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Christopher Brian Bridges was born on Sept. 11, 1977 in Champaign, Ill. He began rapping at the age of 9 and formed his first musical group a few years later. While in his teens, his family moved to Atlanta where he attended Banneker High School before majoring in music management at Georgia State University.

He later worked at Atlanta radio station Hot 97.5 FM as DJ Chris Lova Lova, before adopting the alias Ludacris to perform on the Timbaland track “Phat Rabbit.” The feature led him to launch his own career in 2000 with the release of the debut album “Back for the First Time.” He followed up a year later with “Word of Mouf,” and the rest is history.

The six-time Grammy winner has evolved from a hip-hop icon into an entrepreneur, philanthropist, restaurateur, pitchman, columnist and, of course, a gifted actor. He parlayed appearances on the NBC drama “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” into roles in such hit major motion pictures as the Academy Award Best Picture-winning “Crash” and the critically acclaimed “Hustle and Flow.”

As partners with chef Chris Yeo in Straits Restaurant, Ludacris offers Thai/Singaporean cuisine in the heart of downtown Atlanta. He has also launched a couple of online ventures:, a social networking site aimed at showcasing and developing artists, and, intended as something of a MySpace for the ’hood.

His nonprofit Ludacris Foundation, already in its seventh year of operation, has donated more than $1 million to organizations that assist underprivileged children. The foundation’s aim is to help kids help themselves, using music and the arts to inspire them to develop goals and then work to achieve them.

Ludacris recently took a few moments to speak with the Banner about all of the above, as well as his new film “Gamer,” a sci-fi adventure co-starring Gerard Butler, Kyra Sedgwick, Terry Crews and Amber Valletta. In the futuristic film, which opened last Friday, video-game players can control the lives of human prisoners in massive, multi-player, real-life war games.

What interested you in “Gamer”?

Man, in picking movies, I always look at all the elements before making a choice, from reading the script to seeing who else is in it to who produced it to who’s directing. The opportunity to work with Gerard Butler was definitely a plus. I’ve been a fan of his, especially, because of the movie “300.” And I also wanted to work with the guys who wrote and were directing it, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.

Yeah, they made “Crank,” which was quite impressive, a non-stop, adrenaline-fueled roller-coaster ride.

Exactly. I made my decision based on that. In addition, I loved the role they had for me, because I never want to be typecast. I love playing all sorts of different roles.

How would you describe your character, Humanz Brother?

I play the leader of a resistance group that’s totally against putting computer chips in human beings’ brains, because I think that’ll lead to the taking over of mankind, period. So I’m all about trying to get rid of this technology, so we can live peacefully.

Do you think a scenario like this has a chance of becoming a reality someday?

Man, you never know. The possibilities are definitely limitless when it comes to technology like this. We all embrace technology, but sometimes you have to be careful.

How’d you get along with the other members of the cast?

I loved working with this cast, especially with Gerard Butler. That’s how I study and try to become a better actor. He’s extremely serious and focused.

How do you divide your time between making music and making movies?

It’s hard, man, but you’ve just got to focus on one thing at a time. I give whichever I’m doing 100 percent of my attention.

Are you ever afraid?

I’m sure we’re all fearful of something. I’m afraid of God. You have to be fearful of Him.

Are you happy?

[chuckles] I am definitely happy, man. Of course, I wouldn’t say I’m always happy. I don’t think anyone is. But for the most part, I’m living out my dream. I’m doing what I have to do. My family’s taken care of. I’m financially straight. So, damn right, I’m extremely happy.

How can your fans help you?

Hey man, my fans already help me by supporting the things I do, and just by understanding my changing and continued growth. So the true fans are already helping me out there.

What was the last book you read?

I’m actually reading a book right now, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

The Dale Carnegie classic. What music are you listening to right now?

A lot of different music. I have a “Battle of the Sexes” album [with female Chicago rapper Shawnna] coming out soon, so I have to listen to all these unreleased tracks so that we make sure we pick from the best of them to give to the true fans who support us.

What’s the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome in life?

All the people who told me I couldn’t make it, and individuals who were trying to step in the way of my becoming who I am.

Who’s at the top of your hero list?

Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Mr. Barack Obama.

How did you feel a year ago when President Obama said he was listening to you on his iPod?

I really appreciated that.

Have you spoken to him since he became president?

That’s confidential information.

What is your favorite dish to cook?

Tacos. That’s about the only thing I know how to cook.

How do you get through the tough times?

By realizing that I’m extremely blessed and extremely fortunate, and that it can’t be that damn bad.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

I see a multifaceted Negro — an entrepre-Negro.

Is it true you like big women?

I don’t discriminate. Big, small, skinny, tall, short, it doesn’t matter.

When’s your next album coming out?

It should be out toward the end of the year. If not, it’s coming out on Valentine’s Day of 2010.

Is it true that you’re going to star in the Richard Pryor biopic?

I wouldn’t say that it’s untrue, but nothing is confirmed yet.

How can hip-hop artists assist young and old people to transcend obstacles on whatever path they are on?

By embracing the new, by not being stubborn, and by being open to new artists.

What do you think of the Amish?

[laughs] Oh, man — like I said, I don’t discriminate. I love ’em. I respect everybody’s faith and culture.

I was talking to a director recently who was really blown away by your acting skills. She was wondering whether you’ve been studying the craft.

I always study my craft. I’m passionate about what I do, so you have to study.

What images and roles do you see for yourself in the future?

As far as movies are concerned, I would have to say a diversity. But only time will tell.

Are you still involved with AIDS awareness?

Yes, we’re still doing things through the Ludacris Foundation.

How are you enjoying your joint venture as co-owner of Straits Restaurant?

I’m loving it, man. Coincidentally, we have a private dinner there … as we speak. We’re coming up on our two-year anniversary, so I’m feeling good.

Have you mended fences with Oprah?

Oprah called me when my dad passed and offered her condolences, so I would say we are on good terms.

You were doing charity work in South Africa. Are you planning to do anything musically over there?

Yeah, when I was there we did a couple of things with some African artists. And we’re still looking into trying to build a label over there and putting out some music. So I’m definitely involved somewhat.