Living the hip-hop high life apparently is a lot more burdensome than those glamorous music videos would lead you to believe. Sure, sure, you have "the fancy cars, the women and the caviar," as detailed in Ludacris's ode to his luxurious lifestyle, "Pimpin' All Over the World."
But the demands of rap stardom weigh so heavily that it's a wonder artists still subject themselves to the misery of Making It Big.
Your fans, for instance, can become slavish in their devotion to the point that they'll pay perfectly good money for concert tickets and shove themselves against the stage, thus forming a sea of humanity so sweltering that you can't help but sweat yourself to sobriety.
Those same ducat-buyers will be pretty insistent, too, that you perform the dreaded career-making hits that those irksome radio programmers simply won't stop playing.
And your adoring public will likely have the unreasonable expectation that you'll, you know, remember the lyrics to your own songs.
Sound ludicrous? Not to Ludacris.
During his concert at Dream on Friday, the Atlanta rap star with the famously dirty mouth couldn't stop complaining.
He whined about the sobering heat inside the bulging Ivy City nightclub.
He scoffed repeatedly at his own hits, noting that he's "[bleepin'] sick and tired" of performing "[bleepin'] songs that play on the [bleepin'] radio every day."
And he griped that he couldn't figure out what to perform because he's recorded so many during his career that he can't remember them all. (Never mind that his oeuvre consists of just four albums and a handful of collaborations.) Overwhelmed by the notion of sifting through his modest songbook by himself, Ludacris asked the audience to help him by shouting requests. When it was suggested that he perform "Saturday (Oooh Oooh!)," a rowdy single from his 2001 album, "Word of Mouf," the rapper began to bark the lyrics before he stopped abruptly in the middle of the song.
"Some of y'all don't understand," he said, "that I've got so many [bleepin'] songs, I can't remember all the verses."
Odd, then, that the majority of the people near the front of the club seemed to know all the words to every one of the 23 songs performed at Dream.
Perhaps Ludacris has been distracted lately by his day job and hasn't been paying his music career much mind.
Once, he was mostly known beyond hip-hop circles for having been branded a cultural canker by none other than Bill O'Reilly. (Incensed by the rapper's lewd, violent lyrics on the controversial hit "Move Bitch" -- which appeared in slightly sanitized form in a Pepsi commercial -- the noisy Fox TV commentator successfully pressured the soda maker to fire Ludacris as a spokesman.) Now, though, the cornrowed, 27-year-old rapper born Chris Bridges is turning heads with his work in Hollywood -- first as an exceedingly chatty carjacker in "Crash" and, most recently, as a rap star with a hideously inflated sense of himself in "Hustle & Flow."
Despite the onstage huffing and puffing about his hard-knocks life, Ludacris appears to be safe from suffering the same credibility-draining fate of his "Hustle & Flow" character, Skinny Black.
His latest album, "The Red Light District," generally sticks to the street-savvy formula that's made him one of rap's biggest, most entertaining stars: clever, playful, rapid-fire lyrics about women, wealth, thugs, drugs and southern living, all set to lurching bass lines and thundering beats.
And in concert, he clearly knows how to incite the crowd, delivering his songs with such a visceral wallop that the whole thing might seem dangerous but for the fact that he's so charismatic and charming (at least when he's not kvetching).
Somewhat remarkably, given the tendency in hip-hop for artists to appear onstage with dozens of Microphone-Wielding Friends of Unclear Purpose, Ludacris went with a streamlined setup: He performed with just his DJ, Jaycee, and one rapping sidekick, Lil' Fate.
The effect was that Ludacris actually starred in his own show, though it also meant his voice would turn slightly hoarse by the end of the hour-long set.
Still, the best performance came at the very end of the night, when Ludacris -- after trying to disavow his hits -- finally played his biggest song, the O'Reilly favorite "Move." Skulking across the stage as the detonative backing track boomed over the sound system, the rapper spit out the words with sense of fury, as though he'd channeled Johnny Rotten.
And, as a bonus, he even remembered all the lyrics.