Lil' Jon is the Raffi of Gangsta Rap
I have to admit right off the bat that I don’t think Lil’ Jon is crazy. He’s a business man with nothing to sell—he exploits gullibility. Do I think it’s moronic how this CD is a cross-promotional soundtrack to Lil’ Jon’s new beverage? Yes, I do. As an alternative to Red Bull in your Budweiser, Crunk Juice is isn’t Coca-Cola, it’s classic snake oil. Lil’ Jon is literally selling you nothing, a worthless brand from a worthless Atlanta huckster. Lil’ Jon signs “Okaayy” on the dotted line because he’s a money whore. He’s no better than Paris Hilton, another great American slut, and not ironically his next musical act. I shit you not. As a musician, Atlanta’s Lil’ Jon is worthless. As a hustler, he follows the pack. He’s not a leader, he’s not an innovator, he’s a snake. He’ll suck back any juice to make that dollar. The slow jam featuring Usher and Ludacris “Lovers and Friends” that comes half way through the Crunk Juice album is an ode to ass-fucking, and that’s exactly what Lil’ Jon has done to hip-hop fans.
And so, I ask: Can we give the man a “fuck you” from all the music lovers across the globe? Hell, “yeeaah”.
“If it ain’t ‘bout money then it don’t make sense,” goes the lyric on “Contract”—one of the many sweetly produced new theme songs to Lil’ Jon’s crunky piss-water. Naming your new album after your new canned juice might seem like the cheapest, most stupidly obvious way to “sell out”, but Lil’ Jon never had any integrity to begin. He was a cartoon voice on FM radio and now he’s a cartoon gangsta. He was never an artist, hell no, after radio, he worked as a mid-level record exec for So So Def. Not a good thing! In fact, the only good thing about Lil’ Jon is the music, and the music is just barely good. What I mean is that at this point, music seems irrelevant to Lil’ Jon’s actual enterprise, which is too make money off the backs of more talented people. Sure, you can do the roll call of all the “guest MCs” on Lil’ Jon’s “album”, but seriously, the music is really nothing more than a Miami Bass mixtape of classic rap choruses repeated until you’re dizzy and you want to throw up. There’s some good production, and some funny little skits by Chris Rock. Of course it’s misogynistic, and it’s buckin’, but that hasn’t been much to talk about since 2 Live Crew. For all the bluster around Lil’ Jon, there’s not much to talk about when it comes to the music. The music is so disposable, I think I already took a shit and saw it sinking in the bowl.
Lil’ Jon has successfully avoided hard criticism for making rap music that forsakes MC lyricism. How did he do this? Because he should receive some serious beef for cutting the MC’s best verses out of his music. By shielding himself behind “crunk”, a prefabricated sub-genre where he is King, Lil’ Jon has been allowed to reduce rap to endless and incredibly stupid choruses of nasty-talk. Just one listen to “What U Gon’ Do” the third track on this album, and you realize that what Lil’ Jon lacks in talent he makes up for by being such a prick. Of course it’s hardcore-ish, it’s going to make you pump your fist in the club or kitchen, and you’re going to sing a-long, but so what? Lil’ Jon has no soul. By the time Nas and Ice Cube appear on the album’s last track ” Grand Finale”, it’s too late. Nas’s commitment to serious literacy is a joke on an album like this. Lil’ Jon has no respect for lyricism. He has no respect for anyone, including himself, or he wouldn’t have ass-fucked himself so hard in his pursuit of money. No wonder he shoved Nas at the end. Under Lil’ Jon’s reign, the MC is the least important thing. And that, my friends, is the opposite of rap. The only thing that sets Lil’ Jon apart from other hip hop producer’s is his oppression of the MC.
The mainstream media, always afraid of looking uncool, has bought Lil’ Jon’s snake-oil wholesale. I was a little perturbed to see the esteemed music critic Philip Sherburne devote a column in the 28 November, 2004 Sunday New York Times praising Lil’ Jon’s innovative use of synthesizers. According to Sherburne, Lil’ Jon’s keystone sound, the “buzzing keyboard melodies” are not only unwelcome in mainstream hip-hop, but “borrowed from European rave music and from English new wave artists like Gary Numan and Thomas Dolby”. This is an absurd statement. Sherburne is crediting Lil’ Jon with way more brains than he’s ever shown. Considering the work of RZA’s alias Bobby Digital, the Anti-Pop Consortium, and Goodie Mob, to name a few diverse contemporary hip-hop groups influenced by the UK electronic scene, Lil’ Jon has done nothing new. Rap shares roots with techno, after all—in disco. What is innovative about Lil’ Jon’s sound is the brutally simplistic repetition. The only thing about rap that Lil’ Jon has really pushed is musical complexity, and he’s pushed it all the way back to daycare. On a musical level, Lil’ Jon is the Raffi of gangsta rap. This is speak-and-spell rap. Repeat “Yall niggaz can’t fuck with my niggaz, ho” ten times and then do five reps of “Motherfuck that nigga, motherfuck that bitch” and so on. Plus, we’ve been listening to Swisha House and the Chopped and Screwed series doing this, too. So I don’t know why Lil’ Jon has to exist.
Surrounding himself with talented MCs only has the effect of smothering them in the bad effects of Crunk Juice. Lil’ Jon’s suga-water venture isn’t meant to compete with Pepsi for domination against Coca-Cola. It isn’t even meant to compete against Cam’ron’s new purple cognac, Sizzurp (although we’re sure to try the two together!). It isn’t even meant to compete with Red Bull during exam crunch-time. Lil’ Jon is just making endorsements and signing contracts and making money because he’s a whore. As a young businessman, the littler younger Jon wanted the fastest route to American riches, and if snitches were cool, he’d be chanting their praises to get those raises. Lil’ Jon wanted to be a top producer, and he has succeeded by dragging hip-hop down to his level. He has built an empire on familiarity. Let’s shun him.