Lil’ Jon has been pretty quiet lately. When his relationship with TVT became strained over financial issues last year, Jon was forbidden to appear on songs for other record labels. After TVT “cut the check,” Jon is back and ready for 2006 to be his biggest year yet. While his new album, Crunk Rock, is slated for a fall release, he promises that in 2006 alone, his BME Imprint will release records from E-40, Lil’ Scrappy, Trillville, Bohagon, Oobie, Trillville and Crime Mob. Fresh off his two-week tour with 50 Cent around Australia, Lil’ Jon spoke with XXLMAG.COM about resolving label drama and the future of the crunk.
[Listen to "Snap Ya Fingers" by Lil' Jon feat. Sean Paul & E-40]

Lil_JohnPh.MatthewSalacuse.jpgAfter you became so popular, and Dave Chappelle imitated you on his show, fans must have started driving you crazy with the “Yeaah!” stuff.
Yeah, even in Australia they were yellin’ my ass to death. Sometimes I’m chilling, I’m trying to be low-key, trying to be under the radar and people are screaming at me. They won’t let me be regular. I’m supposed to always be screamin’ in everybody’s eyes. I’m always supposed to be hollerin’ “Yeah! What! Okay!” and actin’ crazy. I guess that’s the only way they see me, so I can’t really blame them. But they gotta think, How many times has somebody said that to this muthafucka? ’Cause they be sayin’ the shit to me like they the first muthafucka to say “Yeah!” to me. Most of the time people keep doing it ’cause they think I’ma do it back, but I’m tired of doing it so I don’t ever do it back.What was your reaction when you heard about Chappelle leaving his show and going to Africa?
I knew all of the stuff was propaganda. I know he wasn’t on no drugs. He probably just needed a break because it was a lot of stress. I remember being at the show and him and his partner was up editing the last show all night long. I gave him cases of Crunk [Energy Drink] to help him go through the editing. It was just stress without end. You get this big check and you’re forced to be creative and make something just as big as what you just did. I’m sure as an artist he was like, How the hell can I top this? How can you top the Rick James sketch? Creative people, we need breaks sometimes to free our mind so we can get back in the swing of things.

There was a rumor that TVT was withholding royalties from you, and you weren’t speaking to the label for a minute. What exactly happened?
There was a lot of things going on. I don’t really wanna speak on it ’cause we got over all of it. I’m a TVT artist right now. We renegotiated the deal. They cut the check and it’s all good.

Supposedly TVT refused to let you appear on certain songs. Is that the reason you weren’t in the Youngbloodz’ “Presidential” video?
Yeah, ’cause I was originally on the song but couldn’t be because of clearance purposes. I wasn’t talking to [TVT]. Of course they’re not gonna clear me if we not communicating. They not gonna try to help me. That kept me from being on a lot of records because they weren’t giving up any clearances. That kinda had me quiet. I was just focusing on my production, really.

Do you think being out of the public eye for a bit could be good for your career?
I was so much in the spotlight. You couldn’t turn on a TV and not see me. You couldn’t turn the radio on and not hear me on a record or [hear] a record that I did. So it was good that I took a break. Sometimes you over [expose] yourself and people get tired of you. You don’t want to play yourself out. You don’t want people [being] like, “I’m tired of hearing this nigga.”

So now that Lil’ Scrappy is messing with G-Unit, what’s the situation with him being on BME?
He reppin’ BME and he reppin’ G-Unit. He still signed to BME, it’s just him and 50 are good friends, too. Me and 50 doin’ a deal where we gonna mutually help each other on each other’s projects with different artists. He’s coming in and lending his name for Scrappy. When he wants me to fuck with one of his artists that he’s trying to develop and break, I do the same thing. We did a mutual deal to help each other. Scrappy is the first artist to go through that partnership.

Everybody seems to love the new E-40 single “Tell Me When To Go,” but they don’t seem to realize that you produced it. Were you trying to emulate the Bay’s sound?
That record don’t sound like nowhere. It just sound like a rap record. When you put E-40 and Keak on it, it makes it Bay Area, but it’s just a hot club beat. I’m a producer. I can do any type of music, and I proved that when I did “Lovers and Friends.” Nobody expected me to come back with Usher and Luda and do a ballad and have a number one record without a video. So when [E-40 and I] went in the studio, I wasn’t going in there to make a Bay record. We just went in and we just made music.

Was the record your idea, or was it something E-40 and Keak came with?
We actually did that record at five in the morning. We was getting ready to leave the studio and they came with an idea. They had come up with a hook and I just did the beat while they was just singin’ the hook. They went in the vocal booth and by the time they came out, I had found the Run-DMC record [“Dumb Girl”] on the Internet and took the “dumb” part off and put that in. When they heard that, it was just a wrap.

So with all this “intimate club music” and “snap music” blowing up, Southern club music seems to be going in a few different directions. Where do you think it’s going?
I don’t know, ’cause it’s constantly evolving, man. The snap music is what you hear in Atlanta. You’ll hear that shit all night long. You go to the club, everybody’s snappin’ and rockin’ and all that shit, and that came in the last two years out of nowhere. So, I don’t really know. I just know that we gonna keep making the club go crazy.

So tell us about the new album, Crunk Rock. You trying to bring back rock-rap?
Well, hip-hop from day one has been rock-influenced. I’m kinda taking it back to Run-DMC days when they had hard guitars with the 808s and shit. If you listen to the last album, a lot of songs got rock guitar on them. A lot of people compare crunk and rock, so this is gonna be the album that takes this crunk shit and gives it even more energy. Some of this shit is probably gonna have live drums and live guitar and all that shit. But [we’re] still giving them something for the ladies to dance to, something for the thugs, something for everybody. It’s gonna be a masterpiece for music. I’m gonna go ahead and experiment and see what I come up with.