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He can be called the wild and funky down south rapper who doesn't give a f**k. Atlanta and the surrounding area had always been a hotbed for party rap and bass music throughout the '90s, and more than anyone else, Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz took these styles to the masses with a cutting-edge Dirty South attitude perfect for the burgeoning club scene of the time. The Atlanta-based rapper/producer began as a club DJ before Jermaine Dupri invited him in 1993 to come work for So So Def Records, where Jon served as the executive vice president of A&R. In the meantime, Jon hosted a radio show at V103 and began producing and remixing tracks for such major Atlanta-area artists as Too Short, Xscape, Total, and Usher. After making a name for himself, Jon then debuted his Eastside Boyz (Big Sam and Lil Bo) on Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album (1996) and scored a club anthem, "Who You Wit?" For the next five years, Jon remained an underground phenomenon, mainly confined to regional success, until he broke into the national market with "Bia', Bia'," his second massive hit, this one featuring Ludacris, Too Short, and Chyna Whyte and from Put Yo Hood Up (2001). Jon & the Eastside Boyz returned quickly with another album, Kings of Crunk (2002), and with it "I Don't Give A...," yet another huge hit. That wasn't all, though. By mid-2003, Jon had become a certified hitmaker, responsible for a number of national hits, chief among them "Get Low" (a Top Five hit featuring the Ying Yang Twins) and "Damn!" (a Top Ten hit featuring YoungBloodz).
Lil Jon: All Crunked Up
Atlanta's "Yeah!" man talks horny goat weed, strip club soundtracks, and the finest pimp chalices around. Before Lil Jon hangs up the phone, he has a few things he wants VH1 to know about. First, his fourth album with the East Side Boyz, Crunk Juice, has just come out. Plus, if you go to his Web site, you can buy Lil Jon T-shirts and his new energy drink Crunk!!! And don't forget to pick up a pair of his
personalized line of Oakley sunglasses, the ones with the MP3 player in them.
Thanks to a little help from Dave Chappelle, Atlanta's Lil Jon is crafting an empire of crunk. For the uninitiated, crunk is the hood's heavy metal. Remember how Onyx used to break into moshing at their concerts? The onetime So So Def A&R man took the concept down South, building carpet-bomb grooves around aggressive slogans, and liberally adding his collection of catchphrases: "What!" "Yeah!" and "Ooh-kay!"
The effect is as cathartic as Death Cab for Cutie and who knows, you might get a lap dance out of it, too. Lil Jon isn't keeping his can't-miss formula to himself. He's also been the power behind two of 2004's biggest hits - Usher's "Yeah!" and Ciara's "Goodies." He told VH1 about his high school days, "f*ck songs," and why crunk is the strippers' choice.
VH1: Blender magazine just published your high school graduation picture. If you don't mind me saying, you don't look very crunk.
Lil Jon: Everyone looks lame in their high school pictures. You can go back to my high school, ask people who had the wildest parties at their house, they're gonna say, "That n*gga right there in that picture."
VH1: Were you a good student?
Lil Jon: Back in those days I was just tryin' to find myself, so my grades sucked. I almost didn't graduate because I failed English. I had to go back and rewrite my essay - it was like 20 pages. All I did was rewrite the first two [pages] and got the rest of the pages and put ‘em right in. I got lucky that the teacher didn't read that motherf*cker!
VH1: So is Crunk Juice the same as the energy drink you're hawking?
Lil Jon: People always ask me what's in my cup, and Crunk Juice is what's in my cup. Crunk Juice is a mixture of Crunk!!! energy drink and whatever liquor you like. So this album is a mixture of all kinds of different records that intoxicate you mentally. That's why we call it Crunk Juice.
VH1: What does Crunk!!! taste like?
Lil Jon: It has a distinct taste. There's no bad aftertaste like most energy drinks. People think it's a kind of fruity flavor. I can't really explain it. You've got to try it. We've got a lot of aphrodisiacs like horny goat weed, ginseng, ashwagandha ... a lot of natural products. It's an all-natural drink.
VH1: How many pimp chalices do you have?
Lil Jon: About ten right now. Each one is especially handmade when I call the lady. Debbie's her name. She makes every one by hand.
