Lil Jon on How His Early Exposure to Punk Expanded His Mind and Ultimately Led Him to Crunk Superstardom

Like punk rock, Jon says crunk music "was an expression of the youth" during its initial rise.

Music artist performing on stage with microphone and backup dancer in the background. Wearing black hoodie and pants
Image via Getty/Paras Griffin
Music artist performing on stage with microphone and backup dancer in the background. Wearing black hoodie and pants

Lil Jon is grateful for his early exposure to the proven power of punk.

In a new interview for Jon Caramanica and Joe Coscarelli's Popcast (Deluxe) podcast, the recent Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show performer spoke at length about his time in punk clubs in the 1980s, specifically a beloved (and since-closed) Atlanta spot known as the Metroplex.

Jon’s love of punk was born from his skateboarding experiences, with local events, and especially skate videos, constantly introducing him to bands of which he would go on to become a fan. Among them was Bad Brains, fronted by H.R., a punk figure Jon has cited multiple times as a key influence in his rise to crunk superstardom.

very cool to hear @LilJon talk about how his time skateboarding + listening to Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains infused a punk spirit into crunk music

“I Don’t Give a Fuck” is a punk song… “Bia Bia” is a punk song… “Who U Wit” is a punk song…

— Joe Coscarelli (@joecoscarelli) April 1, 2024

"When you make music, your spirit is recorded into the songs," Jon, who later worked with Bad Brains during the Crunk Juice era, said around 51 minutes into the Popcast discussion. "So my energy from being in those punk clubs—that spirit, that energy—is going into the music. I used to pattern myself on stage like H.R. … The way he is on stage or was on stage, his energy and his unpredictability. He let the music take over him."

Jon gave numerous insights into how he sees punk and crunk's connections, both from a personal standpoint and from a broader perspective focused on the emotional intentions behind each.

"Crunk was an expression of the youth," he said. "It was a way people could go and let out all of that energy from the hard week or school or life. They go to the club There used to be mosh pits in the crunk clubs."

Elsewhere, Jon drove home his point that punk helped open his mind at young age while giving him a sense of community at a pivotal moment in his life. He also noted that “hip-hop has come a long way” when reflecting on how it feels to see the embrace of punk-inspired performance styles among younger artists of today.

See more below, including how Jon's skateboarding-centered exposure to punk also led to his love of reggae, new wave, and more. Hardcore band The Faction and the formerly Jello Biafra-fronted Dead Kennedys also get shoutouts from Jon.

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Video via Popcast

Fans will note that this isn't the first time Jon has spoke on punk and crunk history, nor is it the first time he's outlined how his early love for punk helped lay the groundwork for his eventual breakout. Way back in 2008, for example, he said in an interview with Westword's Michael Roberts that he calls crunk "Black rock and roll, or Black punk rock music, because of the energy." Two years later, Jon released the aptly titled Crunk Rock.

More recently, Jon traversed a different but no less punk energy on his and Kabir Sehgal’s Total Meditation album.

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