The year is 2003 and I am but an 8 year old child of God, riding in the car with my mother as my knock-off Walkman CD player spins a burned mix CD I borrowed from a friend. The CD is filled with familiar classic tracks, Nothin by N.O.R.E., Air Force Ones by Nelly, Thoia Thoing by the Pied Piper of R&B and honestly, I think there was some random Eminem tracks on there too (but them joints was getting skipped!!).
Soon an unknown sound envelops my cheap plastic headphones. It sounded like a drumroll, but more so a man imitating one over bass and what sounded like sirens. Though before I could fully take in what I was about to hear, my mother asks “What you listening to?” and motions me to put my CD in the car’s player. Unaware of the implications of this decision, I innocently skip into the CD to get back to the new song i was just listening to. Maybe my mom would know what exactly I was hearing.
30 secs passes and suddenly my mother, visibly shaken, pulls over and turns the music down. “Did he just say til the sweat drop down his BALLS? uh uh what in Jesus name..” she says as she ejects my CD and tosses it directly out the window like Nolan Ryan. As Kirk Franklin directs the rest of our car ride and I watch my CD get thrown into the wind, all that I could manage to think about was that song, still playing in my head. What did I just experience? Who was that screaming? What does Aww Skeet Skeet Muhfuckaaaaaaaa mean and why does it make me feel prone to violent outbursts?
Throughout the early to mid 2000s, there were many producers making both national and international hits that often still get recognition today, including (but not limited to) The Neptunes, Timbaland, Mannie Fresh, and Scott Storch to name a few. Among these names however, many tend to forget or even undermine a legend that helped found the hegemony held by the Dirty South from 03-06, Lil Jon (pronounced A-LIL JON!!!!).
Lil Jon, a humanoid creation purely composed of alcohol and whatever they put in those sketchy energy pills sold at Shell gas stations, came into the mainstream success around 2001 with his smash hit, ‘Bia Bia’. Along with the Eastside Boyz and frequent collaborators the Ying Yang Twins, Lil Jon rose to fame with his breakthrough and CD tossing hits, Get Low and What U Gon Do.
Created in a secret lab under the sweatshop they used to make Famous Stars and Straps apparel in, Little Jonathon was birthed as a cyborg with the vocal capacity that hardly reached beyond expletives, simple questions, the names of various American cities, violence and confirmations. The true personification of a 4Loko drink, Lil Jon was released into the world to bring the world a sound that could only be synonymous with drunken confrontation and hostility.
But instead of further detailing who exactly Lil Jon is, let us focus on his achievements:
Successfully screaming on tracks without becoming too much
Before DJ Khaled captured our ears (by force), Lil Jon was the resident screamer in hip hop (aside from DJ’s and radio personalities). Though, what will always separate Lil Jon from the rest of the pack is just how much charm he brought to his exclamations and threats of violence. In 2004, I’m not sure if anyone could say the words ‘What’ ‘Okay’ or ‘Yeah’ without thinking of or fighting the urge to imitate Lil Jon’s famous tone. Not only did this bring notoriety and familiarity to Lil Jon’s character, but it gave him almost endless crossover potential. Lil Jon could scream HEYYY HEYYY!! A- LET’S GO!! on a polka song and get the whole Czech Republic throwing bows and knocking over drinks.
Bringing almost pornographic levels of aggression and energy into music
In creating Crunk music, Lil Jon not only paved his own lane, but made an avenue to use music as a means of transferring vigor and contact high into the listener without the need of meaningful lyrics. While playing Lil Jon, you would never expect to hear any lyricism, metaphors or enlightening wordplay and if you did, you would be probably be the one they’re talking about fucking up. Interestingly enough, this absolute disregard for content or knowledge is what made this kind of music work. The constant repetition of BITCH! I DON’T GIVE A FUCK! and/or GET CRUNK! soon becomes the only words you truly want to hear. Over Lil Jon’s bass and synth heavy instrumentation, life changing or spiritual lyricism would only feel lost upon deaf ears (also due to the high decibel levels of both Lil Jon and his production).
Producing/being featured on a LEGENDARY amount of hits
Looking back on many artists careers, there are often points where one could highlight and note that the artist could have capitalized on a certain aspect or done more in a specific area to reach the level of fame or wealth that their potential had made them out to be able to ascend to. Though, it is hard to do such with Lil Jon, especially with how he used his sound to not only help raise the South to prominence, but help influence the hyphy movement and reinvigorate the careers of previously established artists such as Ice Cube and E-40. Along with this, he also helped introduce the world to artists such as Pitbull, Lil Scrappy and Ciara. Among his production and feature credits, his standouts include:
Goodies by Ciara
Girlfight by Brooke Valentine
Most E-40s My Ghetto Report Card album
Go to Church by Ice Cube
Get Buck in Here by DJ Felli Fel
No Problem by lil scrappy (a song that may have the greatest opening lines of all time “YOU DONT WANNA BE DEAD IN THE STREETS/MOUTH FULLA BLOOD AND A SOUL FULLA HEAT”)
Okay by Nivea
Freek a Leek by Petey Pablo
Toma/Culo/The Anthem/I Know You Want Me (and many more) by Pitbull
I’ma King by P$C
Let’s Go by Trick Daddy
Some Cut/Neva Eva by Trillville
Shake That Monkey/Blow the Whistle by Too Short (the former including a part where Too Short instructs a woman to wiggle that tail like her name was Flipper)
Snap Ya Fingaz/What You Gon Do/Bia Bia/Get Crunk by himself and the Eastside Boys
Lovers and Friends/Yeah by Usher
Shorty Wanna Ride With Me by Young Buck
Damn by the Youngbloodz
Get Low by Ying Yang Twins
Other notable accomplishments:
- Starring in a Chappelle’s Show skit parodying himself
- The Snap Ya Fingaz video in which he introduces epilepsy to all on what looks to be a $200 budget
- Carrying around a diamond encrusted cup eventually leading to a energy drink line (which influenced Trillville to not only assault a school faculty member and destroy a classroom, but also stand on top of a school bus and rap in 6xl Coogi coats in the Neva Eva video)
- Once pressed Donald Trump on Celebrity Apprentice after he called Lil Jon an Uncle Tom
“You an impostor! You drinkin’ water! (Get Outta Your Mind)”
“WHAT!!! Heyyyy heyy, it’s the kings of Crunk bitch BITCH!!!”
“Up in here kissing, hugging, squeezing, touching/Up in the bathtub rubbadubbing”
In conclusion, citing Lil Jon’s musical success and overall influence on the genre for a good 4-5 years, it is flagrant to leave him out of discussions on top producers of the last 15 to 20 years. Apart from hip hop, he also had many club hits with LMFAO and.. other EDM niggas, but I’ve never gotten a lip piercing or cussed my mom out for not letting me spend the night at Danny and Martha’s party so I can’t say I really participated or am fully knowledgeable in that culture. Regardless of that, Lil Jon deserves all the success he has gained and also deserves far more recognition in the hip hop community than he has received thus far. In closing, I will leave you with a both profound and stimulating quote from the Littlest Jon himself:
“We don’t give a fuck ho/ Y’all pussy like bitches”