VH1: Do you design your own cups?
Lil Jon: Nah, she has the designs. I just tell her I might want a crown or I might want it all platinum or I might want it gold or platinum. But it's really her creativity.
VH1: With ten different cups, when do you decide, OK, it's time for another one?
Lil Jon: I need a new one when the cup starts gettin' a little too much use, like some of the platinum might be rubbin' off. Because I got to keep shinin'. I got to look nice.
VH1: What track on Crunk Juice is the biggest departure for you as a producer and performer?
Lil Jon: Nothin'! [Laughs] There's different flavors but it's still all us. We didn't do anythin' where you gonna listen to it and say, "What the hell is that? Where did they come from?" Everythin' still sounds true to Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz. Nothin' sounds out of place for us.
VH1: Do you have a way of road-testing your music?
Lil Jon: In Atlanta, the records break out of strip clubs, so I play the records for the DJs at the strip clubs and they give me a gauge. If I give it to ‘em, a week or two after I give it to ‘em, I call ‘em. They'll tell me, "The girls are goin' crazy over this song, they fightin' over dancin' to this song. When I played this song, everybody in the club went crazy." The strip club is like the first test.
VH1: Which song on the new album has gone over the best with the Atlanta stripping community?
Lil Jon: There are three records. We got "Aww Skeet Skeet," we got "Lovers and Friends" with Usher and Luda and we've got the R. Kelly and Ludacris one, "In Da Club." Those three are like the biggest records out of all the different audiences that I play it for. "Lovers and Friends" is a good one for when you get a good table dancer and "Aw Skeet Skeet" for when they shake their ass good.
VH1: Will "Lovers and Friends" make me start throwing bows?
Lil Jon: Naw, it's like a ballad. On every album we got a "f*ck song" or a song you smoke weed to. So "Lovers and Friends" is like a "f*ck song" on the album. The song is about a guy dealin' with a girl. It's a slower song, and then the 808 is boomin' real hard, so when you're in the car, you listen to it with a chick, it sets the mood.
VH1: When you were working at So So Def you turned down Ludacris. What were you thinking?
Lil Jon: You got to understand, artists just don't come out and be the sh*t. Luda was a hot rapper, but he wasn't the Ludacris that he is today. He was still developin' his skills. When he brought me his demo tape, the record that was on the demo tape wasn't the record that he ended up usin' on the album. You have to hear the hit record to sign artists. I liked his talent, I liked his skills, but the records he had wasn't that incredible yet. That's sometimes what you need, for people not to pick up on you or you need to be dissed. Then you go back and work harder and then you become this great person.
VH1: Have you ever been banned from a club for getting the crowd too rowdy?
Lil Jon: We've been kicked out and all kind of stuff because people got too crazy. One time we was in this club and people got so rowdy, they started fightin' the police. Not security – police. Another time, I was in the club, they kicked the sink off the wall and ran up the wall and kicked holes in the wall, like five feet up high in the wall.
VH1: If I were in that situation, I'd be hiding under a table, but for you it's the sign of a great show.
Lil Jon: Yeah, you get used to it. When you get into another level of consciousness, hey, that's how it goes. It's crunk.
VH1: What music do you play when you want to get un-crunked?
Lil Jon: Old school sh*t. Rick James, all that kind of sh*t. I listen to everythin' man, really. It just depends on the mood. I don't really listen to one CD. In my iTunes, I got 2000 songs, so I might just put that motherf*cker on shuffle under "old school" and listen to all those different old school records.
VH1: How long can you keep doing crunk?
Lil Jon: I'm not goin' to be 40 years old doin' this. I'm probably goin' to just focus on producin' in the next couple of years. Right now, since we got this new album done and in the can, I kind of want to sit back and produce my own artists. We got Trillville, we got Lil' Scrappy. We got Bo Hagon, E40, we got an R&B artist Oobie, we got a female rapper, Chyna White ...
Lil Jon's Not Worried That You'll Get Tired Of Crunk
Rapper/producer is working hard while he's hot, but he'll always make music for fans.
Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz's Southern-fried ballad "Lovers & Friends" continues to hang near the top of the charts with help from Usher and Ludacris, but fans looking for something a bit more along the lines of the trio's high-energy,breakneck anthems only need to check out some of the
other tracks on Crunk Juice.
For example, "Don't F--- Wit Me," Jon's collaboration with producer Rick Rubin, takes the trio into new territory, mixing their trademark crunk sound with the flash and thrash of rock guitars (see "Lil Jon Bangs Head, Creates 'Crunk-Rock' "). Jon says the song was inspired by Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized."
"Rick Rubin on that thing was crazy," Jon said. "First day we came in, he had these loops and samples, and I was like, 'That ain't hard enough!' He said, 'All right,' and pulled out some Slayer stuff. [We] found some samples we liked, put them together and had the track done that day. Next day we came in the studio, and I just had this Suicidal Tendencies song going over and over in my head, [so] I said I'm gonna take that and flip it. We flipped it onto some urban stuff and you got the 'Don't F--- Wit Me' song."
While the self-proclaimed king of crunk has made the sound a staple of current pop culture — along with its crunk & B and aforementioned crunk-rock sub-genres — Jon knows that the world may soon grow weary of crunk. Despite that, Jon says he isn't worried about the trio's longevity.
"We been making records since '95 that were hits," Lil Jon explained. "Every year we had a hit record in the South, and it grew and grew and grew. So, we look at it like that. We had a 10-year run, and realistically we haven't had a bad album. Every album has gotten better and better as we are learning. I live my life on [the fact that] you can learn something every damn day, so we learning and learning, getting better and better and better.
"We just gonna keep on making good records," he added. "We stay in the streets, we stay in the clubs. We stay true to the fans, our core fans. I think we're gonna always be able to make good records. Of course everybody has their time, so that's another reason we out here working so hard. We're getting it while we can and we ain't trying to stop — till we're dead."
'I Do ... What?!' — Lil Jon Gets Married
Crunk lovin' rapper was wed at a Puerto Rican resort on Saturday. The King of Crunk married his queen this weekend at a resort in Puerto Rico.
Lil Jon walked down the aisle at the Wyndham El Conquistador Resort and Golden Door Spa in Fajardo, near San Juan. The couple married under a white columned canopy, in front of around 80 guests on a field overlooking the ocean. The bride — whose name is being withheld to respect her privacy — wore a dress by Monique Lhuillier; the rapper donned a white tuxedo. The three bridesmaids were dressed in mauve gowns, while the groomsmen wore white tuxedos.
An early-evening reception was held poolside, and a party later took place in the upper-level ballrooms of the resort's Grand Hotel. Resort patrons, meanwhile, partied at the hotel's casino, bar and club, hoping to catch a glimpse of the couple and rumored attendees such as Usher and Snoop Dogg.
Lil Jon's publicist and label representative declined to comment on his wedding.
Lil Jon, Usher, Luda ... How 'Bout Another Video?
Their 'Lovers and Friends' has climbed to #3 despite the lack of a clip.
It's the #3 song in the country, on the radio seemingly every five minutes — a slow jam so undeniable you can play it after a faster-paced record and nobody leaves the dance floor — yet there's still no video for "Lovers and Friends" by Lil Jon with Usher and Ludacris.
There aren't even any plans for one in sight. The holdup? Paperwork.
"We're trying to work the legal stuff out," Lil Jon said of the very un-crunk situation last week in Los Angeles. "All the record company [red tape], we're trying to get all of that squared away, then we can shoot the video. It's a song right now that's out, but it's not officially a single and my record company is not working it because we don't have all the legal stuff worked out. ... The record is #1 R&B, #3 in the country; the record has done everything it's done on its own, similar to 'Yeah!,' because 'Yeah!' initially didn't have any backing. Nobody's working it at all. It's up to the fans to tell the world they want to see this video, they want to see us together again in this hot video doing crazy stuff again."
"Lovers and Friends" is a reworking of a record by Miami singer Michael Sterling, and Jon said TVT and Sterling are working out how much compensation Sterling will get from the song's success. Jon was attracted to the song because of the reaction it got in the clubs — the kind of clubs where women don't wear clothes.
