Redfoo’s body is in Australia, but his spirit is home in L.A., unscrewing the cap off a bottle of Fireball whiskey as he prepares for a round of beer pong. Speaking over the phone, the 39-year-old — best known as the big-hair half of over-the-top family duo LMFAO — is breaking down his vision of the perfect night of partying, and this begins at 10 o’clock sharp: Roommates Q and Shufflebot — the old group’s hypeman and trademarked cyborg dancer, respectively — host guests in the living room while Redfoo holes up in his studio finishing some new tracks. Then the real work begins.
“The music is playing, the drinking games are going on, we’ve got some chips and dips,” the rapper-producer explains, setting the scene. “We’ll also be doing a wardrobe check: I kind of have an idea of what I’m wearing, but I’m looking at everybody making sure that I’m standing out and doing my own style.”
Most important, the crew that’s assembling in the living room needs to be majority female, by a ratio of at least two-to-one. “Four-to-one is just incredible,” he continues. “That really is fun: We call that a ‘fellatio ratio.’ Me and my partner from LMFAO coined that. There’s some other rules that we got from the LMFAO days, but we’ll save that until we get into the club.”
The pop-music court jester we know as Redfoo was born Stefan Kendal Gordy on September 3rd, 1975. His father is Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., but his earliest music memories came from spending time with his mother, Nancy Leiviska, the label’s VP of Video Operations and the director of clips like Rick James’ “Super Freak.” As a kid, Redfoo jumped onstage while the Temptations performed “Power” and hung around with the stars after Motown 25.
“I went to my dad’s party at his house, and all the people were at the afterparty,” he recalls. “The main person I remember was Michael Jackson: I was so tired, and he tucked me in. Everybody was hanging out and partying, and I just went to sleep. Him and my mom were right there, and they were just talking.”
Musicians like Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson (his father’s frequent backgammon opponent) were always around, but Redfoo only got interested in the family business after visiting his older brother, “Somebody’s Watching Me” singer Rockwell: “He was working on his album at my dad’s house. My brother Terry and Rockwell were producing it, and I used to watch them play on the drum machine, and I always wanted a drum machine after seeing that.”
At the time, Red’s priority was tennis, but he began to take music seriously when he moved to Sweden and a broken wrist forced him off the court. He was 16 years old, and his first songs were Christmas raps that sampled popular carols. Upon returning to America, he began programming on the Atari STE-50. In 1994, he would use the primitive sampler to score his first major production credit, flipping Teddy Pendergrass to create the beat for Ahmad’s nostalgic “Back in the Day.”
Before Europe, a popular dancer from junior high had given Redfoo his demo and asked that he pass it up to his famous father. The tape didn’t make it further than Rockwell, but the brothers liked it and the pair became friends. They became closer when Redfoo moved home to find the dancer, now named Will.i.am, still gunning for a record deal. “He was doing a demo for Interscope, and he needed a place to do his demo in,” Redfoo says. “I let him use my house for like two weeks, and that’s where he recorded his demo to get signed to Interscope as the Black Eyed Peas.”
Though few knew his name outside L.A., Redfoo became the only featured rapper on the group’s 1998 debut. Nevertheless, he eventually grew bored with hip-hop. He obtained a real estate license and briefly tried to get rich day-trading penny stocks, but a Vegas blackjack bender led to the epiphany that brought him back to music.
“Some people thought I was weird, but I just said, ‘I see this thing, man, I have it in my soul, this vision.'”
“I was into, like, selling things,” he says. “And I think that was when I realized that I didn’t want to be the consumer-gambler: I wanted to be the house. And I said, ‘Wait a minute, if I just spend all my time and invest in making music that I control, then I’m the house.’ I can create the rules and own the publishing. It’s still a gamble, but if I win, I’m going to win big.”
Meanwhile, he began to see a void opening between his two favorite genres: “They had hip-hop out there and they had dance music, and dance music didn’t really have much rapping in it or much singing, it was just beats and stuff.” His refreshing idea? Smash the two together in the most shameless way possible. “Some people thought I was weird, but I just said, ‘I see this thing, man, I have it in my soul, this vision.'”
The vision required help from his best friend and younger cousin, a rapper born Skyler Gordy but rechristened Sky Blu. But Sky too remained unconvinced — at least until the duo recorded a song called “I’m in Miami Bitch” and handed it out at the city’s annual Winter Music Conference. “We would give them to groups of girls and they would call us back and they’d be like, ‘I’m in Miami bitch!’,” says Redfoo. “They were, like, traveling on spring break, and they would all sing it and be like, ‘We love this song!'”
In July of 2009, they followed the song with an equally crass LP appropriately titled Party Rock. A month later they reached audiences outside the Sunshine State via a few key placements on medium suited perfectly for their choreographed outlandishness: reality television. On August 5th, 2009, they performed for the roommates of Real World: Cancun, leading wannabe NFL punter CJ to describe the duo as “the coolest dudes I’ve ever hung out with. . . in my life.” A week and a half later, “I’m in Miami Bitch” became the theme song for Kardashian spin-off Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami. Then in December, “Get Crazy,” the first song they had ever recorded, ended up in the same spot on the first season of Jersey Shore.
