Atlanta rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges joined the Fast and Furious franchise on its second film, 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, originating the role of tech genius Tej Parker. Ludacris has since appeared in the past three films, including the upcoming Furious 7, which significantly amps up the action-packed stunts and high adrenaline chase sequences. The movie drops April 3, the same week as the rapper’s ninth album, Ludaversal, and Ludacris promoting both with equal fervor. At the press junket for Furious 7, Ludacris talked about his first fight scene, cars and why he thinks rappers need to tap into more serious subject matter than hitting the clubs.
What’s made you want to keep coming back for more movies in this franchise?
I’m just as excited as the fans are when it comes to “How the hell are we going to top ourselves?” But there’s underlying themes that go along with the movie that are bigger than the movie itself, you know what I mean? Family loyalty. You can talk about cars and action and theatrical experiences, but the deep-rooted family loyalty theme that goes on alone is what keeps me moving.
That rings true for you in life, too?
Hell, yeah. Especially when you go through some stuff in your life and you realize who your true friends are and your family is. That’s the greatest thing ever.
Are you and the rest of the cast truly that close after all this?
Yeah. Absolutely. We’re a family on and off screen. That is why the chemistry’s so great.
What was the craziest stunt you got to do in the movie?
My character is more of the guy behind the scenes, but I did get a fight scene, which I was very happy about. There’s a martial art called 52 Blocks that I’ve been practicing for years. That was my fight scene because I’m always in the computer room and somewhere locked up and I don’t get much of the action. It’s all these skill sets that people didn’t know I had. It wasn’t in the script. I had to fight for that fight scene.
When you’re making these movies do you ever worry about whether something could actually happen in real life?
I think a little bit of that is what going to the movies is all about. People want that adrenaline rush and they want that escapism. I think people want that. That’s what you pay for – outrageous stunts!
Were you into cars before making these movies?
Yeah, but I learned some stuff making the movies. There were certain cars I didn’t have my eye on that were there in the movies and you start learning more. My favorite car is the Ford GT, out of the whole franchise. I love that car. I’ve been able to drive it since. You pay for the experience, not the possession.
How fast did you go?
At least over 200 MPH. Hell yeah. I’m the real fast and furious.
Were you making your new album while shooting the movie?
There were some songs that I kept from right before we started shooting this and some that I kept right after. I wasn’t working on it at the same time [as the movie] – it’s kind of hard to do that. But I’m kind of glad everything lined up the way it is. The album is about mixing the old Luda with the new Luda, and having a perfect balance.
How would you describe the new Luda?
The new Luda is always competing against what’s new and what is current in terms of flow patterns and subject matter and basically everything I’ve gone through over the past five years. My life inspires what I’m talking about.
Was there a subject you tackled that you haven’t before?
There’s a song about my father who died from alcoholism and it was very hard for me to talk about that for years and years. So it’s therapeutic now that I’m able to talk about it — I’m sure there are other people who have gone through the same thing with their parents. And this is kind of saying “Make sure you hug your parents. Tell them how much you love them because you don’t know how long they’re gonna be here.” I want to be relatable, 100 percent. That’s why we have a voice to do what we do.
How do you feel about hip-hop right now?
I think it’s always in a good state when there are constantly new genres and people who are experimenting and being creative coming out. That doesn’t mean I like all of it. I just still respect the fact that people are being creative and just continuing to push the envelope. But I wish there was more subject matter out there instead of continuing to talk about the same stuff all the time. More about their personal struggles and lives as opposed to just the club and women. But everyone has their own agenda, you know?
You also participated in the Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber last week, which seemed kind of brutal. What did you think of it?
I didn’t like the jokes about Paul Walker and I made that known. Besides that, if you take those out of there, I thought it was great. I had fun until they told those Paul Walker jokes.
What was your first encounter with Playboy?
It was sneaking into my dad’s friend’s closet to look at his Playboy magazines. I was maybe seven or eight. It was hilarious. I love that this publication has been going for so fucking long.
What’s the first pop song you knew all the words to?
Damn. That’s a hard one. Probably Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” [Sings] “Oh, I wanna dance with somebody/I wanna feel the heat with somebody.” That’s fitting, seeing as I was looking in the closet for Playboys.
What’s the first thing you bought with that first BIG check?
A house! My mother was in real estate for the majority of her career so that was always a focus in terms of gaining assets, as opposed to liability stuff. I was taught to buy real estate. The house was in Atlanta, Georgia. Hell, yeah.
Let’s pretend you’re on death row: What’s your last meal?
I love penne pasta with chicken and Alfredo. So I want a 1975 bottle of Petrus red wine. Italian food from Cafe Martorano, which is in Fort Lauderdale. And some Mr. Chow’s chicken satay. And the Mastro’s shrimp appetizer.
What was your first car?
My first car was an Acura Legend, which is actually on the cover of my new album, Ludaversal, that comes out the same week as the movie. ’93 Acura Legend and I still have it. Over 283,000 miles. It represents where I started to where I’m at now. [The album cover] is a picture of the car and my private jet. It’s like my humble beginnings and my flexing on you motherfuckers. The car’s still going. I put a new engine in it. I definitely redid a lot of it.
Who was your earliest celebrity crush?
Janet Jackson. What do you need to say about her? She’s striking, man. She’s talented, sexy and classy at the same time.
What’s the biggest lie you ever told?
The biggest lie I ever told is “I’ve never been arrested before.” I can’t elaborate on that.
Emily Zemler is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She has written for Esquire, ELLE, The Hollywood Reporter and Nylon, and is currently working on her first book. Tweet to her at @emilyzemler.