After collaborating on hits with Usher, Ying Yang Twins and a host of others since the release of 2002’s double platinum plus Kings Of Crunk, Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz were regularly greeted with the same question by fans. “Everybody always wants to know what’s in our cup and Crunk Juice is what we drink,” Lil Jon explains.
As the sponsor of Crunk!!! energy drink, the trio of Lil Jon, Big Sam and Lil Bo felt that Crunk Juice would make a great title for their fifth album. “It’s perfect because the album has so many different kinds of stuff on it that it’s like a mixed drink, something that’s musically intoxicating.”
Crunk Juice, a stirring 20-song collection that starts off strong with “Get Crunk” and sustains its explosive energy through the album-closing “Grand Finale” with Nas, T.I., Bun B and Ice Cube will make long-time hip-hop fans remember hip-hop’s early years, when an album was potent from start to finish. “It’s back to where you like the whole album,” Lil Jon says. “The sorriest song on the album is still a hit record. That’s how sick this album is.”
Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz remain true to their gritty, club-ready roots with lead single “What U Gon’ Do,” which features Lil Scrappy. Releasing such a hard-core record was important to the group because Lil Jon as a producer has enjoyed so much commercial success through his work with Usher and Ciara, among others. “Most people probably thought I was going to come back with something commercial instead of what we do, which is always come out with a street record first. That’s our base. We just wanted to come with the same stuff that people know and love us for and keep it moving. That’s why ‘What U Gon’ Do’ is the perfect set-up. It’s classic Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz.”
The same can be said for “Roll Call,” a rousing song with hip-hop icon Ice Cube. “Cube is on there spitting like old Ice Cube from N.W.A, straight hard-core,” Big Sam (Eastside Boyz) says. “It’s a gutter street track,” adds Ice Cube, who makes his first appearance on a crunk cut with “Roll Call.” “I’m talking about, if you mess with us, stuff’s going to happen, just basically rapping, bragging, talking trash. Whenever I get a chance, I like to do records like this that are built straight for underground hip-hop. It’s has that underground feel that makes you want to rhyme.”
The song’s eye-popping video is equally arresting. It features LisaRaye, Tamala Jones, Will Yun Lee (from Torque, Die Another Day) and Ice Cube, making it one of the best-cast hip-hop videos of all time.
Crunk Juice keeps its rowdy vibe alive on “White Meat” with 8 Ball & MJG and “Don’t F*** Wit Me.” The latter was produced by Rick Rubin, features a sample of rock group Slayer and is the first crunk song with a storyline. Working with Rick Rubin, who produced many of the classic recordings from LL Cool J, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys, among others, was a special thrill for the East Side Boyz. “Rick doesn’t really get down with rappers,” Lil Bo (Eastside Boyz) says. “He only worked with Jay-Z on ‘99 Problems,’ that’s the only rapper he has worked with since back in the day. For him to work with us was an honor. We got together and the song we did is incredible. It’s going to reach out to the white kids and the black kids. The concept based on an old Suicidal Tendencies song and I relayed that into an urban setting.”
Lil Jon reconnects with Usher and Ludacris on “Lovers & Friends.” But it isn’t a sequel to “Yeah!,” Usher’s smash song that Lil Jon produced and on which Ludacris appeared. Instead, it is a ghetto ballad with heavy thump. The trunk-rattling thump also appears on the Neptunes-produced “Stick That Thang Out (Skeezer),” an up-tempo cut for the ladies.
Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz then show their creativity by delivering blistering songs that cater to virtually every type of hip-hop fan. Screwed fans will enjoy the chopped “Da Blow” featuring Gangsta Boo, while players will revel on the pimpish “Contract.” Go-go fans will eat up “Aww Skeet Skeet” with DJ Flexx and club hoppers will storm the dance floor once “In The Club,” featuring R. Kelly and Ludacris, comes on. For West Coast fans, there’s also “B*****s Aint S**t” with Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Suge Free and Oobie and lyric fiends will savor “Grand Finale” with Nas, T.I., Bun B and Ice Cube.
“Grand Finale” was inspired by the legendary posse cuts featured on the final songs on albums on Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records, whose roster included N.W.A, The D.O.C. and Above The Law, among others. “Ruthless Records, they closed out with the hottest dudes in their click rapping,” Lil Jon explains. “So we wanted to take it to the next level and take the hottest cats from the East, the West and the South and put them on one song. It’s no hook, just straight gangster lyrics.”
Crunk Juice also includes a 10-track bonus CD with remixes of “Lean Back,” “What U Gon’ Do,” Trick Daddy’s “Lets Go,” and “Roll Call,” as well as other material. There’s also a bonus DVD that shows Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz in the studio with 8 Ball, Rick Rubin, Bad Brains and others, as well as the trio at the MTV Video Music Awards, on BET’s How I’m Living and performing at Hot 97’s Summer Jam in New York.
Crunk Juice is Lil Jon’s defining work as a producer. “You can talk about him in the same breath as Dr. Dre, Jermaine Dupri, Pharrell, Timbaland,” Ice Cube says. “Now it’s Lil Jon. He’s part of that click now. He’s one of the producers that’s going to be around for a long time. He knows what he’s doing. He’s the man right now.”
“It seems like we’re jumping 200 feet at a time,” Lil Jon says of his group’s progression since 1996’s Who U With, Get Crunk: Da Album, its debut album. “Every album is so much better than the last album. We’re doing the same thing that we did from the beginning. We’re just tightening it up more and more and more.”
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