This may be the new hip-hop career track: write a few hit tracks and then develop a line of headphones to help people bump to them at full volume.
Dr. Dre blazed this path with his Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, which went on sale three years ago. Now Ludacris has a line, called Soul, which is due out this spring. (Prices range from $100 for earbuds to $300 for professional-quality headsets).
For Ludacris fans, this move into the tech world shouldn't be surprising: He's a gadget-head, a fan of the iPad and an addict of the "Words with Friends" app on the iPhone 4.
"I'm definitely addicted to the iPad," he said. "Hands down. No question."
CNN sat down with the musician-actor in a VIP suite of the Aria hotel during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to talk about his fascination with tech, his Twitter methods and his efforts to develop headphones that are both Bentley-inspired and amazingly loud. (He played two tracks from his iPhone for CNN on the new Soul headphones: "Blurry" by Puddle of Mudd and his own "How Low.")
The following is an edited transcript:
FunneR: Where did the idea for the headphones come from?
Ludacris: For me, with my past 10 years in the music industry, I've heard a lot of different headphones, but I didn't feel like any combined true quality, stereo sound with fashion. I feel like sound was the most important thing. And I've seen some headphones that look nice, but the sound is terrible, and I've seen headphones that sounded good but, you know, they didn't have any type of fashion sense to them.
I wanted to design something that could give you both.
FunneR: What were you aiming for with the style?
Ludacris: As you see, man, it's something that's innovative, that's fashionable, that's aspirational. The design on here just kind of reminds me of a Bentley inside. When you think about hip-hop culture, I took different things that I knew I loved and put them all together on the headphones.
FunneR: Do you see them as a fashion accessory?
Ludacris: It's definitely a fashion accessory these days.
FunneR: Do you ever use earbuds, or do you always stick to high-end headphones?
Ludacris: When I'm traveling a lot, that would be the noise-cancellation ones, but on a day-to-day basis, I use the SL99, the in-ears. But my favorite all-around are the SL150s.
There are different headphones for different things that are going on.
FunneR: Are you a gadget guy in general?
Ludacris: Yeah, man. Phones. Music gear. Everything, you know. I love the iPhone. I love the iPad. I'm all about gadgets and everything. So me being at the CES -- I feel like I'm amongst people alike. And it's a beautiful thing. I'm just as excited.
FunneR: What do you use the iPad for?
Ludacris: Everything. Like -- everything. Books, of course. Games. Internet. The list goes on and on. Social media. All of that stuff.
FunneR: Are you a Facebook or a Twitter guy?
Ludacris: Man, I'm a Twitter guy. I have like over 1.3 million followers. I was teasin' them about the headphones just yesterday when we got the prototypes, and they're goin' crazy about it. So I'm happy about that.
FunneR: What do you like most about Twitter?
Ludacris: It gives celebrities a voice immediately to react to whatever. I feel like, also, for all the fans out there, many people think subconsciously, I wonder what this person just happens to be doing at this time. Now they can figure that out pretty much on a day-to-day basis. Or what's going on inside their head. I mean, it's really interesting. I think it's dope.
FunneR: Has that ever backfired -- putting so much out there?
Ludacris: Nah. Not me. The great thing about Twitter to me is that every celebrity kinda -- they do different things. There's no one set way to Twitter. Like, some people put sayings up there. Some people say where they're going. Some people take pictures of what they're doing. It gives you full insight into a celebrity's mind.
FunneR: What's your philosophy with that? Do you have certain things you do and don't do on Twitter?
Ludacris: For the most part, I give people a sneak peek at my life, but I don't let 'em into the whole thing. I keep it interesting.
FunneR: Do you have a favorite gadget?
Ludacris: The iPad would be my favorite gadget, of course. If you don't count these headphones. I don't know, would headphones be considered a gadget?
FunneR: Are you an Apple guy?
Ludacris: Definitely, I'm an iPhone and iPad guy. iPad, hands down. Of the year 2010, I feel like the iPad -- I don't think anybody can tell me different -- I think that was pretty much the best invention, the best gadget out of 2010.
FunneR: What's your favorite app?
Ludacris: "Words with Friends." I'm addicted, man. But I mean, my life is words, you know, in times of my music. That's why I think I'm so addicted.
FunneR: Yeah, it's hard not to respond to it when it pings you.
Ludacris: That's what I'm saying, right?! You could be doin' anything, and you have to get it off your chest -- you have to play. And you feel so much better when there's all these people playing and it's their move, you know what I mean?
We have to play man! You'll have to tell me your username.
FunneR: What's the most embarrassing thing on your iPod or iPhone?
Ludacris: Bubble wrap. (An app where you pop digital bubbles on screen.) That should be interesting. "Ludacris likes to pop the bubble wrap on his damn iPhone or iPad!"
As a kid, we used to all love doin' that. Come on. Look, I can't stop doing it right now!
FunneR: Do you think there's a negative side to tech moving so fast?
Ludacris: I think there's definitely a negative side. Some people will become addicted. But I feel like that could be a good or a bad thing. Some people wanna be addicted. I feel like music is your passion and music is your love, and you're addicted to Soul headphones, you're going to create more of the art that you love. So this is making it easier for you to create on the level that you would like to.
FunneR: What are you looking for at the CES show floor?
Ludacris: Man, I'll know when I see it. I would love to see some robots!