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?
There are always the non believers, but you just have to make them believers again. For the most part though, everyone got back to me. Ice Cube, Game, R. Kelly and Mario are on the album and they are all artists who I’ve worked with before, so all the artists who I trusted were still down. All the producers I called also came in like champs.
Do any of the up-and-coming hip-hop producers inspire you?
I got a lot of respect for Drumma Boy, because he also helped to bring my energy back. When I signed my deal with Univesal Republic, I wanted to come with something new so I stepped back and let some other producers produce me. It helped me relieve a lot of stress because I’m used to doing everything. It allowed me to just concentrate more on vocals.
How do you feel about the comparisons to will.i.am as a producer?
I’ve actually never heard that before.
Both of you are like ambassadors of hip-hop to the mainstream, but you guys’ catch of a lot of flack from within the hip-hop community for your styles of music.
Yea, Will is a good friend of mine. He’s family. We’re kind of on similar paths and I guess we do go through a lot of the same things. I can say that we are both visionaries of what the future is bringing. For example, the new Usher record he did “Oh My God,” that’s usher’s biggest record and going to be a huge pop smash, but Will wouldn’t of been able to make that record if he didn’t have hip-hop in his blood.
So do you feel under appreciated when people say “Lil Jon ain’t real hip-hop”?
It doesn’t matter to me because I also have a lot of friends that are well-respected hip-hop artists and tell me different. I talked to DJ Premier last night. It was funny, because after Guru passed I started tweeting out Gang Starr videos and calling them classics. Someone tweeted that I wasn’t hip-hop and shouldn’t even be mentioning them. But they don’t know that I knew Guru well, and I grew up on Gang Starr’s music. We had Nice and Smooth, Tribe, De La all of that stuff. Greg Nice, Phife Dog, Rhymefest are all good friends of mine. Dog, I went on tour with Wu-Tang in Australia. Why can’t people that do different styles of rap be cool? Hip-hop is a part of me and always will be, but I don’t even care—people are always going to talk shit.
After all these years of fans coming up to you wherever you go and screaming “Yeahhhhh” and “Okayyy”, do you ever wish the catchphrase would just die already?
Nah, it’s still amazing to me that it didn’t play out. There are always times when I don’t want to have people coming up to me screaming, but I always appreciate the love that they show me. Some people are just excited to see a celebrity, so I can’t be mad. But just so everyone knows you can just say hello and give me a pound, that’s all you have to do. I appreciate the love, but you don’t have to scream at me, dog. [Laughs].