This time last year, Lil Jon was fielding phone calls intended for pop princess Miley Cyrus. Not that the crunk rocker's career had cooled off and Myley needed a new assistant—he simply purchased a new phone and acquired her old number. But instead of barking at the phone company for some new digits, Jon just let it rock.
It’s the same nonchalant, easygoing attitude that's kept the Atlanta native afloat when the snap music took a front seat to the crunk movement toward the end of '05.
Back with a newfound drive and energy, Lil Jon has completed his long-delayed Crunk Rock album (in stores June 8) and is ready to shake those dreads and make the world dance once again. While in the Big Apple on a promo run, VIBE checked in with the man behind the Oakleys to find out if he's really hip-hop, his thoughts on up-and-coming producers and what’s been going on since the Crunk Juice well ran dry. —Mikey Fresh
VIBE: Let me just turn my recorder on…
Lil Jon: Yeahhhhh! Wait, that’s so cliché… I don’t know why I did that.
[Laughs] So finally the long-awaited Crunk Rock album will be hitting stores in June, did you resurrect the Crunk sound you popularized in the early 2000’s?
This album is every Lil Jon that you’ve heard until now, from crunk Music, rock, to collaborations with Pitbull, LMFAO, Steve Aoki and Dr. Luke. There are really a lot of different sounds to this album, I can’t say it’s just one sound.
It seems like you’ve been embracing the dance sound more then rock, I heard you tapped David Guetta for a record.
Actually, we did a track but it didn’t make the album. But, me and Steve Aoki did a really crazy one. Also, DJ Chuckie also produced the record with Pitbull. I was just experimenting so much because a lot of the people I work with are my homeboys, so I would go check out when they’re spinning and just really get inspired by them.
There’s definitely a new energy coming from your records, after the demise of TVT, were you turned off from the music industry?
I was burnt out, plain and simple. Then the TVT situation made it worse because I couldn’t be in the studio and work like I wanted. So I really just went back to DJ’ing in the clubs. It started when Reggie Bush had invited me to come the first game at the Superdome in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit and at the after party. DJ Spyder was there just killing it. Ironically, the next day I see him again at the airport and he comes up to me and introduces himself. I just told him how much he killed it that night and we became good friends immediately. He was really the one that inspired me to get back into DJing.
You say you were burnt out. Did all the excessive partying and drinking associated with your records played a part in that?
Nah, actually I realized I needed to get healthy on my own. It was the fact that I was wearing all hats—I was producer, artist, label owner, video director, marketing, promotions, all of that in one. Then I was producing for so many artists… it just drains your energy after a certain amount of time.
What did you change about your lifestyle?
I started exercising regularly and changing my eating habits. Like, I’m drinking green tea right now—look. I realized that I was getting older and people I know were having heart attacks and things like that. I ended up losing 25 pounds and went down like three jean sizes. I still might go out and party all night, but in the morning I’ll exercise and drink green tea. [laughs]
Was that gas can you used to drink from really filled with liquor?
Every single time, man. Don’t get it fucked up, we’re for-real drinkers. Like even now when I go to Tao, they have a blinged out magnum of Patron for me with blinged shot glasses. Some people get on stage with a vodka bottle filled with water, not us. You can ask around, people got stories.
Since you’ve been away from the spotlight for several years, was it harder for you to get back in touch with some of the artists you wanted for Crunk Rock?