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Ludacris visits Mays High School

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Depelsha McGruder, senior vice president of business operations for Centric, and rap star Ludacris, talk to students at Benjamin E. Mays High School.

Ludacris stopped by Benjamin E. Mays High School on Wednesday to talk to a group of students interested in entertainment about how best to forge a career in the industry.

The superstar rapper, also known as Chris Bridges in his non-musical life, was joined by Shanti Das, a longtime music industry executive, Donald Woodard, an Atlanta entertainment lawyer and Depelsha McGruder, senior vice-president of business operations for Centric, which sponsored the event along with the Grammy Foundation.

V-103 personality Ramona DeBreaux moderated the panel. Among the topics discussed were:

– Changes in the music industry: “I used to pick on my elders for using 8-tracks. Now I’m starting to feel that way since my first independent album came out on cassette,” Ludacris said, adding that using the Internet as a marketing tool is critical.

“You’ll be become your own worst enemy if you don’t embrace what’s new,” he said.

Noted Das, who most recently worked as VP of Urban Marketing and Artist Development for Universal Records — “Record labels are operating on skeletal budgets. The [artists] who think out of the box will be successful. Labels don’t want to take a chance on artists they don’t know anything about…you’ve got to create your own destiny.”

– Connections, connections, connections: Ludacris reminded the crowd that his career started while working for free at Hot 97 (now 107.9-FM), a gig he took solely to meet people.

“Life is about sacrifices,” he said.

McGruder urged the students to involve themselves in whatever media opportunities they could – the school radio station, newspaper, website, etc.

– How to conduct yourself professionally: Das and McGruder emphasized the challenges of being women working in a male-dominated industry and recounted stories about how they’ve dressed super-conservatively in their careers to ensure they were taken seriously.

Ludacris also stressed the importance of being on time.

“To me, being on time is being early…rappers get a bad name,” for chronic lateness, he said, recalling how when he filmed “The Fast and the Furious” in 2001, he was always being called to the set two hours early.

“I finally figured out – it’s because they thought I was going to be late,” he said.

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