Marc Jay: It’s not often that I get to hang out with superstar legends and some big name artists, but today I’m joined by Lil Jon. Tell us more about what you’re doing here in Vegas today.
Lil Jon: I’m DJing here in Vegas, about to go on stage at the SKAM party here at the Hard Rock. I’m playing the Rehab pool party for the grand opening of “Skam Saturdays.”
Marc Jay: A lot of people didn’t know you were a DJ, so this may be news to some people. How long have you been DJing and what kind of music do you play in your sets?
Lil Jon: I’ve been DJing since the ‘90s. I was a DJ before I was an artist. I was a big DJ in Atlanta in the early ‘90s and then I stopped to work at So So Def with Jermaine Dupri. Recently one time I was in the club and I heard my boy – I didn’t know this DJ at the time, but now he’s my boy, DJ Spider – and he was just killing it. He really inspired me to start DJing again. Ironically I saw him in the airport the next day when we were leaving and we just connected. We did some mix tapes together and he kind of got me back into the groove. So, you know, now I’m all over the world doing this. My set is basically everything – house, hip-hop, maybe a little reggae. I just give ‘em a little bit of everything. I just want everybody to party, so I play something for everybody.
Marc Jay: It’s funny because some people similar to you only do hip-hip, but you really cross over into all genres of music, from Roger Sanchez to all these other people, to a lot more dance music. Have you made it to Ibiza yet?
Lil Jon: I haven’t been to Ibiza but I’ve been to the South of France. We did St. Tropez and that was crazy because people thought that I was just going to come in and rap and I just blew them away with my set, especially when I played house. They were shocked that I could play house music like that and, I mean, I just really ripped the place apart.
Marc Jay: I’ve seen you DJ a few times and honestly I think you could create a party in the lobby of a hotel. People just seem to go ballistic and they drink probably more than they’ve ever drank before. Some DJs struggle to get the party started, but as soon as you get on, the party starts. How do you create such an amazing event?
Lil Jon: I’m kind of cheating because most DJs play a Lil Jon party break or use a Lil Jon drop, but since I’m Lil Jon, I can just do the shit myself. People associate me with a crazy party, so as soon as people hear my voice and as soon as they see me, yeah, it just turns from five to 25; the energy level just goes up so much. I’m blessed that people appreciate me and like me like that, so I just like to make a party.
Marc Jay: So now that you’re DJing and performing as well, your schedule must be crazy. What upcoming gigs have you got lined up?
Lil Jon: Well, we’re about to go to Brazil to perform in two weeks and we're going to Canada next week – just stuff all over the place. The new album is coming out June 8th, Crunk Rock, we’re dropping the video for “Out of Your Mind” next week (it’ll be premiering on Vevo) so there are a lot of things you’re about to see from me over the next few months.
Marc Jay: What tracks are on the new album? Who have you collaborated with?
Lil Jon: There are a bunch of songs on there, but I’ll tell you what I can remember. I guess we’ll start with me and Steve Aoki working on a joint right now. You got me and this guy named Clark Kelli, you got me and LMFAO on “Outta Ya Mind,” me, R. Kelly and Mario on “Ms. Chocolate,” you got Soulja Boy… so many people. Me and 303 and Dr. Loop did a joint called “Hey” which is crazy. I just got a lot of different kinds of stuff on the record from hardcore crunk stuff to pop, basically.
Marc Jay: There are a lot of people, as I’m sure you know, who’d like to be half as successful as you are. How did you start out and when did you get your big break? Was it going back with the East Side Boyz?
Lil Jon: Basically it was a slow grind building process. We started off in the city [of Atlanta]. We started off with a hot record in the city, that hot record spread to other towns and shit, and so on and so forth. We just built from album to album and built a fan base; it just took off. Nationally, “Bia Bia” was my first commercial single, but it really took off when we dropped “Get Low.” That’s when everything started to really blow up for me.
Marc Jay: Did you ever actually have a “normal” job, or were you always into your music, rapping and that kind of stuff?
Lil Jon: Nah, I stumbled onto this music shit [laughs]. I used to live in my momma’s basement and I used to skate. So all skaters, they kind of want to work at the skate shop, so they can get free shit or discounts on their skateboards and shit. I worked at the skate shop and that was basically the only job I really had. Then I went to So So Def and that began my career as an executive.
Marc Jay: Tell me a little bit more about the East Side Boyz, because it was before my time, I wasn’t in America then, so I’m not too familiar with it. How did the three of you guys get together?
