Lil Jon turning it up in Bridgeport

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A song’s success is usually judged on chart performance and record sales.


Based on those criteria, “Turn Down For What” — Lil Jon‘s stadium-sized banger with French upstart DJ Snake — is a certified smash: The track peaked at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and has racked up more than 2 million downloads as of last week.


But Lil Jon has another less quantitative way of measuring a song’s impact.


“When you have animals and babies going crazy to it!” he said, laughing during a phone interview last week.


Over the past few weeks, the rapper/producer/DJ has observed a steady stream of videos on Vine, YouTube and Instagram of kids, kittens — even birds — dancing, head-banging or otherwise spazzing out to “Turn Down For What.”


Lil Jon is used to that kind of response: He’s been hitting listeners’ pleasure centers ever since “Get Low,” his first big hit with his group, The Eastside Boyz, in 2003.


With his shining, bejeweled grill, dreadlocks, and growling, one-phrase party anthems, Lil Jon — otherwise known as the King of Crunk — has a superhuman ability to get listeners amped up.


In a recent interview, Lil Jon, who headlines Grad Bash at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena on Saturday, June 21, talked about his passion for DJing, the intersection between hip-hop and electronic dance music and how “Turn Down For What” has inspired people do more than just party.


Q: You started as a DJ and then returned to your former calling years after producing many of your biggest hits. Why the career change?

A: I returned to DJing around the time I was working on “Crunk Rock” (his debut album). I had a falling out with TVT, my record label, and I started going out and partying. I was in New Orleans, at a party (then New Orleans Saints running back) Reggie Bush was throwing. It was right after the first game in the Superdome after Hurricaine Katrina. There was a guy who was rocking the turntables — he was killing it. I loved the way he was rocking the crowd. I started studying the culture and dived back into it.



Q: What was it like making the transition from producer to DJ?

A: A lot of EDM (electronic dance music) DJs started in hip-hop. EDM has been big around world for a long time. Kids in the U.S. started getting into that and it evolved into this culture. When I started DJing again, some kids were haters. They were saying, “Why are you doing this, why are you joining this world?” And I was like, “You dumb ass! A lot of your favorite DJs were hip-hop DJs before they were EDM DJs.” The way I look at it, all different kinds of music influence other different kinds of music.



Q: You’ve always said that crunk is club music, and in that sense, crunk and EDM aren’t so different. What similarities do you see between the two styles and the worlds they represent?

A: “Turn Down For What” is really a hip-hop beat, even though people say the genre is EDM; if you listen to song, it’s really just party music. It’s not just EDM, it’s not just hip-hop — it has elements of all those worlds. … When I first made crunk, it was about coming to the club, releasing all the tension and drama in your life and having a good time. It’s the same thing with EMD: When kids come to a festival or the club, it’s for the same reason.



Q: “Turn Down For What” is huge right now. Were you surprised by the song’s success?

A: I had “Get Low,” and so many other hit records in my career. When we first did this, I knew it was going to be a hit. But I never knew it was going to be this big. It’s going to be in movies and movie trailers, like “22 Jump Street” and the new “Transformers.” All of these celebrities — Miley Cyrus, Katie Perry, the cast of “Orange is the New Black” — are tweeting at me, talking about it — it’s just crazy. Now, people are applying it to their life. It’s a motivational song. People tell me, “I was in the gym, and the song pushed me to go a little harder to do a few more sets.” It’s a motivational track for their lives. That’s what’s helped to make the song larger than life.



Q: You are a master at getting people amped up. How does it feel seeing this intense reaction to your performances?

A: Throughout my career, I’ve learned my voice triggers something in peoples’ heads — they instantly lose it. God blessed me with my talents, and I’m going to use them until I can’t use them anymore.


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