Though, you won’t hear his name being glorified amongst the ranks of a Rakim or DJ Kool Herc, Lil Jon deserves to be recognized as a pioneering author in Hip-Hop’s chapters of culture expansion all the same. Through his seemingly limitless array of chart-topping production combined with an unequivocal charisma, the Atlanta wildman all but invented the Crunk subgenre as he made it into a lucrative and undeniable phenom. He even established credibility on all edges of the map, collaborating with lyricists such as Nas, Jadakiss and Busta Rhymes to increase his popularity amongst disbelievers. As in the case of every overwhelming success, though, copycats, label turmoil and an insatiable demand for appearances led to the King of Crunk taking an undetermined hiatus at the height of his career.
As always, the show must go on and Jon blows the dust off the four-year-old Crunk Rock to rebuild his empire. While remnants of the club-closin’, Billboard buster still remain, the time spent lounging in South Beach have altered the course of Jon’s soundship and create a rockier road in the neighborhood of comebacks.
The automatic downside to Crunk Rock is that Jon already worked with the likes of Ying Yang Twins, Ice Cube and R. Kelly (to much better results at that). What was once a fresh and organic experience has now become your general artist feature. Jon attempts to rap command the various crooning of The Pied Piper and Mario on the Hershey’s-stale “Ms. Chocolate” to no avail. Sounding like an improv, rock-out session, “Killas” makes good on destroying eardrums, but not much else. Choosing to spit solo at times don’t equate to better music, either. Over a bleacher-stomping backdrop, “Get In, Get Out” finds the dreaded one rocking for over four minutes with no intended purpose. Lil Jon the MC? No thanks.
Uncommon to his other releases, Crunk Rock utilizes the assistance of other producers with random outcomes. Shawty Redd’s “G-Walk” (which also features a terrible Soulja Boy appearance) sounds awfully like “Who Dat,” one of his previous tracks. Drumma Boy balances things out, bringing the royal pain on “Throw It Up Pt. 2 (Remix)” as Pastor Troy and Waka Flocka Flame usher in a new generation of beatdown music. Ironically, it’s the posh, Miami Beach anthems such as the liquor dedication “Shots” featuring LMFAO and Pitbull-assisted “Work It Out” where Jon feels most comfortable quarterbacking. Too bad they give the album the day-and-night effect when compared to the beginning of the LP.
With Crunk Rock, Lil Jon shows it will take more than a few years off to relieve him of his title as a club promoter’s dream host. However, suffering through multiple lineup changes and sharply contrasting sounds doesn’t exactly authenticate that “Crunk Ain’t Dead” chain, either.