Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 17, 1971, Lil Jon is a rapper, producer and DJ best known for performing and promoting a style of hip-hop called "crunk." After working at a record label in Atlanta, he was the lead rapper with the group Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz from 1997 to 2004. He began a solo career in 2010, and has appeared on television's The Celebrity Apprentice.
Early Life and Career
Jonathan Smith, known professionally as Lil Jon, was born on January 17, 1971, in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta, he studied for two years at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He then returned to Atlanta, where he began making appearances as a DJ at hip-hop clubs. He also worked for several years at the Atlanta-based record label So So Def Recordings, where he learned the music business from the inside out as an A and R (artists and repertoire) executive.
Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz
After gaining knowledge of the Southern hip-hop scene at So So Def, Lil Jon began his career as a performer. He was one of the originators of a style called "crunk," a Southern-based offshoot of hip-hop that combines drum-machine beats, electronic-keyboard melodies and vocal chants. As the lead rapper of the group Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, he released the debut single "Who You Wit" in 1997. This hit was followed by the album Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album, the first of six albums that Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz released together. The group's first nationally played single was 2001's "Bia' Bia'," which featured appearances by Ludacris and other well-known musicians. Their following hit singles included "Get Low" (a collaboration with fellow Atlanta rappers Ying Yang Twins) in 2003, "What U Gon' Do" in 2004 and "Give It All U Got" in 2009.
The King of Crunk
Meanwhile, Lil Jon lent his skills to various other artists' recordings. As a producer, he worked with vocalists as diverse as Ciara, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Britney Spears. He co-wrote, produced and sang on Usher's single "Yeah!," one of the biggest hits of 2004.
Lil Jon's solo single "Snap Yo Fingers" was a hit in 2006. His first solo album, Crunk Rock, was released in 2010; its singles included "Outta Your Mind" and "Ms. Chocolate." He has made guest appearances on dozens of other artists' recordings.
He also continues to work as a club DJ and is a co-owner of the record label Black Market Entertainment.
Other Projects and Personal Life
Lil Jon has also appeared in movies, including Soul Plane and Scary Movie 4, as well as two seasons of the reality-television show The Celebrity Apprentice, hosted by Donald Trump. In 2011, he placed in the top four, competing alongside Meatloaf, John Rich and Marlee Matlin. He returned to the show in 2013.
Lil Jon married Nicole Smith in 2004. They have a son, Nathan "Slade" Smith, who is an aspiring DJ and actor.
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