“I try to make event records,” says Lil Jon, talking from his car on the way home from Stankonia, the studio made famous by his Atlanta hip-hop brethren OutKast. Crunk Juice, his new album with the East Side Boyz, due November 16th, has to be a pretty big event if it’s going to live up to Jon’s recent successes.
Besides “Get Low,” the inescapable grimy club anthem from his 2003 album, Kings of Crunk, in the past eighteen months Jon has produced monster hits for YoungBloodz (“Damn!”) and Usher (“Yeah”) and has seen comedian Dave Chappelle turn his trademark exclamations (“OK!” “Yeaaah!”) into national catchphrases.
Jon says the fame is getting hard to handle. “I appreciate the people showing me love,” says the thirty-two-year-old rapper-producer. “But that shit can definitely get annoying, people screaming, ‘What?!’ at you all fuckin’ day. They don’t understand that you can’t be crunk all the time.”
That said, Jon had no intention of changing things up on Crunk Juice. Relocating from his Atlanta hometown to Miami Beach for three months, Jon rented a waterfront mansion that had a studio built into it. “We could work twenty-four hours a day,” he says. “If I wanted to get up and do a beat, I did.” Nights were spent soaking in the city’s club scene. “The clubs in Miami are diverse – white, black, Cuban. You can’t make the kind of records I make without going to the club.”
The album’s raucous first single, “What You Gonna Do?,” features call-and-response taunts by Jon and East Side compadres Big Sam and Lil Bo over a haunting synth hook and mechanical beats. The second single, “Role Call,” alternates Jon’s gravelly roar with Ice Cube’s clipped flow as synths whistle and dance around them and a piano adds a low, creepy menace.
The disc will also feature a mess of guest vocalists: R. Kelly and Ludacris on “In This Club”; T.I., Nas, Jadakiss and Ice Cube on “Grand Finale”; Snoop, Nate Dogg, Usher, Jamie Foxx and OutKast on other tracks. But Jon promises he hasn’t gotten sucked too deeply into the celebrity vortex. “We understand the importance of showing our core fans that we’re still the same people,” he says. “Even though we’ve had commercial success, we’re the same crunk motherfuckers.”