Interview: Lil Jon — "The Mohawk has become commercial"
Tue, 23 Mar 2010 10:00:57
Wherever Lil Jon is, the party follows.
From "Yeah!" with Usher to "Shots" with LMFAO to "Get Low," Lil Jon's jams undoubtedly always make people get crunk. It doesn't matter. It could be at the club. It could be on the street. It could be at a wedding. It could be at a Bar Mitzvah. No matter where it is, once Lil Jon's voice pipes through the speakers, people get freaky on the floor. It's a proven fact. Play a Lil Jon tune anywhere and see what happens…he has that effect on people—the same way Lady Gaga scares small children.
That said, the man has quite the legacy to live up to with his latest offering, Crunk Rock. In fact, the album is a masterpiece of booty-shakin' like only Lil Jon could muster. Just take one listen to "Ms. Chocolate" with R. Kelly and Mario or brand new single "Outta Your Mind" with LMFAO, and it's clear that the whole world will be getting collectively crunk once more when Crunk Rock drops this summer.
Lil Jon sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about making the ultimate "crunk" album with Crunk Rock, a kinship he feels with Crank 2: High Voltage and getting crazy with LMFAO and R. Kelly in the studio.
Do you feel like you were making old school R&B "Crunk" on "Ms. Chocolate"? Was there some conscious genre-blending?
That's the idea behind the whole album. I grow on every album and do something different. That's basically what I did on Crunk Rock—so you're right [Laughs].
So is Crunk Rock the ultimate Lil Jon record?
When I went in to make the album, I just wanted to give everybody every Lil Jon they've heard—from the Lil Jon that's on the "Dance" record to the Lil Jon that's doing "Crunk Music." You get every kind of Lil Jon that you've heard on Crunk Rock, and that's basically what the album's about.
Does that make it your most personal record?
Well, every album is different. Each record has its own story and represents a time in my life. This one is just the ultimate classic titan of all Lil Jon albums because there's such a wide variety of music. We have traditional crunk tunes like "Throw It Up Pt. 2" all the way to a track where I'm doing Baile funk mixed with electro and house. It's just the most diverse album I've done. Baile funk is Brazilian booty-shakin' music [Laughs].
What's the story behind "Ms. Chocolate"?
I was in the studio with Drumma Boy [Producer]. We were listening to the beat, and I was actually eating some chocolate so I was like, "You know what? There's no song for the chocolate girls; let's make a song for the chocolate girls." Basically, I told R. Kelly the concept later on, and he went in and nailed his parts. I had Claude Kelly write the other parts and Mario heard the song and fell in love with it. He did his section, and that's it. The rest is history.
What kind of chocolate were you eating?
I have no idea [Laughs]. It was probably like Crackle or some shit [Laughs]. It was either Crackle or Snickers or some shit like that.
R. Kelly gave the song a classy feel.
I'm getting older so the music reflects different parts of my personality from the wild, crazy guy to the smooth, older guy, you know what I'm saying? That's just another aspect of my personality [Laughs]. On the last album, we had "Lovers As Friends" and that was totally unexpected as well from me. We're growing and mature so there's nothing wrong with doing that.
Did having so much time between albums help these songs grow?
Yeah, it gave me time to experiment, do different things and work with a variety of people. I got to do a bunch of different things and do them great.
Did you get do try anything that you haven't in the past?
Not really [Laughs]. I always get to do what I want to do. I always go into the albums and just rock [Laughs].
If Crunk Rock were a movie what would it be?
Crank 2: High Voltage [Laughs]…because there's just a lot of energy, a big party and it's basically non-stop. Every song could be a single in its own right too. Crunk Rock takes you on a journey; it starts you in Atlanta and it takes you all around the world. The last song on the album is "Hey" produced by Dr. Luke with me and 3OH!3. It takes you from one extreme to the other.
Did the story for that journey come together in the studio?
