[artist id="961097"]Ludacris[/artist] is a marquee hip-hop artist but he has no problem lending aspiring rappers a hand.
On Monday, the Atlanta-based MC/actor was at New York City's Highline Ballroom for the Magnum-sponsored Live Large Project 2, a hip-hop/freestyle competition that gives contestants a shot at a cash prize and the chance to perform alongside Luda at Springfest 2011 in Miami.
It's the second year Luda has participated in the event, and the Disturbing Tha Peace Records founder said it always makes him remember his days as a hungry unknown.
"I remember being an aspiring artist and up-and-coming rapper and wishing I had opportunities like the one that Magnum Live Large Project is giving out — $5,000, a trip to Miami, able to perform — all of these different things is good, man," Luda told MTV News. "It's all about competition. That's what hip-hop is all about anyway."
The Highline stop was just one of four regional events that span the West Coast (Bay Area), South (Miami) and the Midwest (Detroit). The top three contestants from each region, as well as a fifth selected via YouTube, will make the trip to Miami to compete for the $5,000 prize. New York's top three winners were Perelli, Renegade and Pumpkinhead, who won $1,000 for being the fan favorite.
According to Ludacris, anyone who's achieved his level of success should feel obligated to support events like this one and serve as a source of inspiration.
"It's definitely important for me to give back to MCs coming up," he said."That's part of the reason we do what we do. You can never forget where you come from or how you came up. I'm very excited to be doing this. And don't get it twisted, I'm getting inspired my damn self by watching the up-and-coming rappers and it's making me realize and remember back in the day when I was the same way."
A rap industry neophyte that Ludacris thinks highly of and can relate to is Big K.R.I.T. After making strides independently, the Meridian, Mississippi, rapper and producer signed with Luda's label home, Def Jam, last year and recently released a new mixtape, Return of 4Eva. Luda, along with Bun B, makes an appearance on the remix of "Country Sh--."
"When [Big K.R.I.T.] speaks, you can feel his heart," Luda told us. "His heart is on the outside of his chest. He's talking about his experience and being from the South and being from Mississippi. Just respecting the fact that he's the production side as well as spilling his heart out on the beats, I can respect that."
Ludacris is working on his eighth album, Ludaversal, due out later this year.