"It's one of them songs when you go into the strip club you get a lap dance off of," he explained. "It's one of them songs the girls really break it down to. Hearing the song for years, I always wanted to use the song. And I wanted to give it to Usher for his [Confessions] album. I gave him a copy of the original song, but it was the end of the album and so on and so forth, it never got used. When it was time to do my album, I was in the studio in Miami and I said, 'I'mma do the beat over. I'mma use it for something.' "
Jon said he finally got Usher to listen to the song and the singer eventually laid his part down in Jon's Miami studio last fall. Jon sent the track to Ludacris, and later the screaming producer added his verse, where he drops lines like "Are you sure you wanna go that route?/ Let a n---a know."
Jon said he doesn't know if a "Lovers and Friends" video will ever surface, but he's optimistic. "Whenever you have a hit record, you have problems," he opined. "The bigger the record, the bigger the problems — [it's] just normal hit record stuff."
Rumors have been floating that Jon and Usher's problems went beyond label wheeling and dealing and may be personal. Lil Jon pooh-poohed the unfounded banter and even released a statement to the press saying everything was all good.
"We ain't have no problems," the dreadlocked producer said. "All the stuff going on with Usher is [about] trying to get the record company stuff squared away. That's the only problem, and that's not even a problem, that's normal business. ... It's all good."
Both Usher and Ludacris declined to comment on a potential video for "Lovers and Friends" but X, who directed the threesome in "Yeah!" , said not only would he love to direct the clip, he's already got some ideas in mind.
"I'm about lyrics, and when I listen to the song I see that story kinda unfolding for everybody," X said. "Although, I'm not sure if I want to put Lil Jon in a bathtub. I just see the lyrics coming to life and surrounding it with a different style — a setting you won't forget. I see a whole group of leading ladies."
Lil' Jon & The Eastside Boyz Team With Vivid For New Adult Flicks
Atlanta rappers Lil’ Jon & The East Side Boyz continue to mix the world of Hip-Hop and adult entertainment and will make two new films with Vivid Entertainment, one of the world’s biggest adult film companies.
Filming for the skin flicks started last weekend in Las Vegas and will continue during the month of January.
"Working with Vivid means we've gone right to the top of the adult industry," said Lil Jon of his new partnership. "We're gonna have some fun, with hot sex and lots of crunk-ass parties."
The first film is titled "Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz Vivid Vegas Party," while the second flick is tentatively titled "Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz Nightclubbin."
According to Vivid reps, the rappers will have an active role in the production of the flicks and will also create the music, but do not participate in any sexual activities.
"Lil Jon is one of the great inventive legends of hip hop music,” said Steven Hirsch, co-founder and co-chairman of Vivid. “His music and lyrics have always been highly sexual, so we are delighted to be working with him on these Vivid features. His enormous success speaks for itself."
The first 90-minute feature will be released as a DVD beginning in the second quarter of 2005 and the second in early 2006.
Lil' Jon navigates crunk into the mainstream
With its irresistible hip-hop beats and shouted refrains, crunk music incites a fervor in fans that's reminiscent of a religious experience.
But the Southern-based church of crunk also relies on R-rated chants and drink-and-toke party themes popularized by its leader: Lil' Jon, a dreadlocked, metal-toothed producer whose trademark shouts of "YEAH!!!", "OOOO-KAAAAY!!!" and "WHAAAAATTTTT???!!!!" are saturating pop radio.
"The energy from these records, that's what makes crunk so popular; that's why it's winning, because it makes you move a certain way," says Lil' Jon, sounding far more mellow than his bellowing stage shtick during an interview in the Manhattan offices of his record label. "Like when you hear Aretha Franklin sing -- it touches your soul. Crunk music, it makes you just wanna lose your mind -- just be free and wild out."
And there's plenty more wilding ahead. Last month, Lil' Jon and his cohorts, the East Side Boyz, released "Crunk Juice." It sold 363,000 copies its first full week in stores, an impressive follow-up to 2002's double-platinum "Kings of Crunk" album.