Lil Jon: When I was at So So Def, one of the artist’s names was Playa Poncho and the East Side Boyz used to hang out with him. The artist was always with us because I was the A&R guy, so we all kind of ended up hanging out. I wanted to do a record for Atlanta clubs, so we ended up doing this record and that’s how I started. We did a couple of albums together but when you start to grow, sometimes you start to move in different directions. So they went one way and I went one way; I’m doing my thing, they doing they thing.
Marc Jay: Where are the other two guys now? Are they still in the business?
Lil Jon: I think they’re trying to put an album out, but I don’t really know. They trying to do they thing, I’m trying to do my thing.
Marc Jay: Some artists, like Ice T, have crossed over into acting. Do you see yourself going into movies, or have you done any?
Lil Jon: Later on I want to do animated films and stuff. I did some voice-overs for some animated cartoons already, which will be coming out on Cartoon Network later this year, but that’s what I want to do – no acting, but animated.
Marc Jay: So now you live back in Atlanta and LA pretty much. When you’re back at home, do you have somewhat of a “real life” or is it all crazy parties all the time? When people see you on TV, you’re just going crazy with Patron bottles – is that what you do at home?
Lil Jon: At home I don’t even really drink, maybe some wine here and there. I’m always de-toxing at the house. I drink a lot of green tea and I chill out with my son and my wife.
Marc Jay: Now I heard it drove you crazy when people would come up to you in the streets shouting out the slogan you’re most famous for. Did it drive you crazy? How often did that actually happen?
Lil Jon: It happens so much that people who are with me get tired of motherfuckers saying the shit [laughs]. So that shows you how much they say it – even the motherfuckers just hanging out with me get tired of it. I can’t go nowhere without nobody saying one of the catch phrases.
Marc Jay: Where did the catchphrases come from and when did you actually come out with those phrases?
Lil Jon: They’re all basically adlibs, you know, I do little adlibs to hype up a record. It just got crazy when Dave Chappelle put it on TV, and just made the “what?!” a part of hip-hop culture in the world now. I mean, everybody knows it from him. With him putting it on the show, it’s going to be forever. TV is forever. I thank him for doing the sketch on me, but you get tired of people screaming at you.
Marc Jay: Did you know that he was going to do it? Did he call you and tell you or was it a surprise to you?
Lil Jon: No, he didn't tell me, but one of my boys was a DJ on the show and he called me and said, “Yo man, Dave Chappelle is doing a sketch on you.” I was like. “Man, you fucking lying.” So, I didn’t believe it and then we turned on the show and sure enough he did the fucking sketch. I was like “Wow, that’s amazing” because I’m just a regular dude and he’s the biggest comedian ever – I mean, not ever, but he’s one of the biggest comedians of our time. I was like WOW. I went to the show to show some love and thank him for doing the sketch and he told me to hang out and I ended up getting in the sketch. It’s a famous sketch from the end of the season where me and him are going back and forth and that was amazing to me too because for him, being the legend that he is, to be able to sit and improv with him, that was amazing. People don’t get that kind of opportunity. It made the episode and it got on the show that was amazing. I’m blessed.
Marc Jay: You filmed the music video for “Shots” with LMFAO at Tao Beach last year. That was a fantastic song. I go around the world and I hear that song everywhere. How did you get involved in that song? Did they call you or how did that come about?
Lil Jon: They had the track and they had their verses done and they called and were like, “Yo, we want you to get on this.” As soon as I downloaded the track and listened to it, I was like, “Oh my God, this is fucking amazing” and basically knocked it out in like 20 or 30 minutes and sent it back. I knew it was quick because when I called them and said, “Yo, I just sent you the song back,” they were like “What? You finished already?” But it was just like an immediate thing. I instantly caught the vibe when I heard the track.
Marc Jay: I know you’ve worked with many artists before, but is there any artist that you haven’t worked with who you want to? And who is the best person that you’ve worked with so far?
Lil Jon: I mean everybody is cool, you know what I mean? Probably the person I want to work with the most right now, who I’m a big fan of, is Dr. Dre. I met him once, but that was before I was even an artist, but I grew up on NWA, I’ve worked with Ice Cube, and it would be great to work with Dre.
Marc Jay: What projects have you got coming up in the future?
Lil Jon: Mainly the album, Crunk Rock, which comes out June 8th. Also, me and Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke just did a song, which is crazy, called “Turbulence.” I’ve just been collaborating with a lot of people – Afrojack and I are going to hook up and do some stuff, me and Roger Sanchez, a bunch of people. I’m just collaborating with all kinds of people. I just love music.
Click here to check out the pictures from Lil Jon's DJ set at Hard Rock.
You can follow Lil Jon on Twitter at twitter.com/liljon or on Facebook at facebook.com/liljon. For booking information, please visit SkamArtist.com.
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