It just came together naturally. There are so many people on this record—Ice Cube, The Game and LMFAO, of course. LMFAO and I went into the studio and we had success with "Shots." I wanted to keep the relationship going and do a new record. We ended up coming up with "Outta Your Mind." It's tearing clubs up right now; people are loving the energy. Right now, I'm just bringing energy back to the club because rap is kind of laidback and cool. Now, we're bringing the wild crazy, party energy back to rap music. That's what "Outta Your Mind" is about. DJ Chuckee gets on a track. We got Stephen Marley and Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, Soulja Boy Tell'em and more.
You bring an old school rock 'n' roll energy to hip hop.
That's kind of what Crunk Rock means. Crunk means energy, and the album turned into more than just me collaborating with some rock guys—it turned into a lifestyle. Crunk Rock means live your life crazy, party like rock stars and just do whatever you want. Don't let anybody tell you, you can't do anything—just live for today and not for tomorrow. That's what Crunk Rock really means. It's all about energy.
People need to cut loose now more than ever. You've always helped the crowd do that…
I think my job here on this earth is to make people forget about their problems, release all of the stress and shit from work and life and just have a good time—that's my job.
What are some of your other favorite movies?
I just saw Cop Out the other day, and that's really good. I dug Avatar. City of God is crazy. I watch a lot of movies, so there are a lot of movies in my head. I love so many different kinds of movies.
When are you going to do a 3-D video?
Actually, we're about to shoot a video for "Outta Your Mind" during Winter Music Conference and we're using some new camera effects and tricks that haven't been used in videos yet, so it's going to look 3-D.
Are you really into rock?
A little bit! I like a lot of old school rock shit like Lynyrd Skynyrd all the way down to The Ramones. I grew up on a lot of punk bands. I'm really into the old school punk shit. Bad Brains is one of my favorite groups of all time. I Against I is one of the greatest rock albums ever. It's amazing that a lot of rock guys grew up on hip hop these days. They're parallel worlds and we dabble in each other's sides. A lot of hip hop guys have got Mohawks and all that shit now. The Mohawk has become commercial now. It's not some real punk shit like when we were younger. Back in the '80s, we'd be like, "Oh my God, look at his hair!" [Laughs] Now it's accepted in pop culture as the norm. It's cool to see the younger kids rocking Doc's and adapting part of the old school culture. It keeps it going on, so that's cool.
Back in the day Jimi Hendrix and James Brown could share the same stage. There wasn't as much of a distinction between genres. It's cool that rock and rap acts can play together.
The audience listens to both! Why shouldn't you be able to get on stage together? Why shouldn't you be able to rock together?
How important are Twitter, Facebook and MySpace?
You have to utilize them! Between Twitter and Facebook, everybody's on there. You have to connect with your fans. Back in the day, we didn't have all of this shit and you just had to go see motherfuckers in concert or buy the magazine and put the pictures of them up [Laughs]. Or you take the album cover and fold it out into a poster and put that on your wall. Now, you can go on the Internet and see videos of your favorite artists in the studio or hanging out and you can communicate with them. You have to stay connected with your fans or there's going to be a disconnect. I'm still pushing every day to get more Twitter followers and Facebook fans. I went on TMZ and got like 3,000 right after [Laughs]. I definitely want to stay connected with fans.
You make honest art, but you understand the business aspect of it. A lot of guys don't get both.
You have to make it a business because this is how we make money. I have a son and I have a wife. You have to look out for your family's future because eventually I'm not going to be hollering and screaming on records, I'm going to be doing something else [Laughs]. I've got to look out for my family and be on point. You have to be a good businessman or woman, you have to pay attention, you have to be respectable and you have to be on time. You have to be so many things. My son is DJ'ing, and he's basically going to take the torch. He wants to learn how to produce. He already did his first beat last week. That's the future right there.
Are you feeling crunk? Who else should Lil Jon collaborate with?
Has the Mohawk really gone commercial?