludacris started honing his rap skills at age 9. But the path to hip-hop fame was not a straight shot for the Atlanta-bred artist (born Chris Bridges). From the Chicago hip-hop outfit the Loudmouth Hooligans to a stint as Chris Luva Luva on Atlanta's Hot 97.5, to the seemingly endless succession of demo tapes and talent shows, Ludacris amply paid his dues in his pursuit of success until he finally hit pay dirt. Originally titled Incognegro, Ludacris' now double-platinum Back for the First Time has catapulted him from local radio jock to national rap icon. His follow-up, Word of Mouth, is due in September.

CL: How do you like all the traveling you've been doing?

LUDACRIS: I'm loving it; definitely getting to see a lot of sites, different cities, people in different cities. The best thing so far was driving from Phoenix to California, just driving through the mountains and the desert. It's a beautiful sight.

Did you expect the kind of success you're having?

I feel like I worked so hard to do it, it's just finally paying off — demo tape after demo tape, talent showcase after talent showcase. It's almost like practice made perfect because I got rejected so many damn times, I just learned how to do something on my own.

Do you miss being on the air?

No, I don't because every city I go to, I'm on the radio anyway.

Tell me what we can expect from your sophomore album?

You can expect it to have a little more instrumentation in it. You can expect the same Ludacris aspect. You can expect me to be the crazy individual that I am. You'll hear more melodies. Nothing has really changed. I'm the same person, but I guess you can say I come out trying to tell some stories. On the last album, I didn't tell any stories so I'm just trying to show people how diverse I am. It's called Word of Mouth because I feel like it's going multi-platinum by word-of-mouth alone.

You've said you have a split personality. Is the Ludacris that we see and hear different from Chris Bridges?

Yeah, you could say the split personality is the business side of me. I have to be business-oriented sometimes. I can't always just be crazy as hell because you have to present yourself a certain way to certain people.

What can we expect from the show with OutKast?

Real energetic, real crazy — you never know what to expect. Pure entertainment.

Ludacris plays with OutKast Sat. and Sun., April 7-8, at the Fox Theatre. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.??