Entertainment, Music

Star of “The Fate of the Furious,” the hip-hop artist known as Ludacris rides on the edge to balance tech, his music and his life.




Star of “The Fate of the Furious,” the hip-hop artist known as Ludacris rides on the edge to balance tech, his music and his life.
It should come as no surprise that Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, one of the stars of the Fast & Furious movie franchise, isn’t a fan of self-driving cars.
“I honestly feel that no one can ever take the place of a human being when it comes to actually driving, especially when it comes to that last-minute instinct if something happens to go wrong,” Ludacris, 39, told CNET during a cover shoot in his hometown of Atlanta.
“The same way computers crash every now and then, I feel like cars that are gonna drive people, there’s a slight chance that it may crash,” he said in December, ahead of reprising his role as tech guy Tej Parker in “The Fate of the Furious,” also known as “Fast & Furious 8.”
“I don’t think it’s for me.”
That’s not to say he’s leery of tech. While not quite the techie he plays on screen, Ludacris says his house has all sorts of gadgets he controls through his iPhone apps. He also relies on apps to help him with his music. But the hip-hop artist also thinks we should put our tech down every once in a while. “There’s a time to disconnect,” he says. “There’s nothing like actually interacting with other human beings.”
Ludacris spoke with CNET News Editor-in-Chief Connie Guglielmo about why he still drives his first car, the tech he’d like to see invented and singing in the shower. Here’s an edited transcript of their conversations.
The trailer for “Fast & Furious 8” went viral when it was released in December. Why do you think people are so excited about the franchise?
I’m not able to give away all the specifics of the movie, but I think it’s exciting because as time has gone on, the sequels continued to get better and better. Usually when you have sequels, that’s not the case. We have some of the most loyal fans when it comes to this movie that I’ve ever seen in my entire life, so I’m excited.
But as the trailer tells, Dom [played by Vin Diesel] has gone rogue on us. I don’t think anybody saw this coming, but you have to see the movie in order to understand why.
You drive a tank in the movie.
Were your co-stars jealous?
I don’t think anybody was jealous because that’s just my character. My character is the tech guy, and he is the one who wants to have the most electronics and powerful guns at his disposal. Everyone has a car that fits their personality and that one fit mine.
I hear you’re devoted to your first car.
A 1993 Acura. I drive it all the time. It had over 273,000 miles on it before I had to change the engine. Acura stepped in just because I had it for so long because it’s been a staple in my life. They helped me refurbish it and restore it — new engine, new paint job, interior — everything.
Why are you so attached to it?
Man, just because it keeps me grounded. It keeps me humble. This is a car I had before my first commercial success. I wrote a lot of songs in this car. This is something that no matter how big I get, I want to be reminded of where I started.
Silicon Valley is making a big push into self-driving cars. What do you think about that?
That’s gonna change the dynamic of people driving. I think the same way computers crash every now and then, I feel like cars that are gonna drive people, there’s a slight chance that it may crash. I don’t think it’s for me.
I honestly feel that no one can ever take the place of a human being when it comes to actually driving, especially when it comes to that last-minute instinct if something happens to go wrong.
That’s not to take anything away from Tesla or all these cars that have these features because I don’t understand it as much as people in engineering and the scientists putting it together. [But] I would rather rely on a human being than a computer when it comes to driving. That’s a stance I’m going to take.
He loves tech. He hates tech. And he’s a “perfectionist” Virgo. Meet Ludacris.
You’ve said your favorite car is a Ford GT. Tell me why.
It’s extremely powerful. I love that it’s American. I think it’s unique — you can’t compare that car to any other. It doesn’t look like any other car; it doesn’t drive like any other car. And it’s a stick shift — people love automatics these days — [they’re] starting to get away from the old-fashioned, extremely well-designed, stick shift cars. So that to me is No. 1.
Do you own one?
No, I don’t own one. It’s a time in my life where — when it comes to cars — I’m like, “let me just pay for the experience, not the possession.” I’m gone a lot, traveling a lot, and it didn’t make sense for me to have a bunch of cars just sitting in a garage and not being driven most of the time.
Are you a techie in real life?
I’m not as much of a techie as I am in the movie, obviously. For the most part, I continue to learn and dive into the tech world just because it’s so fascinating how fast things continue to evolve. I think everybody in this world is trying to catch up with technology.
What’s your favorite piece of tech?
My iPhone. Everything is so accessible, it’s very easy for me. I’m a Mac type of guy so I just love the format. And obviously as time goes on, they just continue to make everything more compatible and everything so much more easily accessible.
