The Case For Lil Jon As One of Hip-Hop’s Greatest Producers
We love to debate. They’re fun. As humans with access to social media, it’s all about letting our opinions off and discussing why we’re right and everybody who doesn’t agree is wrong. A popular discussion amongst the internet is who are hip-hop’s greatest producers? It’s an open ended question that will likely always feature some of the same names with slight variations. In all time reading, I’ve yet to see the name of a man who held us down for five years. He made careers, he saved them, and, most importantly, gave us classic records.
This man is Lil Jon. With such a spectacular career, his production is rarely celebrated. In a way, it makes sense because Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz were all the rage from 2002 to 2004. From there, infamy struck with the Chappelle’s Show skit. Jon’s contributions by many are an endless flurry of ad-libs and high energy songs that tore the clubs up. However, there’s so much more to Lil Jon, and his production catalog is a good starting point.
The best advertisement for how good of a producer you can be begins with your own music. Some artists aren’t able to give themselves the hottest material they can create, but Lil Jon successfully did that for five group albums and one solo album. The majority of the songs were produced by him. Hits like “Get Low,” “Lovers & Friends,” and “I Don’t Give A Fuck” were everywhere. Take note that none of those sound like each other.
There seemed to be two sides that Lil Jon was able to master during his run. The first is the clubs. Being a DJ, Lil Jon knew a good recipe to win was to make music that could bang when you have three or four drinks in you. “Throw It Up” is a great example. You know exactly when it starts playing what it is. Jon is even nice enough to give you precisely 52 seconds to get from wherever you are to the dance floor before the beat drops.
Naturally, Lil Jon understood the other side of the music industry was found on the radio. The internet wasn’t big around 2002, so music discovery often came from what was being spun around the country. If you could weave together both sides, which he often did, you had these mega-hits that no one could escape.
Most of the greatest producers of all-time get to that status by a combination of having a unique sound and creating hits and timeless music for others. Lil Jon did that many times over to a point where some of it seems surprising. Jon would often be featured on the music he produced for others, which definitely has overshadowed the fact that he made the beat. This included Usher’s “Yeah!,” The Bravehearts’ “Quick To Back Down,” YoungBloodz’s “Damn!,” and Ying Yang Twins’ “Salt Shaker.”
Even when he wasn’t a guest, it seems to go under the radar that Lil Jon produced other hits like Ciara’s “Goodies” or Petey Pablo’s “Freek-A-Leek.” He was building careers — Lil Scrappy, Trillville, Pitbull — and giving much-needed light to some artists who might not have had the same impact on their later albums. The resurgence of E-40 in 2006 doesn’t happen without “Tell Me When To Go.” It’s arguable that hyphy wouldn’t have gotten so popular in the mainstream without it.
If Lil Jon were to disappear in some complicated Fringe-like plot, hip-hop would be vastly different. Which artists still go on to have careers? Which ones can actually make a comeback without him? Those two questions show the importance of Lil Jon’s production. He cemented his name within our industry to the point that he deserves a nod as one of the greatest producers of all time.