LIL JON INTERVIEW ON: 17th November 2004
Since he first bubbled up from the Atlanta underground in the early '90s Lil' Jon and his crew The Eastside Boyz made a worldwide name for themselves when they introduced the masses to their fist waving, chant driven, hardcore Crunk style on their debut album Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album in 1996.
Nine years later and Jon and his crew are practically household names (thanks in part to his extensive work producing and remixing many of today's hottest pop stars, not to mention his frequent appearances on the Dave Chappelle Show, both in real life and as a Chappelle caricature). Like most modern day rap stars and hip-hop oriented musicians (think Snoop, Nelly, Jay-Z, The Neptunes), Lil' Jon has expanded his influence beyond his own musical sphere. When he's not throwing down with the East Side Boyz he's usually busting out tracks for all manner of artists, supplying remixes and adding his signature crunk energy to the highest bidder. Outside of music he's got his own energy drink, Crunk Juice, and also dabbles in video porn. He's a true entrepreneur, to say the least......
IGN Music: So man, the new album, you have guest artists galore up on there. I was actually amazed to see the variety of cats you have throwing down with you, too. I mean there's Ice Cube, Usher, E-40, R. Kelly, Luda, Elephant Man, Nas, and Snoop, just to name a few.
Lil' Jon: Yeah [laughs]. There's a lotta different people.
IGN Music: How do you choose who you want to have guest with you on your album? I mean did you reach out to all of these folks or was it more like Cube or 40 calling you up and saying that they wanted to be on your album?
LK: Well, it's just, you know, every song when I listen to the beat we just figure out who I want on it. We just listen to it and say "Hey, Cube would sound hot on that part" or "Oh man, I gotta put Snoop Dogg on that!" It's just the vibe of it whenever it comes. We listen to the beat and figure it out.
IGN Music: It's cool how you pulled cats from all corners of the hip-hop world, you know? You've got guests representing the East, the West, the South, even Jamaica.
Lil' Jon: Yeah because our fan base now is so diverse and I've done records with so many different kinds of people that we just wanted to give everybody that's a fan of Lil' Jon and the East Side Boyz a little somethin'.
IGN Music: One of the things I've picked up on in reference to your sound and style, is that it's more or less a throwback to the early, early Old School-into-New School days of rap, specifically the early Run DMC vibe where it was all about blazing rock beats mixing with deft rap rhymes. You've truly got more of at true hardcore vibe about your music than anything else. And when I say hardcore, I'm talking about the block rocking beats and attitude, not the whole gangsta/thug aspect. Let's face it, the term "hardcore" has kind of been co-opted these days so now it means singing about guns and bitches and hoes, you know?
Lil' Jon: [laughs]
IGN Music: But back in the day hardcore meant the sound of the music. Like EPMD, where it was low and slow or Run DMC or early LL.
Lil' Jon: Right. And actually we've got some Run DMC-styled stuff on the album. The Rick Rubin track sounds like some early Rick Rubin/Run DMC type of sh@t. It can even be compared to some early Beastie Boys when Rick Rubin was around. The concept of the song, as well as the way the rock guitars and the 808 are together, is just crazy and different and new for rap music of today, you know what I'm sayin'? Nobody is doin' sh!t like that.
IGN Music: Aw man, when I head "99 Problems" on The Black Album, I was sprung.
Lil' Jon: And "99 Problems" is not even as hard as the joint that we did with Rick Rubin. We are rocking over Slayer! It's a Slayer instrumental, well Slayer guitars with 808s. So you can just imagine that's some real hardcore sh!t. Like "99 Problems" is hot 'cause it sounds like some Old School, early Run DMCand sh!t. You know what I'm sayin'. But this is that hardcore, King of Rock type sh!t, you know what I'm sayin'? That's what our sh!t sounds like. Hell, maybe even harder than that.
IGN Music: What, to you, is the allure of that, you know the combination of hardcore, heavy metal and rap mashed up together?
Lil' Jon: I mean it's just hard, you know what I'm sayin'? When you put the guitars over the 808, it just makes it grittier and grimier. It's just different. I don't know, that's just what we came up with.
