Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz

Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz Biography

As rap stars go, Lil Jon is about as real as they come. When the biggest name in crunk called into ARTISTdirect for a phone interview, there was no assistant on the line to introduce him, no handlers whispering in the background, no talking points or scripted answers to pre-set questions. It was just the most successful hitmaker of 2004 rapping about his new album, his new energy drink, his newfound stardom in the porn industry, and why crunk is still club music no matter how much radio play it gets.

What can you tell us about the Crunk Juice album?

Crunk Juice is one of the most incredible rap albums of the year. We've got numerous guest characters from Usher all the way to T.I., and it's just a record filled with all kinds of stuff that everyone's gonna love. There's something on there for everybody.

Any surprises on there? Guests you wouldn't expect to hear on an East Side Boyz album?

Rick Rubin on [one] track, Chris Rock interludes, Vivica Fox on the interlude. People probably ain't expecting R. Kelly on this album. It's just hot.

And I guess the other "Crunk Juice" you got going on right now is the Crunk Energy Drink. How's that going? You guys gonna put Red Bull out of business or what?

Red Bull is a multi-super-million dollar company, so I don't see that happening. But if I can just knock all the other little motherf**kers out of the way, then we're rich.

Is Crunk available everywhere yet or is it still mostly in the South?

Crunk Energy Drink is starting to spread. We're in like five states: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, I think Alabama….I can't remember all the states, but it's starting to spread out. We already manufactured over a million cans, so it's gone platinum.

Have you been experimenting with what it mixes well with?

Yeah, we started out mixing it with Hennessy, but it mixes super-well with vodka and also Hpnotiq. We got "Crunk Juice," which is Hennessy and Crunk...then you got Crunk & Grey Goose, then you got "Swollen P*ssy," which is Crunk and Hpnotiq, then you got "Crunk & B" -- Crunk and beer. Then you got "The Dirty Bird," which is Remy Red, Remy and Crunk. There's so many different ones.

I wanted to ask you about the "What You Gon' Do" video and that moment right at the end where we see two Lil Jons squaring off in a club like they're about to start a fight. Is there some kind of a message there?

Naw, I just wanted to do something different. Like, the song is about when you got people talking sh*t about you, and you go step to them and then they don't do nothin'. So the other Lil Jon is a hater of the real Lil Jon, so he steps to him, you think they're about to fight, but the crowd just goes crazy and gets so crunk that they don't even get to fight. We just wanted to do something different than a normal rap video.

I read an interview a few years where you described crunk as club music. Do you still write and produce tracks mainly for the club or are you thinking more about radio now, too?

Crunk is all about the club, you know what I'm saying? Crunk records are records that [if] you put [them] on, people are not gonna stand on the wall. They're gonna start partying and start wildin' out and go crazy. So it's gonna always be about the club. Most Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz records you can't just listen to in a stereo first…you have to experience them out in the club first and then you understand them better. You can just go out to the club and see how the records make people react. So it's still the same thing. We make records that are more radio-friendly, but it's really all about the club.

But having said that, you've been getting a lot of crunk-based tracks all over the radio lately. You had Usher's "Yeah!" and…well, I guess Ciara's "Goodies" is really more "crunk 'n' b" than crunk, right?

Yeah.

But were you surprised at how those tracks blew up on radio the way they did?

Well, when I make a track or when I put a song together it's all about reaction. I'm trying to make people react. So when we did those records we knew it was gonna make the girls go crazy. You know what I'm saying? And it don't sound like nothin' else that's on the radio. All of that stuff is super-fresh -- very catchy melodically, the choruses are something that the women wanna sing, and the beat makes 'em move. So it's really still a club record, it just happened to get on the radio.

You're a hit in the porn industry, too. What's up next with the "American Sex Series"? I'm assume since you called it a series, there's gonna be another DVD coming out sometime.

Yeah, we've been talking about it. But now since I'm in the porn industry and I'm down with all the porn stars, we really haven't figured out how to shoot the [next] movie. The first movie was us just feelin' ourselves out…we shot half of it by ourselves and then we got with a video team and shot the rest of it and came out with a great movie. Now we got the kinks worked out, we can definitely shoot another couple and give people some different sh*t from what they're seein' in the regular porn videos right now.

We got to interview Ludacris not too long ago and he described you as one of the most laid-back people he's worked with. Would you say you're pretty laid-back when you're not in full "Crunk King" mode?

When I'm in work mode, I'm focused on gettin' the job done and makin' sh*t happen, but when I'm going to the club I'm a different person. I'm a businessman, you know what I'm saying? I'm trying to get the paper.

How did you and Big Sam and Lil Bo [the other East Side Boyz] first get together?

Well we all used to hang out with this guy called Playa Poncho; he was an artist on So-So Def when I was doin' So-So Def, getting that started, and we was all in the clubs and that's basically how we met. One night we all started chantin' a chant and I was like, "Yo, we gonna make a record out of that." And we went in the studio and made a record like, the next week. And the rest is history.

And you were doing A&R for So-So Def, right?

Yeah, that's when I was doing A&R.

Did you discover anybody who's since gone on to be pretty big?

We had some big records over there, but none of the artists came out and became big stars. But that's the music industry.

That was a big influence on you becoming a musician and a producer, right? Your work in A&R?

Yeah, it helped me gain knowledge in how to put records together. Cuz that was the job -- to put records together, put producers with artists, and make hits.

And I'm sure you learned a lot as a club DJ too, right?

Yeah. [And] I was a DJ on the radio from like '92. Actually I still have a radio show, called Crunk Radio, which is Lil Jon and Emperor Searcy, syndicated in like 50 markets.

Do you ever go back and do DJ sets in clubs for old time's sake?

Well, I get on the mic every time I go out, really. I DJ every now and then, too [but] I don't DJ like I used to.

What are you listening to these days?

Well, I don't really listen to too much right now because I been just focusing on gettin' the album done. So I haven't been listening to sh*t.

Would you change anything about how your career has gone so far?

Naw, I wouldn't change anything. Because even though it took a long time, I learned so much. That's how you're able to maintain and keep going and keep making hits.

When your success came, you were ready for it.

Right. I knew how to capitalize.

Click here to hook yourself up with a copy of the new Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz album, Crunk Juice.


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