Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz
Interview By Soren Baker
From Murder Dog Vol. 9# 4
When you heard Mary J. Blige saying “Crunk,” what was your reaction?
Lil Jon: It made us feel like we came a long way from “Who U With,” when people used to be like, “What the fuck does crunk mean? What the fuck is that? What the fuck is crunk?”
Big Sam: Everywhere we went, we got that question, “What is crunk?”
Lil Jon: When we first started out, the “Who U With” days, to go from that to now Mary J. Blige saying, “Let’s get it crunk,” it made us feel like we accomplished something.
On the last album, you had M.O.P. How important has it been for you guys to get that respect in New York and to collaborate with people from New York?
Lil Jon: Initially, I’d say we weren’t really trying to. We were just doing records. But then, it’s like a New York cats like our shit and then we like a lot of New York rappers. We like M.O.P. and we wanted to do the song with M.O.P. because we felt we were kind of like on the same kind of wavelength, with the higher energy that they have on their records. They make the club get rowdy. That’s why we wanted to do a record with them.
Big Sam: We make records with people that we admire.
Lil Jon: What’s crazy is that I used to be in New York a lot and a lot of the New York rappers would come up to me and tell me that they like our shit. By not even trying to appeal to people, by doing what we do, they had accepted us anyway. Even the song that we got with Jadakiss on the new album, it doesn’t sound like we tried to make a New York track. We did what we do and Jada did what he do. What I like about the song is neither one of us is compromised. It don’t sound like he’s trying to be on a South beat, he’s trying to be Southern. He’s still Jadakiss, on our type of shit. To me, it just sounds like a hot beat. You can’t say that’s a Southern track. It sounds like he’s rapping and that we’re all just on a hot-ass track. By doing what we do, we have gained that respect, I guess, automatically because we just make hot club records and a lot of those cats come to the South, the Midwest, even D.C. and seen the reaction that people had to our records. You can’t do nothing but respect that.
Does the industry respect the South more than it used to?
Lil Jon: Definitely. I remember years ago when we was bamma, we was country. Now, hard-core hip-hop groups, underground hip-hop cats are coming up to us like, “Yo, man, I love ya’ll shit.’ It’s changed a whole lot.
A lot of rappers are always about, “Check out my lyrics. I’m deep.” You are more about having fun. Why do you think you’ve be able to survive without being lyrically driven?
Lil Jon: We just make records for the clubs, that the DJ’s love to play because we’re going to get the club crunk. We just make records that make the club get hot, man. Being on the road this past year and being in New Orleans for the Super Bowl and seeing “Bia Bia” and “Put Yo Hood Up” turn the club out, being at the All-Star game and the parties there and “Bia Bia” being the hottest song of the weekend, it’s like, “Wow.”
What do you do when the crowd is small or isn’t getting crunk right away?
Lil Jon: We just have fun. A lot of entertainers, they don’t involve the crowd in their show. If it’s 20 people in the club, we might get everybody in the club drunk. We going to just have fun and make them feel like they’re part of the show because when they feel like they’re part of the show, they feel like they’re getting something and they have a good time. We’ve done shows where there’s been 30 people and we had a ball. The people that were there went back and told their friends that they had an incredible time at the show. We have fun. We do what we can regardless of how big or small the crowd is to make sure the people say that we did what we’re supposed to do.
Lil Jon, going from working A&R at SoSoDef, are there different things that you look for on songs than you did back then?
Lil Jon: It’s basically the same process. When we’re doing the records, we’re not going to record the song unless we know we’ve got the hottest hook, the hottest verse and make sure that we pick the hottest track. Since we’ve done the last album, we’ve been all around the country and we’ve just got to step our game up and make everything a little hotter.
What type of interaction do you have with the artists on your records in the studio, being that you’re a producer and a former A&R?
Lil Jon: I feed off of people. When we were in with Mystikal, we had never worked with him. He just laid his raps. We were all writing together and we finished the hook and laid it. Then, he just went in and laid his verse. If I hear some stuff that I don’t like, or think that maybe they could do it better, I’ll say, “Yo, man, can you go do that one more time?” I feed off of them and let them do what they do. Then, if I hear some stuff that bothers me, I ask people to change it. But when you’re working with a Mystikal and a Krayzie Bone, people of that sort, they’re professionals. These cats have like five or six albums, so it’s not like working with a new rapper that don’t necessarily know how to record. These cats is polished. They know what the hell they’re doing. When we did the Jada song, he went in on his own, laid his rap and sent the shit to me. The technology advancement has made it easier to get a lot of shit done, too, with the Protools and all that shit.
You also did underground stuff with Power Houze and Mack 10’s Da Hood project. For the smaller projects, how do you get to work with them?
Lil Jon: We look at ourselves that we’re on the same level with everybody. Just because we sold 600,000 records don’t mean that we’re any better than this cat over here. He could be selling 600,000 records in a year. People that are cool with us, we’re cool with them. We’ve never tried to be on no bougie shit, no assholes. Doing the record with Power Houze helped us out a lot in their area. We fuck with everybody. The only thing is when you get into doing all those guest appearances, your label starts tripping. That’s the only reason we might not be doing records with some cats, because they can’t even get the shit cleared. I fuck with anybody if I like their shit.
