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Ludacris began his music career as a radio DJ personality, Chris Lova Lova, on Hot 97.5, an urban radio station in Atlanta, Georgia. He made his recorded debut on "Phat Rabbit", a track from Timbaland's 1998 album Tim's Bio: Life from the Bassment. Although both Timbaland and Jermaine Dupri showed interest in signing Ludacris, he decided to take matters into his own hands, and released the album Incognegro independently in 1999. The album sold over 50,000 copies, most of them sold out of the trunk of Ludacris' car. Def Jam Records signed Ludacris in 2000, and created a new imprint, Def Jam South, around him.

In 2003, after music from the controversial "Move Bitch" had been used in a Pepsi commercial in which Ludacris also appeared drinking the soda, Pepsi came under fire from Bill O'Reilly for supporting Ludacris. O'Reilly believed that it was wrong for an international corporation like Pepsi to target the American teen audience by glamorizing a person like Ludacris, a “gangsta rapper” who had admitted having been in gangs and whose lyrics contained profanity, violence, and overt sexuality. O'Reilly urged his viewers to complain to and boycott Pepsi for its affiliation with Ludacris. Eventually, Pepsi gave in to O'Reilly and dropped Ludacris. However, this created more controversy than it ended, as Russell Simmons pointed out Pepsi's hypocrisy and what he considered even to be racism: Simmons argued that Pepsi could not legitimately fire Ludacris for being a presumed violent and profane role model while also employing the Osbournes, who are also known for being violent, vulgar, and profane. Simmons himself, along with Ludacris, then called for a black Pepsi boycott. In the end, Pepsi settled with Simmons by agreeing to help fund black causes, even though the Osbournes were permitted to keep their advertising contracts with the corporation. Ludacris, though annoyed about the situation itself, was happy that he got to keep the money that Pepsi had paid him for the ads. O'Reilly later protested Budweiser's deal with Ludacris. O'Reilly comments on Ludacris had reached former CBS reporter Bernard Goldberg. Goldberg, a conservative writer, wrote a book and was highly critical of Ludacris. He ranked Ludacris in his 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, in which the rapper is considered part of the reason why parents have disruptive American youth. The book was widely regarded as hypocritical due to comments Goldberg made while promoting it.

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