Lil Jon is back! Not that Lil Jon actually went anywhere as much as he took a job consulting for the LMFAO industrial complex. But “Turn Down for What” is the biggest song the world and it basically sounds like the second verse of his 2001 Ying Yang Twinz-assisted smash hit “Get Low,” updated for 2014. Meanwhile, his influence as a producer is all over the charts in the sounds of DJ Mustard and friends and every aspiring EDM producer is aping the sound for “twerk” remixes.
Next up for Lil Jon is “Bend Ova” featuring Tyga; the video above is a preview for the dances baked into the song: the #bendova and the #yogaball. It’s always great to see an artist stick around to see his music return to prominence but this is nothing new for the King of Crunk. I spoke to Jon over the phone about creeping the internet for inspiration, his dancehall days, and how he’s responsible for the indelible classic that is Ghost Town DJs’ “My Boo.”
Noisey: How does it make you feel to see a lot of stuff that you pioneered in 2001, 2002 come full circle a decade later?
Lil Jon: The one thing that I started to hear that really had me like wow was, I did a record in 1995 called “Who U Wit;” it was the first record I ever recorded as an artist and for from 2010 to now, people have sampled the song and used my voice and little pieces of it from that track in all kinds of rap songs that were popular and hot. And then … just to hear DJ Mustard’s sound and hear Mustard say in interviews that I was one of his favorite producers and I influence his sound and so on and so forth, all that is amazing. I just wanted to make records for people to get crunk to and party to.
What’s the difference between turnt and crunk?
It’s the same thing, it’s just evolved, man. Turning up is the same as getting crunk pretty much, it’s just for a younger generation right now.
OK, but when was the last time you saw someone get elbowed at one of your shows?
I don’t know, I don’t really do the rowdy crunk records, I don’t really play those at the clubs when I DJ. That was ten years ago. Some of the fans now are 20 years old, 21 years old so they was like 11 or 12. But “Get Low,” their mom played it, their brother played it, their older brother, their older sister and so on and so forth. That record has been carried over and over, throughout the years.
You’ve been in the game for a long time and, I think people don’t often realize that. Am I right in saying you used to do a lot of dancehall?
Yeah, I was a dancehall DJ in the early 90s in Atlanta, I was with a soundsystem called Four Seasons Sound. That was a major part of the start of my success, even with producing. My first big production was a record for Capleton called “Tour.” The remix was like number one in New York, it broke Capleton so big that he got signed to Def Jam!
If it wasn’t for dancehall I don’t know if I would have started producing. At the time my partner was named Paul Lewis. We had a dancehall radio show and even when I was in the club we would take dancehall acapellas and put them over hip hop beats and r&b beats, and I would take r&b acapellas and hip hop acapellas and put them on dancehall beats. “Tour” was one of our favorite tracks so we talked to Signet records which was the label that Capleton was on, like, “Let us remix this.” They sent us the acapella and let us remix it in, the rest is history and it became a hit.
That’s crazy. What year is this when you had your dancehall shit popping off?
Must have been like 91, 92? Capleton was a star anyway but it helped to put him into a whole other category because it pushed him over.
I saw you on Arsenio talking to Jermaine Dupri about how you got your start with So So Def. Can you talk about your involvement with “My Boo”?
“My Boo…” So So Def Bass Stars was the album that I put together. I was the A&R on it; I put all the artists with all the producers. With “My Boo,” this guy named Kool Kollie was the guy who was Ghost Town DJs. Ghost Town DJs was really kind of like a made up group. I put Kool Kollie and Carl Mo together. Kollie did the beat and the drums, and Carl Mo wrote the lyrics and played the music. I helped arrange the song too, so that was my first project that I did on So So Def and that was amazing! The first project that I do is fucking number one record and is still around.
Where’d you and Tyga come up with the yoga ball idea for “Bend Ova”?
Basically, when I do dance records like that for women, I always think about what they do when they’re dancing; how they look when they’re dancing. I’m watching the videos on YouTube or whatever, this one video this girl her ass was so fat and round in yoga pants, her ass bouncing looked like a yoga ball bouncing. Like if you’ve ever been in a gym, you’ve bounce the yoga ball like a basketball at least once or twice. I just thought her ass looked like a yoga ball bouncing so I was like, “Drop that ass like a yoga ball.”
I love the idea of you watching twerk videos at home and your wife giving you shit and you’re just like “this is research!”
Ha she knows, she wouldn’t say nothing. If she hears the beat, she knows what it’s about. That’s a part of it.
Do you do yoga at all?
No, but I’ve been wanting to get into the Bikram yoga for a while, I just haven’t had the chance to get into it. I need to get into yoga because it helps with your mind too, it helps to clear your mind and think better. I’m very positive! I try to not have any negativity around me, I’m always thinking positive, positive people, positive energy period. So you know, the next step for me is something like yoga.
Have you read Russell Simmons’ meditation book?
No I haven’t, I wanted to check it out though.
What is one single from your career that you wish had blown up more that you really liked?
I think “Get Outta Your Mind” did good but the label didn’t really understand what I was trying to do. It actually did really well around the world but I think it could have done a lot better if the label would have supported it more.
You were ahead of your time with it.
Yeah, I mean it was after “Shots” and we flipped it and went into something else. The label just didn’t, they wanted me to be in a different place then I was when I did that.
What place did they want you to be in and what place were you in?
I think they wanted me to be more of a Flo-rida, you know, the singing on the chorus of an up tempo record type of guy, instead of me, just a wild party type of guy.
In your AMA you said you wanted to be a psychiatrist if you weren’t doing what you do in music. Why is that?
When I was younger in high school I was all of the girls’ best friend, so all of the girls would come to me and talk to me about their problems and shit. I got really good at helping all of the chicks with their problems..
Just counseling and listening to people.
Yeah, just listening and giving advice and helping people to think more positive and look at themselves, sometimes you have to look into yourself if you have problems in your life, like, “Why is all this shit happening to me, it’s about them not me?” Then you take a step back and look at yourself, you see you making this stuff bad for yourself. It’s not always on other people.
Speaking of other people, where are the Eastside Boyz right now?
I have no idea dude. We parted our ways, they wanted to do their thing and I wanted to do my thing. Shit happens.
Skinny Friedman is twerking on a yoga ball at this very moment. He's on Twitter - @skinny412