After back-to-back multi-platinum albums in 2002 and 2004 with Kings Of Crunk and Crunk Juice respectively, Lil Jon set his eyes on a lofty goal: to craft an album combining his patented Crunk sound with the influences of rock 'n' roll, aptly titled Crunk Rock. Unfortunately, label woes cropped up, and when his home, TVT, filed for bankruptcy in 2008, Jon's project was postponed indefinitely.
Well now it's 2010, and Jon is back at it. In the interim, Crunk Rock evolved from a rock-inspired Crunk album into "lifestyle music" encompassing everything from the traditional sound Jon pioneered to dance, electro, and even baile funk. Good old-fashioned party music, to say the least. He's found a new label home with Universal Republic, and after six years out of the spotlight, Jon's heavily delayed album is finally slated for a June 8 release date. Complex chopped it up with Jon at the Universal Republic offices, where he brought us up to speed on his whereabouts, his passion for DJing, and—of course—his upcoming album.
Interview by Modele "Modi" Oyewole
Complex: Feels like you've been out of the spotlight for a little bit. What have you been working on?
Lil Jon: Well, musically, I've been active. Me and Pitbull had "The Anthem" and "Crazy." I did LMFAO's "Shots." All of those records were big, in the club, on the radio, so I guess on the crossover scene, I ain't really went nowhere, I just didn't have my own stuff out. I've been touring a lot all over the world. I go to Europe four, five times a year, Asia, Australia. Also, I've been getting back to my roots as a DJ. I used to DJ in Atlanta, and that's how I kind of got into the music industry. I've been DJing all over the country and the world too. Also, when TVT fell apart... well, even before they fell apart, our relationship fell apart.
Complex: What exactly happened with them?
Lil Jon: After "Snap Yo Fingas," I started working on Crunk Rock, and we started to have differences on the project. Eventually, the label went bankrupt, so... that's basically it. [Laughs.] After they went bankrupt, there was a little break, and then I eventually got signed over here to Universal Republic.
Complex: So when the label folded, how did the artists signed to your BME imprint feel about it? Did relationships get strained at all during that whole process?
Lil Jon: Well, any major record company had the same story. Eventually, artists get jaded about stuff. From Roc-A-Fella to Death Row. I did all I could for every artist on the label, and I put my all into everybody's projects, and stuff happens. I have no ill feelings for nobody, I wish everybody the best, and I'm still cool with everybody.
Complex: So do you see yourself and any of those guys dropping any records in the future? Scrappy? E-40? Bo Hagon?
Lil Jon: Scrappy recently hollered at me about some stuff. Me and 40 are still cool. Everybody's doing their own thing. When you're with somebody for some years, sometimes you need a break from 'em. You grow in different directions. That's kind of what happened with me and the Eastside Boyz. They wanted to do different things than I wanted to do, so we separated. 40 and everybody else, they're grown men. They wanna sometimes do stuff a little differently and just stand out on their own. 40 just dropped his new double CD, which is crazy. Actually, I'm going to the Bay in a couple weeks and me and 40 gonna kick it. That's family, too. Me and all of those guys, we made some incredible records, and we gonna always be connected and down with each other. It's still all good.
Complex: After the hiatus, are you relieved to finally drop Crunk Rock this June?
Lil Jon: I'm relieved to be finished with it! [Laughs.] It's been years working on the process of getting the record done, two record companies, all that stuff. I'm anxious for the public to be able to hear the album. I think it's something that they're gonna love, because it's not the same ol' rap shit. I wanted to give everybody the Lil Jon that they know from the crunk music, to the Lil Jon that did a record with 3OH!3 and Dr. Luke. You got every kind of Lil Jon on this album. A lot of different kinds of collaborations, but I still gave 'em what my fans know me for; the essence. That's crunk music, and that's on there, too.
Complex: You announced Crunk Rock in 2006, and then "Party Like A Rockstar" came out and suddenly the whole "rockstar" style emerged, and everybody was on that tip for a minute. Do you think you had any influence on this direction?
Lil Jon: Definitely; because if you listen to my song "Act A Fool," I say "Party like a rockstar/Fuck like a pornstar." [Laughs.] Where else do you think they got that shit from? It's obvious that they got that from that song. But they say that's flattery. It's all good. I'm glad I could help spawn that movement, so to speak. But "Crunk Rock" to me began to take on a different meaning. "Crunk Rock" to me is basically a lifestyle that we live. We live life to the fullest like there's no tomorrow, we party like rockstars, we're crunk all the time, so that's the Crunk Rock lifestyle. With all of the disasters, and the craziness going on in the world right now, you have to live your life.
With Crunk Rock, all of the songs encompass talking about that lifestyle. You got "Out Of Your Mind" with LMFAO, which is about just getting crazy, going in the club, having a good time. Letting loose all of the energy that the frustrations of the week built up or whatever. From the Crunk Lil Jon to the "Out Of Your Mind" and "Shots" Lil Jon to the electro Jon. All of that is on the album.
Complex: It's not gonna be rock-based at all? I remember hearing you were gonna record the album in Las Vegas so you could be on the left coast with the rest of the rock industry.
Lil Jon: Well, there's two joints on there that are kind of rock-influenced. I got one with Travis Porter called "Fall Out," and then I got one with Game and Ice Cube and this punk rock band from Jacksonville called Whole Wheat Bread. They're an all-Black punk band, and it's all live. That track is crazy. So we got a got some rock-influenced songs on there, but the Crunk Rock meaning is broader than just that now.
Complex: How much of what you were working on is 2006 is gonna make it onto the finished product you're putting out in June?
Lil Jon: I guess it's just a couple songs that made the cut, but once I got signed over at [Universal Republic] and I started to really get back into DJing, I just had a fresh new energy. I revamped the project, and it's what we got today. You got hardcore crunk stuff, collaborations with DJ Chuckie and Pitbull, which is electro. A joint with Steve Aoki, which is more of a dance record. The joint with me and Ying Yang Twins, which is like some strip club shit. "Ms. Chocolate" with R. Kelly and Mario, which is nice and smooth and sexy for the ladies. From each album that I've ever done, and each collaboration that I've ever done, one of those Lil Jons is on the album. But it all makes sense, because whatever I get on, I make it crunk, no matter what kind of sound it is.
Complex: When you were kind of absent from the forefront of the Crunk music movement, would you say that Crunk still existed without you?
Lil Jon: Well, the music definitely survived, because DJs are still spinning those records every night in the club. There's not that many records that give you that kind of energy, so I still survived, and it's now transferred to new artists like Waka Flocka, who says, if you talk to him, that he grew up on crunk music. He says he's "new crunk." [Laughs.] Roscoe Dash says that, too. Travis Porter, all of those guys show me a lot of respect, and they're the new generation that are doing their thing, and they're the offspring of what we was doing back in the day. It didn't die, it just incubated, and now here we are today. And I'm back! [Laughs.]
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