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Lil Jon reflects on how skateboarding and punk music shaped his unique sound

Lil Jon in front of a skate ramp.
Lil Jon is an avid skateboarder. (Shutterstock/Joe Seer)

Lil Jon has one of the most unique and recognizable sounds in hip-hop.


The progenitor of crunk music, the Atlanta native is renowned for his high-energy beats, aggressive vocal delivery, and signature ad-libs. (Hearing him yell "What?!" over some filthy 808s was a rite of passage for every rap fan in the early noughties.)


In an interview with Popcast published on Wednesday, the "Get Low" rapper reflected on the origins of his trademark sound.


“I was going to punk clubs in the 80s, I was a skater in the 80s before it was cool,” Jon recalled.


“Skateboarding honestly opened my mind to other cultures, other music,” he said. “It made me be able to be in a room with people of different ethnicities and be able to have a conversation and relate, ’cause Atlanta is kind of segregated: Black people stay over here, the Mexicans over here, White people over here."


Jon remembered hearing the music of punk bands like Bad Brains and Dead Kennedys during his time as a skater, which later led to him going to punk concerts.


“All of this to say I’ve been in the real punk clubs, I’ve been in real mosh pits, I’ve seen real punk bands, so I know the energy of that," he said. "When you make music, your spirit is recorded into the songs, so my energy from being in those punk clubs, that spirit, that energy is going into the music.”



Lil Jon may have once been all about heavy basslines and electric synths, but these days, the 53-year-old star is instead focused on inner peace.


In February, he dropped a guided-meditation album titled "Total Meditation."


Speaking with NPR shortly after the project was released, the crunk heavyweight said: "You gotta turn down sometimes."


"I don't just walk around screaming "Yeah! What? OK!" all day, every day," he told the publication. "You gotta get rest. You gotta get sleep. You gotta drink a lot of water! You gotta take care of your health."



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