I can’t believe we didn’t bring Don Julio.
It’s all good. There’s plenty of Don Julio inside that I should be drinkin’ with you right now, trust me.
When it’s your job to always be amped up and energetic, what is the first thing you do to unwind at home?
Sleep! Sleep, drink a lot of water and drink a lot of tea. If I’m at home and off for a minute then I watch a lot of movies and sh-t.
How similar is Jonathan Smith to your stage persona Lil Jon?
They are two different people. Basically it’s like three different personalities, really. You have the business guy, you have the family guy and then you have the guy that’s in the club whiling out with everybody.
You have a son. Talk about having a cool dad!
Yeah, my son is 15. We’ve been DJing together since he was 11.
Are you a strict parent?
No, I let him be his own person. You gotta let kids experience things and try their own things to figure out what they really want to do without having to do what I wanted them to do. In life everything eventually falls into place but you gotta start at one point. I started as a DJ and then that introduced me to different people that got me a job with So So Def. DJing also got me into producing so, you know, one little thing that is cool and fun to do could turn into a lifelong career for you.
What’s the key to staying relevant as an artist?
Being different and not being afraid of trying new things. Traditionally most artists want to do one thing and stay in a box. They’ll only do one type of music and not collaborate like how I collaborated with Pitbull, I helped bring him up. I was doing things with dancehall artists, doing soca with Machel [Montano], doing West Coast rap with E-40 and Too Short. I never put myself in a box. I never said, “I can only do this.”
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
Learn from every bad experience or good experience you go through. The more f-cked up sh-t you go through, the more you learn so learn from every experience. Learn the power of relationships because the person you see on the bottom today might be running the company one day. They could be the one that gives you that job or that break.
We know you have your crunk cup but have you ever drank out of the Stanley Cup?
No, I’ve had the Stanley Cup around though. They brought the Stanley Cup for me and put it in my car and I hung out with the cup. And actually when I did Andy Cohen’s [“Watch What Happens Live”] they had the Stanley Cup there hangin’ out too so we were reunited again.
Do you ever get sick of hearing your trademark phrases, “What!” and, “Yeah!”?
I mean, when you’re walking through the airport at 7 a.m. and someone starts screaming that sh-t you want to just slap somebody. I’m just gonna be honest. Yeah, it does get annoying.
Only true fans have that much energy at 7 a.m.
It’s cool but it’s just like what Dave Chappelle said when he was talking about how after his show he’d be at Disneyland and people would come say, “I’m Rick James, b-tch!” He’s like, “Look, I’m with my kids!” You know? Sometimes it’s okay to just come, shake somebody’s hand and say, “How you doin’?” You don’t have to scream. Like even today, this morning the TSA starts screaming at me and saying my little sh-t. I’m like, “It’s too early for that sh-t,” and all of the TSAs fall out.
So we’re probably not going to find you walking around your house saying it.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
How do you like DJing compared to being on stage as a performer?
I started out as a DJ so that’s kinda what began it all. Now everything has its own place. DJing is fun, performing is fun. Performing you get a different connection with the crowd than DJing but DJing you get a connection too, you know?
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
You’re making me think too hard! There’s too many people I’d want to hang out with. I’d want to hang out with the Rat Pack in the ‘60s. I’d want to hang out with Rick James just for one night to see what the f-ck some of that sh-t is about. I’d want to hang out with Michael Jordan when the Bulls were killing it. I’d want to hang out with all different kinds of people. I’d want to go back to Rome, damn. Or sh-t, Egypt! And see how them mother f-ckers hung out.
We don’t see a ring, are you single?
No, I’m married. I’ve been married for awhile. I’m sorry! You can’t carry the ring to the club. When you’re sprayin’ champagne and flyin’ into the crowd, you’re f-cked! Sorry I broke your heart.
The Chicago crowd is ready for you, the place is packed.
It’s packed already? Damn. What are ya’ll drinking? Vodka? Gin?
It’s time to break out the Don Julio.
We can have a Don Julio inside. It’s tradition, right? It’s bad luck not to!
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