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Q&A with Lil Jon

Amber Bouman

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Lil Jon is an award-winning hip hop artist, DJ, producer and actor well known for his work on tracks such as "Shots" by LMFAO and "Turn Down for What" with DJ Snake. He has worked with numerous hip hop artists including E-40, Ludacris, Too Short, Yin Yang Twins, Waka Flocka and Usher; appeared on two seasons of Celebrity Apprentice; and has been DJing since the early 90s. He's also an entrepreneur: He's worked with Oakley on sunglasses, produced an energy drink called Crunk!!! and started his own winery.

Lil Jon's latest project, VEXT, is an app that uses video and soundboard-style clips to create a video clip easily shareable via SMS. Meaning that with a simple cut-and-paste, anyone can send a text of Lil Jon saying a variety of his celebrated catchphrases from the general "Mmhmmm" to the popular "Turn up!" We spoke with Lil Jon and VEXT's co-creators Jay Galvin and Michael Daniels about VEXT, technology, 90s hip hop, and how to find exceptional food while traveling.

1. So, VEXT isn't actually your first app, is it?
Lil Jon: No, somebody did an app on me way back in the day -- just like a Lil Jon soundboard. It was just all my catchphrases but that was like a long time ago, early in the app space. So that was, I think, was my only one that I really dabbled in until I got connected with these guys.

2. And how did that all happen?
Lil Jon: Well, me and Jay have been friends for years and he knows Mike so we all just -- Jay introduced us together.
Jay Galvin: Just like Jon said, Mike is a friend of mine and Jon is friend of mine. And when the minds get together, this is the kind of project that unfolds. It was just really a back-and-forth conversation between all three of us. We collectively came up with an idea, the name of the project, and we just started to roll one out and see if it made sense. We had a feeling that it would, and it just took its form from there.

3. I've read that it took you (Lil Jon) about 45 minutes to record all the phrases and sounds used in the app -- is that the case?
Lil Jon: Yeah, you know, it didn't take much time at all. It was pretty funny, like saying some of this shit -- me and the camera guy and his assistant were like laughing at some of them. You know, immediately, I was like "This is going to be pretty cool." You know, so everybody that I come in contact with who has downloaded the app, or has used the app, is like "I love it. I use it all the time, hit people up with VEXT." They VEXT people all the time, they can't get enough of it.

4. I've also read that you use the app yourself to send phrases to people you're texting?
Lil Jon: Yeah, I'll hit up my attorney with "Yeah!" or something like that.

5. Do they respond back to you with a VEXT of yourself? Are you like, having conversations entirely of your own VEXT phrases?
Lil Jon: The only person who ever hits me with VEXT is Jay. And Mike. And then I'm like "Why the hell are you VEXTing me?" [laughs]

6. Do you have a favorite of all the phrases that are in VEXT? Or one that is your favorite to use?
Lil Jon: I don't know... there are so many phrases. I can't remember, I'll have to Google that shit.

7. So, it's been in the app store now for about a month -- can you share what kind of feedback you've had about the app or how it's been doing so far?
Jay Galvin: You could probably break it down into two questions -- the iOS version has done very well. The feedback has been outstanding for the iOS version because of the ease of use in switching the keyboards. It works a little bit differently in the Droid version, where you have to kind of come out of the keyboard, cut and paste and then go back into your message. It's just how the Droid works. So we're working on some things to smooth out that transition. But the iOS version is money.

8. Back to Jon, do you feel like there are other areas of technology that you'd like to get involved in, beyond just app development?
Lil Jon: I mean, I don't know. I've been an internet person since early on, been a social media person since early on. So I'm just watching the trends and gravitating towards the trends but I don't know where we're going next. First we were at emoji's and GIFs, and now we got the combination of both -- which is where we're at with VEXT and texting. So, who knows?