The new album, which includes guest appearances from Usher, R. Kelly, Nas, Ice Cube and others, includes the typical hollering, body-slamming anthems crunkheads crave. But Lil' Jon wants to give them a little more substance -- like what he bills as the first crunk song with a story, a collaboration with esteemed producer Rick Rubin. The track tells the tale of a simple man struggling to fight against the problems the world puts upon him.
The title? It would get bleeped on MTV, but let's just say it asks to simply be left alone.
"With this album, we've grown as crunk artists," boasts Lil' Jon, who did most of the talking during a group interview to promote the album. Though crunk music has been around for more than a decade, Lil' Jon -- a former record executive by the name of Jonathan Smith -- may be most responsible for its skyrocketing popularity.
Either as an artist, collaborator or producer, Lil' Jon is behind many of the genre's biggest crossover successes: his "Get Low"; Petey Pablo's deliciously dirty-minded "Freek-A-Leek"; the Ying Yang Twins shamefully catchy "Salt Shaker"; Ciara's enticing "Goodies"; and, of course, the year's biggest smash, Usher's superstar-making "Yeah!"
"The thing I give Jon credit for is putting it all together and giving it a name and giving it a face," says rapper David Banner, a longtime friend. "The spirit has always been here. He defined it."
And he's personified it with his court-jester image and antics. His wide, metallic grin stays at full wattage as he shakes his long, dreadlocked mane and sneers his trademarked chants, which have become the catch phrases of the moment.
Add the gold-and-diamond studded pimp cup he uses to imbibe onstage (and off, for that matter), and you've got yourself a character -- and a caricature.
Lil Jon stars in the new movie ‘Boss N’ Up’
Now here’s a cast to put 'Soul Plane' to shame. Lil Jon and Snoop Dogg (both 'Soul Plane' vets) will join Miami rapper Trina for a new film called 'Boss N’ Up,' reports “Production Weekly.”
Snoop will play Corde, a certified player who sees better opportunities in the street hustle. He’s mentored by Orange Juice, a street vet who happily takes Corde under his wing.
Lil Jon plays Sheriff, a club owner who becomes one of Corde’s business partners. Trina, the self-proclaimed "baddest b*tch," plays Dominique, Corde’s lawyer who helps spring him from prison.
Production on this gem is slated for this month.
Lil' Jon Is Still Bitter With Usher
Rapper Lil' Jon is furious with his Yeah! collaborator Usher, because he feels the R&B star claimed all the credit for the song.
According to reports, Jon - who produced and performed on the number one track - is bitter all the glory was heaped on Usher after the tune topped the charts.
A source tells website Pagesix.com, "Lil' Jon seriously hates Usher.
"He feels like he was responsible for the success of Yeah!, which he was. He produced the song and sang on it. He likes to mock Usher by saying his name in a little high voice and calls him Baby Usher."
Lil' Jon Dismisses 'Fake Beef' With Usher
In response to rumors of alleged hostility toward R&B sensation Usher, Lil Jon has fervidly denied that he harbors ill feelings for his fellow Atlantian.
"Usher and I are good friends. It's just haters trying to stir some negative bullsh*t up because we've had such a big year," Lil Jon said. "We've made history together [with] no. 1 records, non-stop radio play and a bunch of awards."
The rumor first appeared last month in the gossip section of the New York Post. Sources reportedly told the paper, "Lil' Jon seriously hates Usher. He feels like he was responsible for the success of "Yeah!" He produced the song and sang on it. He likes to mock Usher by saying his name in a little high voice and calls him 'Baby Usher.'"
Other publications then reported on Lil Jon's alleged animosity over the chart-topping "Yeah," featured on Usher's latest multi-platinum album Confessions. But Lil Jon said future collaborations with the R&B star are forthcoming.
"We're looking forward to more hit records and we're definitely gonna keep it crunk in the New Year."
Lil Jon's single "Lovers & Friends" from his recently released Crunk Juice album, features Usher and Ludacris and is currently no. 4 on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart.
The single is expected to claim the top spot on Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks this week.
A platinum rap star Lil Jon
He greets you in his plushy, 11th-floor Royal York suite wearing a T-shirt that screams “Crunk Energy Drink” and a gold link blessed with a diamond-studded crown pendant that reads “King of Crunk.”
