Photo by Joel Wintermantle / Alamy
For a person of a certain age - born in the 80s, say - the musician most likely to have seen you from young adulthood to the current day is Ludacris.
I'm not talking about someone whose records make your desert island list. He doesn't have an Illmatic. He's not revered like an Andre 3000 or worshipped like a Jay-Z.
But more than anyone else, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges has seeped into every crevice of popular culture without testing our collective patience.
Since he emerged in 1998 and broke out with single Southern Hospitality in 2000, it's impossible to recall a school dance, house party, commercial break, movie soundtrack or NBA intermission that didn't feature Ludacris. It's hard to believe the guy's only 35.
In high school, we belted What's Your Fantasy, to the chagrin, definitely, of our teachers. There's nothing subtle about a Luda sex song - no buried meaning. It wouldn't take an advanced English class to unravel the meaning of "I wanna li-li-li-lick you from your head to your toes," for example.
At the time we didn't understand the uniqueness of its in-your-face presentation - more impressive now, looking back - and the guy's sheer brass.
There are rappers you associate with rolling down your windows, but none more so than Ludacris. First week I got my licence, I blared Move Bitch - my feminist disdain for the word hadn't fully kicked in yet - with the windows down in my sister's teal Dodge Neon.
He came onto the rap scene at an opportune time. Along with Outkast, he was one of Atlanta's first shining sons, repping the Dirty South long before T.I. or 2 Chainz.
Fellow Georgian Lil Jon was popularizing an Atlanta party sound, Usher was burning up the R&B charts, and Luda's fun-loving, raunchy, oft hilarious rhymes fit the mood perfectly.
He went on to win one of his three Grammys with Lil Jon and Usher, for the anthem of 2004, Yeah.
Meanwhile, he cultivated an acting career that proved wrong all those who rolled their eyes at another rapper/actor. He starred in best-picture Oscar winner Crash and is currently basking in the box office dominance of the Fast & Furious mega-franchise.
He hasn't always been particularly selective in his film roles (see Fred Claus and New Year's Eve).
And, yes, he's collabed with Justin Bieber (for which he's refreshingly unapologetic). For the record, it's not the Biebs factor that seems shameless, but the choice of song (2010 preteen anthem Baby. Eek.)
But he also continues to work with some of today's most relevant hip-hop breakouts.
Future's 2012 major debut, Pluto, for example, made waves with its unique Auto-Tuned rap-singing. Ludacris is by far the best part of the most memorable track, Same Damn Time, which reminded us that a Luda verse makes just about any song better.
He released a mixtape last month, and his eighth album is due this year, on which he's working with long-time production collaborators the Neptunes.
When Ludacris emerged in the late 90s, Jay-Z had his breathless scratch, Eminem his nasal fury and DMX his belligerent bark. Ludacris owned the deep, aggressive shout.
His is a voice that was made for stadium and festival performing; his set was arguably the best at last year's Bonaroo.
On Sunday (June 16), he headlines at Yonge-Dundas Square. He's given us a lifetime of party tracks. Let's show this guy some northern hospitality.
If you like Ludacris, also check out Ron E Polo at Crawford, tonight (Thursday, June 13), 1 am, NXNE wristband or $12; or Doss the Artist at Wrongbar, Friday (June 14), 11 pm, NXNE wristband or $15.