Lil Jon

"Little Jon" redirects here. For the character in the Robin Hood legend, see Little John.
For the television host, see Big Chuck and Lil' John.

Lil Jon

Lil Jon in 2007
Background information
Birth name Jonathan Smith
Born (1971-01-17) January 17, 1971[1]
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
  • Vocals
  • keyboard
  • synthesizer
  • drum machine
  • sampler
Years active 1993–present
Associated acts
Notable instruments

Jonathan Smith (born January 17, 1971),[2] better known by his stage name Lil Jon, is an American record producer, rapper, songwriter, entrepreneur, DJ and actor from Atlanta, Georgia. He was the frontman of the group Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, which he formed in 1997, and they released several albums until 2004.

After going solo, he released a new album in 2010 titled Crunk Rock. He was featured on Celebrity Apprentice during its 11th and 13th seasons.

Life and career


Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Smith graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta. After working as a DJ for Atlanta night clubs, he worked for So So Def Recordings between 1993 and 2000.[2]

Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz

Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz
Origin Atlanta, Georgia
Years active 19952005
Labels BME Recordings
Past members Lil Jon
Big Sam
Lil' Bo

Smith took the stage name Lil Jon and formed musical group Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz, with rappers Big Sam (born Sammie Dernard Norris) and Lil' Bo (born Wendell Maurice Neal).[3] The group signed to the Atlanta-based Mirror Image Records and were distributed by Ichiban Records. In 1997, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz debuted with Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album. It included singles "Who U Wit?" and "Shawty Freak a Lil' Sumthin'", the latter of which came out in 1998. Both singles charted on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart at No. 70 and No. 62, respectively.[4]

In 2000, Jon started up his own label, BME Recordings, and signed a distribution agreement with Norcross, Georgia-based Southern Music Distribution. He released his breakthrough album titled We Still Crunk!. Among the tracks on that project was the hit single "I Like Those Girls," which reached No. 55 on the R&B chart and No. 3 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart.

Lil Jon was talked about as "the new guy" by street team people in the markets where he was attracting his biggest audiences – namely Atlanta, St. Louis, Memphis and Dallas. Bryan Leach, A&R at TVT, went to one of Lil Jon's Atlanta shows and was blown away by its immense energy.[5] Leach told HitQuarters: "It was like early Beastie Boys, when they had the energy of a rock group but they were rapping, and ... that energy is what crunk music is all about."[5]

Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz signed to TVT Records in 2001 and debuted there with Put Yo Hood Up, which combined previously released tracks with new ones. The group's first nationally played single was "Bia' Bia'", which featured rappers Ludacris, Too Short, Big Kapp, and Chyna Whyte.[2] "Bia' Bia'" peaked at No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 47 on the Billboard R&B chart.[4]

In 2002, the group released Kings of Crunk. "I Don't Give A..." was its first single; it featured Mystikal and Krayzie Bone and peaked at No. 50 on the R&B chart.[4] The group's next single, a collaboration with fellow Atlanta hip hop group Ying Yang Twins titled "Get Low", became popular in nightclubs nationwide; it reached the top ten of the Hot 100.Crunk Juice followed in 2004, led by "What U Gon' Do" featuring Lil' Scrappy. "What U Gon' Do" peaked at No. 22 on the Hot 100, No. 13 on the R&B chart, and No. 5 on the rap chart; its follow-up, "Lovers & Friends" featuring Usher and Ludacris, peaked at No. 3 (Hot 100), No. 2 (R&B), and No. 1 (rap).[4]

Solo career and production

Lil Jon has also produced many hit urban singles. From 2003 to 2005, while still with The East Side Boyz, Lil Jon produced hits such as "Salt Shaker" by Ying Yang Twins, "Yeah!" by Usher, "Freek-a-Leek" by Petey Pablo, "Shorty Wanna Ride" by Young Buck, "Shake That Monkey" by Too Short, "Girlfight" by Brooke Valentine, "Presidential" by YoungBloodZ.[2] Lil Jon entered the San Francisco Bay Area hyphy music scene in 2006 with his collaborations with Bay Area rapper E-40: Lil Jon produced E-40's single "Tell Me When To Go" and had E-40 and Atlanta rapper, Sean P of the YoungBloodZ, on his own "Snap Yo Fingers".[6] During that same year he produced a song called "Go to Church" for Ice Cube.

In 2006, Lil Jon severed his negotiation with record label TVT. He vowed never to record for TVT Records again, alleging that TVT owner Steve Gottlieb was shortchanging him.[7] He also began recording a rock music album, Crunk Rock.

MTV News reported in March 2008 that Crunk Rock was taking more time to complete than Lil Jon planned.[8] As part of TVT Records' 2008 bankruptcy auction, Lil Jon withdrew his multimillion-dollar objection to the TVT sale proceedings and agreed to TVT's transfer of his artist agreement to The Orchard. In return, The Orchard released Lil Jon from all future obligations and returned the rights to the master recordings of Crunk Rock.

Crunk Rock was released on June 8, 2010, and it features artists such as LMFAO, Soulja Boy, Ying Yang Twins, Waka Flocka Flame, R. Kelly, and many more.[9] In March 2011, Lil Jon took part in the fourth season of Celebrity Apprentice on NBC and was eliminated in the Final Four.[10]

In July 2011, he said that he is working on a new studio album called Party Animal and has released a song with LMFAO called "Drink", which was used in the trailer for the film The World's End. In 2013, Lil Jon partnered with Zumba Fitness to create a new nightclub tour titled "Zumba Nightclub Series". For Zumba Fitness, he released a new song called "Work".

