Despite his inconsistent output of songs (OK!), despite his repetitive shouts and interruptions (Yeah!), despite even his rhetorical questions and exclamations (What?!), Lil Jon has remained a relevant figure in music for 15 years.
Indeed, the King of Crunk was the producer of the early '00s. Ever since his partnership with the East Side Boyz, Jon has been distorting cheap headphones and stock car speakers with bass-heavy beats, methodical hollers, and relentless encouragement to party. The crunk music that he and the East Side Boyz championed came in contrast to the time's Southern sounds, like the conscious efforts of Outkast and the street agendas pushed by groups such as UGK and the Cash Money crew.
But Lil Jon was never meant to be an associated act. Success soon found him in his ultimate form as a solo producer for ridiculous hits such as "Salt Shaker" with the Ying Yang Twins, "Freek-a-Leek" with Petey Pablo, and "Shake That Monkey" with Too $hort. These tracks earned him credits on the soundtrack to our freaky and explorative adolescence. Discontent with the radio, Jon infiltrated sports arenas everywhere with Trick Daddy's "Let's Go" in 2004. The track remixed and even reinvented Ozzy Osbourne's iconic riff in "Crazy Train" for a young, rap-enamored audience.
Hooting and hollering his way through the naughts, Jon collaborated with whichever artists were hot at the time. Usher, E-40, and Sean Paul each had hits produced by Lil Jon. One might even argue that his bass and screams are what made these songs so popular. When we heard Jon yell "OK!" "Yeah!" or "What?!" we knew we were about to be motivated into doing something we might regret the next day.
But Lil Jon hasn't been only asking questions over the years; he's been listening. And when the kids' tastes changed, he adjusted to remain relevant. Most recently, his EDM-infused track "Turn Down for What," which he produced with DJ Snake, put the producer back on the pedestal. Rolling Stone voted it the second-best song of 2014. Michelle Obama appropriated it as a meme to encourage Americans to eat turnips. Thus, after a few years of relative silence, Jon has reemerged as a top DJ.
In a recent interview with the Daily Beast, Lil Jon was depicted as a binary figure with a demure personality that contrasted with his performative bravado. And he's apparently a rather humble man. When the interviewer asked him how he stays relevant, Lil Jon credited his work ethic as much as his connections with others: "Every few years, I'll connect with somebody and put out a record with somebody that keeps me relevant. It's also about working really hard."