By David Pendered
Ludacris is the latest Atlanta rapper to bridge the divide between Atlanta’s hip hop and legacy civic communities. Ludacris is joining Georgia State University as an artist-in-residence, where he’s to advise on subjects including entrepreneurship in the entertainment industry.
Ludacris joins rappers including Killer Mike and T.I. in the civic spotlight. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms brought both Killer Mike and T.I into the public embrace, naming them in 2018 to her blue-ribbon transition team. Team members were recommended by the panel’s co-chairs – Larry Gellerstedt, now executive chairman of Cousins Properties; and Vicki Palmer, now a management consultant and retired executive vice president of Coca Cola Enterprises, Inc.
Ludacris, as a GSU artist-in-residence, is to help shape the “next generation of digital storytellers,” as GSU describes its Creative Media Industries Institute. Hopes are high, Brennen Dicker, CMII’s executive director, said in a statement:
- “Chris is an incredibly talented artist and has so much industry knowledge to share. We are excited to see how our students, and really the entire institute, will benefit from this great new partnership.”
Ludacris, whose name is Chris Bridges, was equally complimentary:
- “Georgia State is one of the most innovative and diverse universities in the country. I couldn’t imagine a better place to work with students than CMII.”
GSU observed that this is a coming home for Ludacris, 42, who attended GSU before abandoning college to focus on the entertainment industry. In the ensuing years, Ludacris’ accomplishments, according to GSU’s statement, include:
- Selling more than 20 million records worldwide;
- Served for three years as executive producer and host of the TV show “Fear Factor;
- Acted in shows including “Crash, Hustle & Flow,” “Law and Order – Special Victims Unit,” and “The Fast and the Furious.”
- Founder of Disturbing tha’ Peace record label;
- Founder of the Chicken + Beer restaurant that opened at Atlanta’s airport, in association with Jackmont Hospitality, Inc., which was founded by former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and others.
IMBd has a lengthy biography of Ludacris, which includes the notation that Ludacris was graduated from GSU.
Killer Mike has retained a presence in the city’s civic affairs following his work on Bottoms’ transition team.
On Oct. 17, Killer Mike appeared at GSU School of Music’s Distinguished Speaker Series, where he was featured in a moderated Q&A on entrepreneurship in the music and entertainment industry. In addition, Killer Mike serves on the board that oversees the High Museum of Art, to which he was named in August 2018.
T.I. and Killer Mike gained attention this month for criticism aimed at a fund-raising call at the influential New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, in Lithonia. A photo of T.I. making a facial gesture some say was a smirk was widely viewed on Instagram. One of the take-aways from T.I. observed:
- “This [minister] had the nerve to say, ‘Come on, get your blessing heard.’ Are you telling me I have to give you $1,000 to have the good Lord hear my blessing? That’s probably when I made the face. Unconsciously. I’m talking about, I can’t help myself….
- “This is extortion. You’re telling these people, they’re not going to be blessed unless they get their money to you.”
The two discussed the matter at length on T.I.’s podcast, ExpediTIously. The podcast is rated explicit and the conversation about the incident at church begins about 2 hours and 20 minutes into this edition of the broadcast.