IGN Music: Now I read an interview about how you were backstage at a Chris Rock show and Rubin was there with Flea from the The Red Hot Chili Peppers and that's how you got hooked up with him, right?
Lil' Jon: Actually the guy we have the porno deal with, Christian Mann, introduced me to Rick Rubin at a Chris Rock show. So after the concert, I got passes to go backstage and when I went backstage me and Rick were talking and then it turned into me, Rick, Chris, and Flea, we were all just talking about music and sh!t and vibin'. So that's how I initially met Rick and Chris, and they're both on the album.
IGN Music: Did you have any designs to work with Rubin prior to that? Or was that just one of those things where you were both there, started talking, hit it off, and then realized "Damn, we've got to hook up in the studio!"?
Lil' Jon: Yeah, I mean it was a little of both. I've always wanted to work with him 'cause I'm a fan of all that early stuff. That's when hip-hop was new, fresh, innovative. They were using guitars over 808s, which is just like what we do now, so it was perfect. Plus I liked the "99 Problems" record a lot, so I was like "Yo, we should do some sh!t." And he was like "Man, I'm a fan of your sh!t." That totally blew me away when he started talking about my records and saying how innovative they were and how he doesn't really like hip-hop anymore because it's all the same, but he likes our sh!t because it was fresh, new, different, especially the way were just chanting on records and not even rapping and how it was all hardcore and so forth. He was like "Yo, I'm a fan of your sh!t, so let's do some sh!t." So we made it happen.
IGN Music: Now you being a producer yourself, what's it like when you get into the studio with somebody like Rubin? Do you just relinquish all control to him or do you go for more of a collaborative mindset?
Lil' Jon: I guess you kind of collaborate, but then you've also gotta kind of sit back and just let them tell you what to do sometimes. It's like you've gotta listen, listen to other people's ideas. Like when me and Rick were working together, I had to sit back sometimes and just listen to what he was tellin' me. He has a different way of thinking than me and you've gotta respect somebody who's been producing for that many years and so many hit records. You gotta just listen and say "Okay, I'mma just listen to what he has to say." I mean I'm one of those cats where I'm used to being the one that tries to make the muthaf@#kas listen to me, you know what I'm sayin'! [laughs] So I had to sit back and just listen and take it in. And, you know, we made it happen, and came up with some incredible sh!t.
IGN Music: Staying on the production tract, do you prefer crafting your own beats for yourself or making ones for different artists? Or do they present different challenges and experiences that you enjoy equally?
Lil' Jon: I mean, I've always produced us, so now it's like we're getting to another level where we've been doing this for awhile and it's fun if sometimes other people produce because it's new and different and you go into a different place. So I like everything. I like producing myself, I like other people producing, I just like it all. It's just fun doing new sh!t, you know what I'm sayin'?
IGN Music: What about when you step out to produce for other artists?
Lil' Jon: I mean, you know, that's always fun, especially when you're producing people who you are fans of. That's the funnest sh!t. Like producing Cube and producing Too $hort, producing Usher, Luda, people who you are fans of. It's fun.
IGN Music: When you're making beats, do you ever hold back the dopest ones for you? You know how like when you make a blazing beat you might say "Damn, that's so hot, I'mma keep it for myself." Or do you just always make dope beats, regardless if they're for you or you're doing it for another artist?
Lil' Jon: Yeah, I mean some stuff. When we go into the studio we do like five to 10 beats a day, so everything is not gonna be able to fit for me. So we'll put this beat over here for me, put this beat over here for Lil' Scrappy, put his beat over here for Trillville, I might send this one over here to Usher or Luda, you know what I'm sayin'? Everything don't fit for everybody, so you just put certain ones to the side [and hold 'em for the proper fit].
IGN Music: So it's safe to say that you'll be in the lab making a beat and it will hit you a certain way to the point that you'll say "Hey, this would be a perfect beat for Cube" or "This joint would be great for Usher"?
Lil' Jon: Yep.
Interview By IGN Music on 17/Nov/04
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