There’s no one on the planet like Lil Jon. He’s an original, from his clothes to his music to his style, and ever since he first dipped into the mainstream with 2002’s “Get Low,” Jon has consistently set trends, made authentic music, and co-signed catch phrases.
Because of his legacy, he’s the perfect leading man for the Champs Sports and adidas adicolorTV campaign, an original series produced exclusively for Champs Sports’ Instagram. Featuring NFL players like DeMarco Murray, Von Miller, and Robert Griffin III, as well as Lil Jon, the video series will be comedic shorts and riffs of the current TV landscape. Lil Jon will also get the star treatment with his own animated series, as well as funny videos that’ll depict him in high school science labs, or reading and teaching from “The Book of Game.”
For Lil Jon, being original and unique is at the base of everything he does. During some downtime at the Los Angeles adicolorTV set, I caught up with the Atlanta music pioneer to talk about what that means to him.
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What have you been doing with adidas here for the adicolorTV campaign?
Lil Jon: Basically, we’ve been shooting these Instagram videos and really funny shorts, to the point, crazy stuff. It’s me and adidas together, me being wild and crazy and having a good time with it.
What does it mean to be original?
LJ: That’s what I’m all about. I never try to be like anybody else. Try to be an original. Throughout my career, I’ve always been different and not stuck in a box. Always been original, always been different, and always just trying to be me. And me, I am original. There are not many people you can say are like Lil Jon. That’s one individual.
“Turn Down For What” has become such a massive hit. Talk about how that song came about.
LJ: Well it was actually quite simple (laughs). DJ Snake sent me a track and it had a Redman sample in it and Redman was saying in the song, “It’s the countdown, bang the underground.” It’s a sample from an old Redman song. When I heard the beat, I was like this Redman sample don’t really fit for this track. I was like “Send me the instrumental.”
So I went in the studio and the first thing I thought was, because the track just had so much energy, was “turn down for what.” That’s basically how it got done. I sent it back to Snake, and he’s from France so he didn’t necessarily know at the time what turn down for what means. He didn’t get it at first. He was like “Ah, can you still send me that thing where you’re duplicating the Redman thing?” I was like “Bro, trust me. This is a smash. Forget that Redman sample. This is it right here.” And the rest is history.
That saying — “turn down for what” – did that just come up right there…
LJ: People been saying that for a couple years now, but I just took it to Middle America, basically, took it to the masses and took it around the world. I put it on the right track and the rest is history.
You’ve made a career out of making these smash hits and iconic catch phrases. Is there any type of formula?
LJ: It’s just me being me, man. I just try to stay true to making a quality product at all times. I never keep myself in a box. I can go collaborating with all types of people, all types of artists. I think that’s what it is. You can’t be scared to sometimes work with different types of people that are not in your normal zone. Just work with all kinds of people because that’s how you can stumble onto some great things. That’s how I am.
A real musician just likes to make good music and it doesn’t matter who that music is with. If they have the same passion as you, why can’t you get together and do some good stuff? For me, like I said, bottom line is make a good, quality product always. For me, I’m about energy. When they think of Lil Jon, they think of high energy, crazy, and you can’t deny energy. That’s also a reason why “Turn Down For What” is big. The energy of the track and what it means, you can’t deny that. It’s crazy to see lil’ kids, like babies, like toddlers, going crazy to the song. That shows you it’s not about what you’re saying. It’s the energy, the overall energy of the track, the vocals, it makes them go crazy. They don’t even know what it means, you know what I’m saying? That’s how you know you really got a hit if you can make little babies go crazy, little kids go crazy.
With making hits, is it always something that you can tell right away?
LJ: Some records you know and some records you don’t know. “Yeah”, we knew “Yeah” was going to be a monster. When I did “Blow The Whistle” with Too $hort, I was like “ahhh, I don’t know” and it’s still getting played to this day. Sometimes you know it and sometimes you don’t.
You try to appeal to everybody. When you’re going to make a song, is that always what you’re trying to do?
LJ: I’m always just trying to make good [music]. Whatever it is, my vocals have to match the energy of the track and I have to say good things on the record or the right things on the record. I’m always thinking, when I say something on a song, is how is that going to make people react? Or how can I make people react? What can I say to make them react? It’s about the feeling of where I put the vocals. It’s a whole lot of stuff (laughs). People think I just go in the studio and just holler anything but I strategically write (stuff). I strategically put my vocals in certain places. I look at every track and my voice kind of changes because it’s a different character to try to match the track. It’s a lot that goes into it.
You’re working on a new album now right?
LJ: I’m just doing a whole bunch of songs, just recording here and there with different people. Doing singles, it feels good. It’s not the pressure of you got to turn in 12 good songs. I do a record here and there. I play it in my live tests. If they react, I know I got a hit. If it don’t react, I know that ain’t the one. But I do have a new single that’s signed to Epic Records called “Bend Ova.” It’s featuring Tyga. It’s basically a song for the ladies to dance to.
Let’s step away from music for a minute. If someone is traveling to Atlanta, what are some staples of good food down there?
LJ: Fried fish is big in the south, in Atlanta. I like Supreme Fish Delight. And then we have gourmet soul food spot that’s in the West End. It’s called Chanterelles. Amazing. For breakfast, The Beautiful Restaurant. It’s been there for 30 or 40 years, 35 or 40 years, maybe. It’s been around since the ‘70s. The Beautiful Restaurant. Those are my picks that you got to try.
In the summer, what do you like to do away from making music?
LJ: I’m always working. If you want to ask me about the best place to go party in the summer: Vegas. You got the daytime pool parties and then the club is cracking at night. The best place to party is Vegas in the summertime. Nowhere in the United States can top Vegas in the summertime. You got the biggest DJs there, the biggest artists coming there too, big artists performing. Vegas.
Is that your favorite city, or is it still Atlanta?
LJ: Well I mean, I’m DJ-ing all the time, so as a DJ, the energy in the crowds in Vegas, you can’t even come close to the energy of the people that come there. And they come there from all over the world. If I’m not working, I’m just sitting on the coach chilling, you know what I’m saying? (laughs)
I guess for vacation, I like Mexico. It’s close, with nice beaches, nice people, great food.
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