As a teen, I often listened to the latest 2Pac and Biggie songs on the radio. In the mid-90s, I started to gravitate to more ‘Crunk’ and ‘Trap’ music such as Outkast’s ‘BOB’ or Pastor Troy’s ‘Vice Versa; Atlanta had the best music scene, and it remains at the top of the Hip Hop industry today. Crunk music was the birth of a lifestyle that was flamboyant, colorful, and in-your-face; artists in the south would express themselves with baggy jeans, jewelry, and tall t-shirts just to name a few. Crunk was also a term to get the party started whenever or wherever. The first time I heard crunk music was when I heard Lil Jon’s first hit record “Who U Wit; it was like an anthem for the south and it still gets me hyped up every time I hear it.
Jonathan H. Smith also known as Lil Jon was born on January 17, 1971, in Atlanta, Georgia. There is not much known about the Atlanta rapper and his family but he is currently married to Nicole Smith and they have a son named Nathan. Lil Jon first started out as a young DJ from Atlanta who hosted local parties and clubs. Lil Jon once met Jermaine Dupri in a club when he was doing a DJ set and he began working as an A&R for Jermaine’s ‘So So Def’ label at the time. Lil Jon was with the label from 1993 to 2000, and that’s when he started to find his niche in the music industry where he specialized in music production and club remixes. Lil Jon and his hip-hop trio, ‘Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz gradually climbed their way to the top by signing to Mirror Image Records, which was an Atlanta-based label handled by Ichiban Records. In 1997, the label released the classic crunk single of our generation called “Who U Wit?” One year later they followed up with their second single, “Shawty Freak a Lil Sumtin but the song was not as successful. However, In 2001 things started to pick up when they started releasing more club bangers such as ‘Put Yo Hood Up’, ‘’I Like Dem Girlz” and one of my favorite songs “Bia’ Bia’ that featured two Rap legends Ludacris and Too Short.
In 2002, the Rap trio released one of my favorite albums of all time ‘Kings of Crunk.’ Lil Jon was becoming a brand of his own and comedians like Dave Chappelle would do little parodies of Lil Jon on ‘The Chappelle Show.’After the successes of Kings of Crunk, the Rap trio maintained their group’s success by following up with ‘The Crunk Juice album. Friends and lovers became the best-selling single, and landed them a spot on the ‘Top Three of the Billboard 100.’ Although Lil Jon dealt with a bankruptcy issue, he persisted to produce some other great hits for other artists such as “I’m a King” for T.I. “Touch” for Amerie and even “Girlfight” for Brooke Valentine. Lil Jon was really making a name for himself but he did not want to be put in a box. In 2010, Lil Jon ventured off to release his solo project ‘Crunk Rock’ and a year later he competed on the reality television show ‘Celebrity Apprentice; he made it as a semi-finalist but ended up losing to country music star John Rich.
Today Lil Jon is still a DJ and flourishing in other genres of music such as EDM; Lil Jon also has passed his skills to his son Nathan. Nathan once attended the ‘Scratch Academy’ at the age of eleven and not one time did Lil Jon push Nathan to pursue a career as a DJ; Nathan took it upon himself to learn the craft on his own. Lil Jon is a testament that dreams come true and he is definitely living the American dream.