9. So you've been a DJ for years and years now -- how many records do you think you own at this point? Do you have walls of records throughout your house, or how to do keep that collection?
Lil Jon: Yeah, I actually still have my crates that I used to DJ out of when I was first DJing -- my crates that I would travel with and take to the club. I still have those. And I do have a wall in my house where I can just put the records in the wall. Basically made shelves in the wall, so it's thousands of records.
I've been collecting for years. I'm the type, when I used to go to the record store I used to buy two or three copies of certain records so I've got a pretty large selection of a lot of 12 inches. And I still have a lot of CDs. I was actually going through CDs last week, looking for stuff, listening for something that can spark some ideas, something I might want to sample. So yeah, I've got thousands of CDs as well.

10. And when you listen to music yourself, for pleasure, if you're popping on an album to check it out -- do you find yourself doing that on vinyl or is that CDs or do you stream a lot of music?
Lil Jon: I listen to so much fucking music. Like, working I don't listen to shit but like... Old school hip hop radio. I like classic hip hop so I'll listen to that when I'm just chillin' and want to hear some music. But other than that, I don't really... I'm tired of fucking music. Old school hip hop radio, and then I listen to like 90s dancehall. I stream that too.
You know, my era of DJing was the 90s. I think that was one of the best eras of music, period. From dancehall to hip hop to rock to pop to R&B to everything. I just like that era of music, so I just listen to a lot of 90s overall but definitely 90s hip hop.

11. What app(s) can you not live without?
Lil Jon: My favorite app right now -- I travel a lot and it's all about finding a good restaurant or ordering good food. Postmates is probably number one, Postmates and GrubHub and Eat24. I gotta find the good restaurants when I'm traveling.

12. Makes sense. Do you have a favorite type of food like Mexican or Thai or sushi?
Lil Jon: I like Mediterranean food. It's fresh. Most of the time, where ever you are you can get Mediterranean food and you can't really go wrong. Any Mediterranean, Middle-eastern type of food. And that's like a travel tip! I travel around the world, and that type of food you can never really go wrong, no matter where you are in the world.

13. What was the last thing you Googled?
Lil Jon: Let's see.... I don't fucking know. Probably some restaurant rating or something like that. [Checks] Yep.

14. What is your number one tech pet peeve?
Lil Jon: Everybody's got a fucking camera! Everybody's got a camera and they don't know how to just be like "Hey. Hello. How are you?" They think they're entitled to a picture. Just say hello. You don't have to have a picture. It's not my job to make your Instagram look like you're at a party. I've just met you for two seconds. Cameras on the cell phones was the worst thing ever for celebrities because everybody thinks they're entitled to a picture. So, I say cameras on cell phones.

15. Do you have any wearable technology? If so, what is it?
Lil Jon: A lot of my boys got the Apple Watch and they're like "Man, you should get an Apple Watch" or "You've got to get an Apple Watch." But I haven't got an Apple Watch yet so maybe I might eventually get an Apple Watch. I just don't wear a watch anymore so it's gonna be weird to wear a fucking watch.

16. Who's your favorite villain?
Lil Jon: The Joker. Heath Ledger's Joker. Yeah, he went to a whole other fucking level with that.
17. Is there one record you know you can throw on to get a party going?
Lil Jon: Usher's "Yeah." And "Get Low" from the East Side Boyz and Yin Yang Twins. Both those records, no matter where you're at, is going to get people moving.

18. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Lil Jon: The power to drink as much as I want and not get hung over. I'm No Hangover Man!

19. Do you ever go out and sing karaoke? What's your favorite song to sing for karaoke?
Lil Jon: I do not. There used to be a cool karaoke night back in the day that we used to go to -- I think the go-to song is any song that has crowd interaction, so I think "Get Low" would be great because you get everybody singing "To the windows, to the walls, til the sweat drips off my balls."

20. Can't argue with that. Any last words about VEXT?
Lil Jon: It's just a really cool app, man, just a new way to communicate with people that's pretty fucking hilarious. You know, you can VEXT somebody saying "Netflix and chill?" and that's pretty funny. What you would say in a normal text, you can have me say. I think it's really cool next-level shit. And it's everything you would normally say like "Where you at? Answer your damn phone!" but it comes across a lot more so crazier when I say it.

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