What piece of tech do you wish had never been invented?
It would be the iPhone because they keep up coming out with new ones so you gotta upgrade [laughs]. It’s a gift and a curse. Best piece: iPhone. Worst piece: iPhone.
What piece of tech would you like to see invented?
[Something] that helps you read people’s mind, or tech that’s like “Back to the Future” — so you could time travel. And I want somebody to come out with a DJ application where you have your playlist but everything mixes together. So they put all the songs with the same tempo together, and they are able to blend so that one song doesn’t all the way go off before the next one comes on.
What about your house? Do you have a lot of smart-home tech?
My house is pretty smart when it comes to that. So yes, I do have a control to be able to look at all the cameras, turn off lights, televisions, electronics. I do that from the phone.
You’ve also said you’re concerned about your daughters spending too much time with tech.
For business, I think it’s great. It helps you work more efficiently. It’s continuing to be the future. Everything is consolidating into certain devices to help you move faster and get things done.
I also feel there’s a time to disconnect. There’s nothing like actually interacting with other human beings. For myself and my children, I try to have a perfect balance. That’s the best thing I can say. It’s about balance.
Do you use tech for your music creative process?
Oh yeah. You have all these things and devices and applications that help you voice your ideas. You even have apps that help you with the tempo. You have GarageBand, where you can lay a format of a beat and then go later to a studio and try to finish it.
There was a time where people had to write stuff down in a notebook, if you’re doing lyrics or writing certain things. Now it’s like you can speak into a microphone and have it dictated back to you, and everything’s written out. So I think it just helps you move a lot faster.
Do you sing in the shower?
Everybody sings in the shower. If they tell you they don’t, they’re lying to you.
Any favorites?
The favorites in the shower depend on what’s currently out, whatever the new favorite song is.
Is it true that “The Devil Wears Prada” is one of your favorite movies? Why?
Man, because at the end of the day, it’s really about perseverance and just being a person that is trying to get the job done — concentrated on the success of a brand and not really worried about what other people think about them.
It’s not about necessarily being nice to people. It’s about showing people and giving them a challenge that they may have never had in their lifetime in order to accomplish something.
I just really love the movie because it’s about a boss. It’s about being a boss, and the types of things you have to do to make a brand successful.
You’re an entrepreneur in your hometown of Atlanta. What kind of a boss are you?
It’s about balance once again. Sometimes I’m a little mean, but for the most part, I’m pretty good. I keep good people around me and they don’t mess up as much. It took me a long time and many years to get to the point where I have these individuals around me, so now I don’t really yell as much.
One of your investments is a startup called Roadie, which is described as an “on-the-way” delivery network — even to Good-will. What’s it about?
It’s like an Uber for packages. We started it about two years ago, and it’s a people-to-people exchange. It’s people who are already on their way somewhere, who can [pick up and deliver something to you] instead of using FedEx and UPS.
Have you used it yourself?
What have they delivered?
Yeah. If I left something at a hotel — a camera battery or something like that — I’ve used it to see how efficient it is. I definitely feel people need to try it out.
Any chance you might be a Roadie yourself?
[Laughs.] You never know. One day, I might do that.
You’re also behind a new app for slang. Why?
Words with Friends was one of my favorite applications, but there were certain words that haven’t been added to the dictionary yet that should be a part of this game. So we came up with something called Slang and Friends. So this game is similar to Words with Friends but different in that we’ve come up with words that people use on an everyday basis that are slang.
Last year you opened a restaurant in Atlanta’s airport called Chicken-n-Beer, which was also the name of your third album.
Chicken-n-Beer is important to me because it started off as a multiplatinum album. When I made that album and that name and that title, I never in a million years would’ve thought that we would open up a restaurant titled the same thing in the busiest airport in the world.
Over time you start diversifying and start just thinking about your business portfolio as an entertainer and what influence you have. I met someone who is now my partner, and we came up with this concept and years later it has come to fruition.
I just want to show young entrepreneurs that anything you can dream of, you can work hard at and it can come true. It’s an accomplishment I’m very proud of.
You’ve said you wanted to be a multifaceted entrepreneur…
Well you’ve done that. Some people might just check out and live off their success, but it seems like you have more to do.
[Laughs.] Absolutely.
About the author
Connie Guglielmo (@techledes), editor-in-chief of CNET News, is a veteran tech journalist who has worked for MacWeek, Wired, Bloomberg News and Forbes. She thinks the next big thing should be a real transmogrifier.
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