Atlanta had a lot of groups coming out at one point, but it seems to have hit a dry spell on the national level. What led to that?
Lil Jon: The labels were coming and selling a lot of stuff up and at the same time a lot of those projects weren’t doing anything. That kind of messed up the game and they stopped focusing on Atlanta as much. But, there’s still guys getting deals. Archie got the deal recently. They weren’t promoting records right, some of the ones they picked up. They weren’t taking time to revamp the records right. I think they were just buying them up and puttin’ ’em out and they weren’t really focusing on the projects.
Explain how an artist from Atlanta needs to be promoted in order to succeed?
Lil Jon: You’ve got to have the right marketing dollars involved, the right publicity campaign going, a good record and then you can’t treat it like it’s a regional thing. I think they treated that stuff as regional records. They didn’t spend the money in the right areas on those projects.
Be specific. Give me an idea.
Lil Jon: They’ll buy an artist, get some BET ads and put an ad in a magazine and that’s it. They don’t stick with the projects. That’s another thing. If the first single don’t do good, they drop ’em. You’ve got to keep working the record. It took Nelly six months to get that fucking first single popping for real. They worked that song for a long time. A lot of the Atlanta groups, if that shit don’t hit nationally right out the box, they’re going to put ’em on the side, the backburner.
But, even though Atlanta hasn’t been as hot lately, it isn’t like New Orleans where it kind of burned out. Why do you think there is always new talent coming from there, when a lot of other big cities don’t come with much?
Lil Jon: Maybe because Atlanta’s such a big melting pot. You’ve got so many different people from so many different areas here. You’ve got so many different artists that come here just to go to the studio and work. You’ve got so many big events that happen here. The records that come out of here are exposed to a lot of people that just come in town for the weekend for this or that. That helps to spread the records out. Atlanta artists, we make records straight for the clubs. If your record ain’t hitting in the club, then these muthafuckas ain’t gonna buy your shit. You got niggaz that got hot club records that aren’t even on the radio that’s selling a lot of records in Atlanta. Eventually, those records translate to the radio, but that’s the main thing about the Atlanta music scene: we make records for the clubs, that will get the clubs cracking. If it ain’t getting the clubs crackin’, then they ain’t buying it. That’s how we look at putting the records together.
Why do you always wear glasses?
Lil Jon: That’s part of my vernacular, baby. Yeah. That’s part of me. Puffy wear his glasses.
Sam and Bo, what do you do on stage to make it crunk?
Bo: We do our thang, man. Slang water, do whatever it takes.
Lil Jon: When we’re on stage, we back each other up. I might lead a lot of times, but we all back each other up. Since we’re all doing our vocals on the song at the same time, Sam might be the lead person for a second and then I back him up, or Bo might jump in. We support each other like the Three Musketeers.
When you get on stage do you just go crazy, or is there a little routine now?
Lil Jon: It depends on how much tequila we’re drinking.
Sam: With me, it depends on how I’m feeling. One night, I might go out there and do The Worm across the stage or something.
Lil Jon: We really feed off the crowd. The crowd gives us energy. There’s been times where we’re all tired, we’ve dead. We get to the show and we’re sitting back stage, but right before we get on, the people start screaming and we get energized and go into a zone, just wild out for an hour and give them a great show.
Was there a city that surprised you about how excited they were to see you?
Lil Jon: D.C. was a big surprise. We did D.C. and packed the club out. Those muthafuckas were tearing that bitch up, fighting and everything. They showed us a lot of love in D.C. and in Richmond, Virginia. Even New York, when we performed at Flex’s club Speed, we were surprised. Man, we started out doing “Who U With” getting in a van going to do shows. Now we’re in New York with Funkmaster Flex, and these muthafuckas know the record.
What makes you such a national act, if you don’t have the visibility of someone like a Ja Rule?
Lil Jon: We keep the club rowdy. You can’t deny the energy of the records. No matter where we go, we get the same reaction. We make people just want to wild out and have a good time. That’s why the records play in all the different areas.
What other projects do you have coming up?
Lil Jon: We have a porno called Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz Sex Tour. We’re getting ready to start filming on that. We’ve got a Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz clothing company. I did four tracks on Pastor Troy’s album. I’ve been producing a lot. I just did a song for Killer Mike. I’m probably going to do some UGK.
Sam: I’ve just been smoking lately—and eating. I do get my drink on.
Lil Jon: We’re on Snoop’s album. I did 54th Platoon, E-40, Mack 10, “Welcome To Atlanta” remixes, Krayzie Bone. We’re just trying to stay busy. We’re going to be on tour with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and 8Ball & MJG.
But what’s up with the porno?
Sam: A lot of fuckin’ and sucking.
Lil Jon: A lot of skeetin’.
Is it going to be a real porno?
Lil Jon: Your boy Snoop done paved the way for everybody so we’ve got to do our shit.
Sam: You can take this and fuck around and get some head before you even get home if you play it in the car.
Lil Jon: We’re going to have the first crunk porno.