“I’m really into publishing,” says Redfoo, “so it was just a publishing thing. But when we would play that song, we would be like, ‘Why is this so popular?’ And it was because of the Jersey Shore.”
By the time 2010 became 2011, Situation, Snooki and company had decamped to Florida, and America’s homebodies began to breathe a collective sigh of relief: It seemed as if LMFAO were gone for good. Then, 25 days into the new year, the duo released “Party Rock Anthem,” the track that would become their first Number One in not just the United States but Australia, Austria, France, Germany and the U.K. That September, they released an acid house workout song called “Sexy and I Know It” and somehow returned to the top of the charts.
On the accompanying LP, the misleadingly-titled Sorry for Party Rocking, LMFAO showed themselves to be both masters and pioneers of a hard-to-resist formula: Baltimore club beats matched with buoyant Dutch EDM synths, topped with the silliest bars two R&B heirs could possibly come up with. “I was doing stand-up comedy,” Redfoo says, referring to the period before he formed the group. “We would write funny punchlines, and we would take stand-up comedy and try to make it feel like hip-hop.”
One marker of both LMFAO’s massive fame and will to synergize: They even had their own social network, PartyRockPeople.com, a fan site since taken over — perhaps appropriately — by bots advertising penis enlargement. In January 2012, they peaked at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, Redfoo holding Madonna on his shoulders as she sang a mash-up of “Music” and their two recent hits.
If you got a table, you want to make sure they know you’re coming,” Redfoo says, describing the moment when he reaches the club on his ideal night out. “It’s really awkward to go in and then they ask people to leave, but it’s right in front of you. It’s always overdramatic: They look at you like, ‘Oh, look at the big star coming in.'” Booze, meanwhile, should already be on the table. “You don’t want to be in the club, standing there like a-holes, everybody’s having a good time but you’re waiting for your drinks.”
Once the bottles arrive, the four-to-one crew dances to a mix of hip-hop and EDM, preferably spun by someone like Afrojack — “a really sensible DJ,” according to Redfoo. Naturally, a few people try to crash the VIP.
“Hot girls can come in if we have room,” he says. “That’s usually a plus because they can mingle and stuff. If it’s a dude, that’s a really tricky situation. They key is that he’s gotta bring at least two nachos. Do you know what nachos are? Nachos are girls who are not yours. You can’t bring your mom and your girlfriend.”
When Redfoo discusses his eventual split from Sky Blu, he again invokes food. “If you’re on a date and one person wants Mexican and the other person wants seafood or sushi, it could be an issue,” he says. “You can compromise, you can go to a Mexican place and get the fish fajitas, but we just wanted to do some different things. Now we’re both doing our own things, and we’re both happy.”
LMFAO officially announced their hiatus in September 2012, and Redfoo made his solo debut with a pair of one-off singles: “Bring Out the Bottles” and “I’ll Award You With My Body.” His success continued — but almost only in Australia. The singer’s next track, “Let’s Get Ridiculous,” went four-times platinum in the country, and the one after that, “New Thang,” peaked at Number Three on the Aussie pop chart.
His latest track, “Juicy Wiggle,” is named after and inspired by a “quirky” dance move he discovered while below the equator to judge X-Factor Australia. “I had an afterparty and some girls were doing it, and they said, ‘Oh, that’s the juicy wiggle.'” He subsequently looked it up on YouTube and became obsessed with mastering it himself. “Whenever I’m obssessed about anything, that becomes the subject of a song.”
The result remains as unique as anything released this year, combining EDM not with rap but with the kind of music that had once influenced his father. “I said, ‘Wait a second, this is a song about a dance. Songs about dances were really popular in the rock & roll era — there were hundreds of them: ‘The Twist,’ ‘The Bossa Nova Twist,’ ‘Let’s Twist Again,’ ‘The Shake.’ The juicy wiggle is really just a new name for a dance called the swim — it’s incredible. Now we have a song that relates to people who loved rock & roll in the Fifties and Sixties and people who love today’s EDM. That to me is the definition of a great pop song.” Before the end of the year, he hopes to follow it with a new album tentatively tilted Super Fan.
The night — or at least, this hypothetical night — ends back at Redfoo’s house, where those still awake cram into a jacuzzi and the DJ in his crew keeps the hip-hop and EDM spinning. The group ordered food when they left the club to ensure that it would arrive the same time they did, and everybody is on social media: “The more you Snapchat, the more you take pictures, it makes you want to have a better party because you want better Snapchats, you want better pictures.”
In moments like these, Redfoo might become a little reflective. “I’m very proud that I can now share my story and people can get inspired off of that,” he says, remembering the days when he and Perez Hilton, neither of them famous, would fight for outlets at the Coffee Bean on Sunset and Fairfax. “I feel like I know what I did and how I did it and that I can teach that. I can teach how to get your dream in any field, because it was very planned: like, this is what we wanna do, and these are the things that we’re gonna do, and we’re gonna look for people that know how to do these things.”
For a few final hours, the party continues. “This can go ’til, like, four or five a.m.,” Redfoo explains. “You don’t want to get too ridiculous on the weekdays.”