Lil Jon: the key player in crunk music


American DJ, rapper and producer Jonathan Mortimer Smith, more commonly known as Lil Jon, is now a famous solo artist and proponent of Crunk music. Popularising the genre while a member of the group Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, he continued his career as a solo artist from 2004, and is available to be booked for gigs via MN2S booking agency.

Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Lil Jon spent much of his youth DJing at clubs in Atlanta for So So Def Recordings, before adopting his current performing name in 1995 and forming the collective, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, who were signed to the record label Mirror Image Records. In 2000 Lil Jon released his big break, the album ‘We Still Crunk!’, as well as setting up his own record label, BME Recordings. Anumebr of record labels became interested in Lil Jon after the album’s success, with several singles from it becoming very popular, resulting in him being signed by TVT Records after one of his performances had such a lasting impact on one of the label’s employees.

Taking its name from a slang past tense version of ‘crank’, the genre name ‘crunk’ was ued originally to mean crazy drunk by the alcoholic drink Crunk Juice. Stylistically, the genre features 808 drum sounds, synthesised sounds and utilises 1980s style call and response hip hop, and tends not to tackle socio-political issues like much hip hop, but instead serving simply as party music.

After introducing the world to the new musical genre, Crunk, Lil Jon’s debut solo album, 2010’s ‘Crunk Rock’, further popularised the genre. The genre is characteristically more club orientated, utilising a drum machine, heavy basslines and often shouting vocals. The album unfortunately saw many difficulties on its journey to release, with work for the album starting in 2005, with Lil Jon stating in 2006 that the work would be in a similar style to his single ‘Get Low’ from 2003. Moving to Las Vegas to record the album, the number of guests arranged to appear on the album increased while problems with the record label TVT sadly also increased. The album’s release date was postponed again and again until finally a date in 2010 was finalised, with the album ultimately featuring Roscoe Dash, Mariah Carey, 3OH!3, Whole Wheat Bread, David Guetta, Steve Aoki, LMFAO, Zuper Blahq, DJ Chuckie, Laidback Luke, Elephant Man, Pastor Troy, Ying Yang Twins, Akon, Mario, R. Kelly, T-Pain, Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, and Pitbull.


Lil Jon claimed that the genre came from his very own concept of merging hip hop and electronic dance and house music, as it began to emerge from 1996 in African America strip clubs mainly in Memphis Tennessee in South America. The group Thee 6 Mafia, based in the area, were pioneers of the genre’s beginnings in the mid-to-late 90s, with fellow proponents Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz releasing their debut album ‘Get Crunk, Who U Wit’ in 1997. The group eventually released six albums, with Lil Jon alleging that the group were the first people to use the word ‘crunk’ in a lyric.


As well as performing in his own group, Lil Jon produced a number of crunk hits, including ‘Goodies’ (performed by Ciara), and ‘Yeah!’ (performed by Usher), both of which made their way right to the top 10 of the Billboard Top 100, and succeed in introducing the genre to a much wider audience. One of his productions, ‘Get Low’, is touted as the song which truly introduced the phenomenon of crunk music. Such was the burgeoning success of the genre, that the independent label, Crunk Incorporated, signed a major distribution deal with Reprise/Warner Brothers Records for the group Crime Mob. Given its great popularity, Crunk music has spawned many sub genres, including trap music, which has in fact since become more popular than crunk itself in the 2010s.

Still just as impactful a performer as when he inspired the TVT employee back in the day, Lil Jon is still a formidable producer and live performer. To find out more about booking Lil Jon, please contact London based booking agency, MN2S.

 Article Submitted By Community Writer

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