In January 2014, Lil Jon collaborated with DJ Snake and released "Turn Down for What" on Columbia Records. In February 2014, the single entered the top 5 on the Dance/Electronic chart and debuted at number 38 on Billboard's Hot 100.[11] The song peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went on to be certified 5x Platinum by the RIAA.[12]

On July 22, 2014, Lil Jon released a single titled "Bend Ova", featuring Tyga and released on Epic Records.[13][14] The song reached number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100. His latest single "Take It Off" feauring Yandel and Becky G was released July 22, 2016[15]

Musical style and influences

Jason Birchmeier of AllMusic has described Lil Jon's production as "bass-heavy," and his album Put Yo Hood Up as having "a long and varied list of guest rappers to accompany the beats". Describing that album with guest performers, Birchmeier remarked: "The end result is an album that resembles a street-level mixtape rather than a traditional artist-oriented album".[16]

Lil Jon was specifically influenced by 2 Live Crew, 8Ball & MJG, Three 6 Mafia, OutKast, Geto Boys, UGK, N.W.A, Dr. Dre, and Sir Mix-A-Lot. Alex Henderson, also of allmusic, contrasted Lil Jon's style of "rowdy, in-your-face, profanity-filled party music" with other Southern rappers, those who "have a gangsta/thug life agenda" and those who convey "serious sociopolitical messages".[17] Lil Jon has also found influence in rock music, having worked with Rick Rubin and Korn.[18] He expresses this influence in his aggressive delivery and 'yelling' style of rap. He was seen on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time program wearing a Bad Brains T-shirt, and he used to listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd while growing up in the South in the 1970s. For Trick Daddy's "Let's Go", Lil Jon sampled the bass line from Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train".[19]


Lil Jon has been a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice, finishing 4th in its 11th season and 3rd in its 13th season, The All-Star Celebrity Apprentice. While on the show, Donald Trump referred to Lil Jon repeatedly as "Uncle Tom" until confronted by Lil Jon and other members of the crew.[20][21]

Personal life

Lil Jon married Nicole Smith in 2004. They have a son named Nathan Smith (born 1998).[22]

He was an avid fan of the NHL Atlanta Thrashers franchise until they relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.[23] He has recently also become a fan of the University of Tennessee Volunteers, which adopted his hit song "Turn Down for What" on third downs, changing it to "Third Down for What." On October 4, 2014, Lil Jon made an appearance via Jumbotron encouraging the Volunteers to beat the University of Florida Gators.


with the East Side Boyz


Grammy Awards

Year Recipient Category Result
2005 "Yeah!" (with Usher and Ludacris) Record of the Year Nominated
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Won
Best R&B Song Nominated
2015 "Turn Down for What" (with DJ Snake) Best Music Video Nominated

MTV Video Music Awards

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2014 "Turn Down for What" (with DJ Snake) MTV Clubland Award Nominated
Best Direction Won
Best Visual Effects Nominated
Best Art Direction Nominated


Television appearances

See also


  1. Lil Jon said 55
  2. 1 2 3 4 Birchmeier, Jason (2006). "Lil Jon – Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved April 11, 2008.
  3. Reid, Shaheem (November 1, 2004). "Lil' Jon: Big Chips (page 2)". MTV News. Archived from the original on November 12, 2004. Retrieved May 18, 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Lil Jon > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". allmusic. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  5. 1 2 "Interview with Bryan Leach". HitQuarters. Apr 5, 2004. Retrieved Jan 28, 2011.
  6. Reid, Shaheem (February 28, 2006). "Lil Jon Has Big Plans For E-40 And The Hyphy Movement". MTV News. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  7. "Lil Jon Readies Rock Album". Archived from the original on September 12, 2006. Retrieved February 22, 2006.
  8. Reid, Shaheem (March 6, 2008). "Lil Jon Isn't A Rock Star Just Yet, But He's Keeping Busy With E-40, Extreme Athletes". MTV News. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  9. VIBE: Lil Jon Goes to the Orchard
  10. [/11/celebrity-apprentice-season-four-cast-revealed/ Celebrity Apprentice Season Four Cast Revealed]
  11. Gordon Murray (December 27, 2013). "DJ Snake, Lil Jon, Katy Perry Power Up Dance Charts". Billboard. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  12. "RIAA - Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - November, 2016". Retrieved November 11, 2016.
  13. "iTunes - Music - Bend Ova (feat. Tyga) - Single by Lil Jon". iTunes. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  14. Kevin Goddard. "Lil Jon - Bend Ova (CDQ) Feat. Tyga". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  16. Birchmeier, Jason (May 22, 2001). "Put Yo Hood Up: Review". allmusic. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  17. Henderson, Alex (2002). "Kings of Crunk: Review". allmusic. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  18. Reid, Shaheem (May 12, 2004). "Lil Jon Bangs Head, Creates 'Crunk-Rock'". MTV News. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  19. Reid, Shaheem (May 17, 2006). "Lil Jon Wants To Double His Gold By Becoming King Of Rock". MTV News. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
  20. "Lil Jon: Trump Repeatedly Made 'Uncle Tom' Joke During 'Celebrity Apprentice'". Fox News. 15 Oct 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  21. Suebsaeng, Asawin (14 Oct 2016). "Donald Trump Kept Calling Lil Jon an 'Uncle Tom' on Celebrity Apprentice". Daily Beast. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  22. "SPOTTED: Lil Jon & His Wife & Son Have Family Dinner At Katsuya". The Young, Black, and Fabulous. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  23. Joe Yerdon (February 8, 2012). "Your moment of zen: Lil' Jon hanging with the Montreal Canadiens". NBC Sports. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
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