Upon the coffee table next to him rests a golden chalice. “Crunk Juice,” spell out the diamonds on the mug. During conversation, the likeable and professional (and former street skater—what?!) Lil Jon slips the word crunk into our dialogue no less than 18 times. He had a late night downtown, the King of Crunk did, getting crunk at Crunkfest. Perhaps that’s why he’s wearing his sunglasses indoors. (Or maybe that’s because his Lil Jon Oakley Zeros will soon be advertising in our magazine, he predicts.)
A platinum rap star and a Superball of energy, Lil Jon has bounced up his fame and fortune since Dave Chappelle made him a household name. Now everybody be wanting Jon’s beats and screaming his catchphrases: Bia Bia! What! Yeah! Okaay! And for those who still don’t know the meaning of crunk (I’m looking your way, Mom), consider this an education.
Since his days dancing to dusty soul and disco at his parents’ house parties while his mom and dad formed the Soul Train line, musical energy has been his calling. “I love the rowdy shit,” Jon says. “That’s where I come from.”
What’s the rowdiest party you ever threw?
One time we got the people so riled up, they started fighting the police. They was just too crunk. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: they just got so off the hook, police maced, and they started fighting the police. There was an energy in the music, and we hadn’t been to that city in a long time, and they just got amped up. Crunk music is like punk music—it’s all about the energy. Crunk means energy. You get to that point where you lose control. You get too hype.
What makes a party crunk?
All you really need is the right music and some crunk people. You can’t just be sitting on the wall. Crunk music makes you get up off the wall and wild out. Music, people. Alcohol is optional; it helps.
Is that what you fills your pimp cup, alcohol?
We be drinkin’ Crunk Juice.
It started off being Hennessey and Crunk, and now I drink Grey Goose and Crunk. Crunk is our energy drink.
Similar to Red Bull?
But it’s better. Way better.
Why does the energy of crunk music originate from the South?
Crunk is not just a [form of] music; it’s a lifestyle. We live to get crunk in the South. We live to go to the club on Saturday and release all that energy that we’ve built up through the week. When that right record come on, everybody jumping up and down, slam-dancing and shit. We live to do that. You might go to the mall on a Saturday and see six cats in a Chevy doing what we call swerving. You turn the wheel, push the gas, twist the brake, and everybody bouncing at the same time—that’s getting crunk. That’s part of the crunk lifestyle. We wear Fila in Atlanta [points to his sneakers]: Forever I Love Atlanta.
Why does the South support its artists so well?
In the South, we go through a grind period, where we grind for a long time and we lock our fan base in. And eventually we pop off. Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz, we dropped out first album in ’96. We ain’t really have major commercial success till 2003. That’s a lot of years of doing all kinda clubs, hole-in-the-wall clubs, going from city to city, doing this and that, grinding, paying our dues. Now it’s our time.
Have you ever hosted a party where you couldn’t get people crunk?
Not really. The only bad thing is going to clubs where there’s only 10 people. But when it’s like that, we just get everybody drunk and have a big party.
Do you know when you’ve recorded a hit?
I instantly know, because of the energy of the music, how it makes you feel. “Yeah” [by Usher]: I knew that was the biggest record of the year from the moment we did it. From the demo, it was the biggest record of the year.
When did you first hear about the Chappelle’s Show sketch in which Dave pokes fun at you?
My homeboy Cipha Sounds, he’s the DJ on the show. So he called me and said, “Dave did this sketch about you, and it’s hilarious.” I was like, “What?!” You know, you don’t really believe it till you see it. So the shit came on TV, and I was like, “Wow.” But I never expected that sketch to take me to where I am now. It just broadened my fan base so much. I can be in an airport and a 60-year-old white woman will come up to me and say, “Aren’t you Lil Jon? What!” And that would’ve never happened with music. So [Chappelle] helped take me into mainstream America and make me an icon, put me in hip-hop history. I also had the privilege of doing a sketch with him, me and him going back and forth on the phone. So it was dope to just be there with a legendary comic, improv-ing, and it makes the show and it’s funny.
How do fans react to you on the street?
