This week I write about the under-performance of Lil Jon's latest, Crunk Rock, his part-time move to L.A. so his son Slade can be an actor and model, and whether or not he's done with crunk for good. In interview, Jon isn't the wild and crazy guy he projects in videos, but rather courteous and a good yarn-spinner. He's been on the Atlanta hip-hop, bass and crunk scenes for as long as anyone, and reeled off a career's-worth of anecdotes and funny stories. Here are some of the best that didn't make the story.
On the multiculturalism of skateboarding:
I grew up in Southwest Atlanta, and it was all black folks. The only Asians you see might be the Indians and Pakistanis at the gas station, or Chinese at the Chinese restaurant. So, skateboarding introduced me to all kinds of different people, and different music, skate punk groups like Minor Threat, Agent Orange, the Faction ... Dead Kennedys, Ramones and Bad Brains were like my favorite groups. Even the Cure, Ministry, and new wave. Skateboarding helped me really become who I am today, 'cause it made me open-minded for music and people.
On his high school years:
It’s interesting, because all my boys from my middle school went to [Benjamin E.] Mays high school, and even though I went to [Frederick Douglass High School], I went to Mays every day and hung out with my boys. I was one of the few kids from another high school who could go there and not get beat up. I was even in their yearbook, in the background of a picture.... I wasn’t the super smart, straight-A kid, I almost didn’t graduate, 'cause I had D’s and F’s. I’m not good at math. I’m not a book guy. I’m street smart, but I’m not a book guy.
On what bass and crunk have in common:
Back in the day, when somebody would be driving by in their Cadillac, they’d be playing Keith Sweat’s "Make It Last Forever," and the license plate would be rattling from the bottom. All southern music pretty much has a certain energy; bass and crunk are both high energy, so that’s the comparison right there.
On Jermaine Dupri inviting him to work for So So Def in 1993:
He told me, ‘You DJ all the hot shit, and even if you’re not DJing, you’re everywhere. Check this out, I’m about to start my new record company, I want you to be a part of it.' I was like, 'Huh?' I’m just a kid DJing, living every day crazy cause I’m at the hottest club in Atlanta [Club Phoenix], got money from DJing every day, getting sprung in my mom's basement, no cares in the world. I basically left the club and started working for So So Def. I was one of the first four or five employees hired. I was there pretty much from the start, from '93 to 2000.
On "Get Low":
["To the windows/ To the wall"] is a chant from college. A lot of chants from bass songs at that time came from college frat chants. I think that’s may have been where DJ Smurf got that [for his 1992 single "2 Tha Walls"]. I think it was the Kappas. I had never heard that before. Years later he played it for me. I was like, "Oh shit." I’m not sure where Ying Yang got it, if they got it from college or Smurf's shit. Initially, I wanted to make a beat like DMX and Swizz Beat’s "Party Up (Up In Here)." What came out was the, "Get Low" beat.
On developing the Lil Jon persona:
The pimp cup was given to me by Pimpin Ken, he gave me my first cup, and then it became a part of Lil Jon. I don’t remember the year. [Also,] I started to notice that the superstars wear sunglasses in the club, you look more like a superstar if you wear sunglasses. I started rocking some cheap Elvis glasses. Later on, I was in New York, doing something for MTV, and I met some guys from Oakley coming out of the hotel. They were like, if we gave you some glasses, would you rock them. I said yeah, and we still have a relationship today.
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