Also Credited As:Jonathan Smith, Jonathan "Lil Jon" Smith, Jonathan H. Smith, Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz
|January 17, 1971|
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Jonathon Smith was born on Jan. 17, 1971 in Atlanta, GA and raised in Birmingham. The future star began his music career shortly after graduating from Ohio State University in 1993. While working for So So Def Recordings, he acquired the stage name Lil Jon and formed the rap group Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz. In 1997, the group released their debut Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album, which featured the singles "Who U Wit?" and "Shawty Freak a Lil' Sumthin.'" Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz' musical style was heavily influenced by "Crunk" - a bass-heavy fusion of hip-hop and electronic music that originated in the South around the late 1990s. Even though they were not pioneers of the genre, Lil Jon and his band helped bring the music style to a mainstream audience. In addition, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz' sophomore album We Still Crunk (2000) yielded their first hit, "I Like Dem Girlz," which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart.
Released in 2003, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz' single "Get Low" propelled the group into even more mainstream success. Driven by a catchy, profanity-laden hook shouted by Lil Jon, "Get Low" made its way on to every nightclub and radio station's play list all the way to a No. 2 spot on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Music lovers of all stripes were also introduced to Lil Jon's signature catchphrases such as "Okay!" and "What?!" as well as his unique style that included carrying around a jewel-encrusted goblet many referred to as a "pimp cup." With his popularity in the hip-hop community - even procuring the nickname "King of Crunk" - at an all time high, Lil Jon parlayed his success into producing for other artists, including the Ying Yang Twins, Petey Pablo, and Usher. His collaboration with the latter resulted in 2004's "Yeah!" one of the singer's most successful and signature tracks. Released as the first single off Usher's album Confessions (2004), "Yeah!" contained memorable beats, rhythmic crooning, and Lil Jon's signature hype-shouting in the chorus. The single reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed at the top of the charts for a record 12 weeks. Usher and Lil Jon also picked up a Grammy Award the following year for "Yeah!" in the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration category.
Lil Jon's successful rise in the music industry opened up other ventures for him to dabble in. He released an energy drink in 2002 appropriately called "CRUNK!!!" and collaborated with Oakley Sunglasses for an eyewear line in 2004. Lil Jon made his acting debut opposite fellow rapper Snoop Dogg in the film "Boss'n Up" (2005), followed by a cameo in the feature comedy "Scary Movie 4" (2006) and a hosting gig on MTV's "Pimp My Ride International" (2006- ). Forbes magazine reported that the rapper-producer-entrepreneur earned $11 million in 2008. Two years later, he released his first solo album, Crunk Rock, which blended various genres with his own musical style. That same year, Lil Jon joined the cast of "The Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ), where he competed in various challenges against other stars including - La Toya Jackson, Gary Busey and David Cassidy - to win money for charity.