Just people screaming at me all the time: What! Yeah! Okaay! It gets annoying because I hear it so much; I can’t go nowhere without hearing it. Yesterday was the first time I went out without hearing it—and I just walked across the street. Usually I hear it, like, 50 times. They think if they do it, then I’ll yell it back to them.
What’s the best thing about being famous?
Money and free shit.
What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve bought?
I don’t really buy too much. The only thing I bought that was real crazy was a chain. The pendant is my face, and I got diamond eyes and diamonds for my teeth. And my sunglasses got black diamonds in them—and they flip up. I got it made by this guy in New York, Joe Rodeo, maybe $10,000 or $15,000. But I don’t buy too much. The only thing I buy a lot of is DVDs. That Brazilian shit—what’s the name of it?—City of God. That’s the hardest shit I’ve seen in a minute.
What percentage of your listeners knows the meaning of “skeet, skeet”?
All of ’em. Now everybody knows what “skeet, skeet” means. It’s funny ’cause on the Dave Chappelle show, I taught Dave this new thing I’ve been saying: “I’ll skeet on you.” When they re-aired [the episode] they cut out the “I’ll skeet on you” part, so that shows that everybody knows what skeet means.
What do you say to those who dismiss crunk music because of its lack of lyrical content?
They don’t understand crunk music is all about having fun. It’s not about the lyrics at all; it’s about the energy and how it makes you react. So they can talk all they want, but you go in the club and put my record against somebody else’s, and you see which one makes people react. That’s the test.
You have an adult film on shelves called Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz: American Sex Series. What’s your role?
I’m wildin’ out, smackin’ asses and tellin’ people what to do.
No love scenes?
Nah, you won’t see my meats in a porno.
Lil John speaks about his life and career
"Lil' John" Rinaldi has been the co-host of the Big Chuck and Lil' John Show on Cleveland's Channel 8 since 1979. Before that, when the show was known as the Hooliahan and Big Chuck Show, John appeared in numerous skits. While his first appearance on the show, in the music video for Ray Steven's "Bridget the Midget", made reference to John's short stature, other memorable skits have featured John as a caveman, an overworked engineer in a recording studio, and frequently as a put upon husband. Recently, John was kind enough to chat with Utter Trash about his life and career. Although he somewhat downplays his contributions to the show, any true Clevelander knows that for the last 25 years his energy and wit have been an integral part of the program he co-hosts with "Big Chuck" Schodowski.
UT: I’ve just been talking with Chuck about the history of the show, and I’d like to talk to you a bit about your contributions.
Little John: Not much. (laughs)
UT: That’s not true.
UT: So tell me how you got into doing the show?
LJ: It was a local dance instructor named Dick Blake. He does dance instructions, and manners, and everything. He came into the jewelry store I work at, and he saw that I liked to be funny. He says, “I know these guys, Hoolihan and Big Chuck.” I gave him my card and told him to give me a call. He called Chuck, and Chuck said he was looking for a little girl to be in the “Bridgette the Midget” sketch. Dick said, “I don’t have a little girl, but I have a little guy.” And that turned out to be me.
UT: You have the jewelry stores, Rinaldi Jewelry, and I remember seeing you working there when I was a kid and being really excited to see Lil’ John. Do you get a lot of people coming in to the store wanting to talk to you about the show?
LJ: Yeah. Not so much where I’m at now, because I’m in a little strip. But when I was in a mall, a lot of people would come in.
UT: Did they usually buy something?
UT: Any favorite sketches you’ve done?
LJ: “Troglodyte” would be number one right off the bat, and “When You’re Hot You’re Hot”.
UT: Do you contribute to the writing of the sketches much?
LJ: If I’ve done 1000 skits, I’ve contributed to the writing of about 3. Not many.
UT: What would you say is the main thing you bring to the show?
LJ: I’m the outside guy. Chuck’s the inside guy. He writes and produces, pulls the tapes and everything. I do everything that has to do with the personal appearances and whatever happens on the outside. If people get in touch with us and want us to come out to their events. It works pretty well.
UT: Did you have any hesitation taking over as co-host when Hoolihan left?
LJ: No, not at all.
UT: What’s the best thing that you’ve personally gotten out of doing the show?
LJ: Probably getting to meet a lot of interesting people, and getting to meet people in general that I wouldn’t meet otherwise.
UT: Is it still fun doing the show?
LJ: Oh, definitely. I have two fun jobs. The jewelry store is one, and TV is the other.
UT: Any favorite movies you’ve show over the years?
LJ: I like action movies. Especially at 2 o’clock in the morning. Like ‘Rambo’ and that. The ones you don’t have to think about. No deep meaning.
UT: Anything else you want to say to your fans?
LJ: Keep on watching. We love all of our fans.
Lil John's cultural phenomenon
While he may proclaim himself to be one of the Kings of Crunk, Lil Jon's reputation and persona is more that of a jester, a comical spirit bouncing through the often serious and sometimes aggressive world of popular hip-hop. A jester that starts the revelry, that wastes no time in getting the party started. It's little wonder that it was the comic Dave Chappelle who started the party on the Lil Jon's cultural phenomenon.
While most of us no longer join in the drunken cries of "Yeah!" and "OK!" at 2 a.m., it's hard to join in the rhythm anytime one of Lil Jon's many collaborations blankets the dance floor. Whether it's "Culo" with Pitbull, "Damn" with Youngbloodz or the appropriate titled "Yeah!" with Usher and Ludacris, his music is all over the place. Now that he's added a few awards to his belt, it's unlikely we're going to see the trend fade anytime soon.
With the recently released "Crunk Juice," Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz seek to capitalize on his status as a musical and cultural icon. The method and means for that capitalization, however, often fall short of the promise. The tracks with the East Side Boyz, which make up most of the first part of the album, are weak and disjointed. They rely heavily on the rhythms and feeling of 2002's Kings of Crunk so much so that more than one fan has checked album covers to make sure they're listening to the new one.
The real problem with these tracks is that Lil Jon's famously varied and catchy beats are noticeably absent. They're more a rehash of old beats than anything new or exciting. While he was able to get away with re-using Cordell "Scatta" Burrell's "Coolie Dance" rhythm in "Culo" with Pitbull, a rhythm also being used by the female duo Nina Sky during the same time, "Culo" was carried as much by Pitbull's driving lyrical cadence as it was by Burrell's famous rhythm. The exception is the current radio favorite, "What U Gon' Do" featuring Lil Scrappy. But even this track seems little different from their previous collaboration on "No Problems."
Those tracks that aren't rehashes of Kings of Crunk could be more accurately described as rehashes of Jay-Z or Anthrax. Either cashing in on the popularity of the Jay-Z/Linkin Park tour or vainly attempting something "new," Lil Jon mixes in heavy metal samples alongside his crunk beats, to mixed results. The heavy metal often feels disjointed and out of place, more a gimmick than a real attempt at artistic expression.
But there is real strength in the album. Not surprisingly, it is in his collaborations that "Crunk Juice" begins to come into it's own. He again teams up with Ludacris and Usher on "Lovers & Friends," a wonderful R&B number that will certainly become a chart-topper when released. Usher's voice and Ludacris' flow carry the song, while Lil Jon's remaking of Mary J. Blige's "Everything" more than makes up for his lackluster lyrical ability.
Chris Rock lends his comedic talent in skits between some of the later songs, while one particularly famous skit comes into play in DJ Flexx's catchy "Aww Skeet Skeet," a half joking, half partying play off Dave Chappelle.
Ludacris returns for "In Da Club" comes out as a straight, hard-pumping party hit helped out by R Kelly. Again a solid tune, it fits more neatly into Lil Jon's vocal range and seems to be a bit more polished, as if they produced it to be a radio hit. With Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Nas, T.I., Ice Cube, Pharrell and the ever-present Ying Yang Twins also contributing to later tracks, it's little wonder that "Crunk Juice" will enjoy immense popularity in the coming year.
As popular as it may turn out to be, it will be a mixed blessing for Lil Jon. It showcases his talent for production and collaboration, ensuring more success for him and the East Side Boyz, but it also fails substantially when it gets away from those strengths. With a handful of truly solid tracks, however, it is undoubtedly going to enjoy commercial success that will eclipse that of Kings of Crunk.