Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz: Kings of Crunk (TVT)

It is the genre of the new dance floor, the soundtrack to accompany this decade’s version of the mosh pit: The Club (yeaahee-yeaee!!).

Lil Jon apparently has this goblet that he carries around with him pretty much everywhere he goes. It has diamonds crawling like ivy up the rondure of the platinum cup that meet together to form a crown on the goblet’s top portion—possibly the most blinged-out goblet ever made. You know, to match his teeth. I guess when you’re one of the founders of the next big music sensation, you can do that kind of thing. Lil Jon along with the East Side Boyz (Big Sam and Lil’ Bo) are, after all, the self-proclaimed Kings of Crunk.

“We’re not saying we invented the Crunk sound,” says Lil’ Bo. “What we are saying is that the true kings are the people who bring that new thing to the mainstream.”

We’re talking about crunk. As in quick electronic snares and high hats, impossibly deep low ends, and shouting. A musical realm where elbows are meant for throwing and walls are only there to be torn the hell down. Where the bass drops are simultaneously heavy and bouncy, thumping like a fat kid inside a crowded jumparound inflatable castle. A stepson of rap that paradoxically focuses not on lyrical delivery, but on the intensity and straight-up rawness of chanted hooks, repeated and reaffirmed to achieve optimum level of hype. Some call it a hip-hop movement; others would rather see it go the way of the Z-Cavariccis. Camps are divided.

It’s not rap of the same vein born and raised in Brooklyn, educated in the West, and currently surfacing from among the very guts of America. Maybe Atlantan, certainly Southern, crunk fills the void left by the departure of booty bass. It is the genre of the new dance floor, the soundtrack to accompany this decade’s version of the mosh pit: The Club (yeaahee-yeaee!!).

Kings of Crunk is Lil Jon’s fourth album. By now, he seems to have found a pattern for his success. He produces all of the album’s tracks and shares chanting and yelling duties with the Boyz. We can all be thankful that, unlike some producers in the field, Lil Jon isn’t kidding himself about his role in the music industry. “We’re not really considering ourselves rappers,” he says. “We do our chant thing, make the beats and let other people who really rap do the rap.” He’s not kidding. He and the Boyz let 22 people who really rap do the rap on the album, some on multiple tracks. Meaning, this is an album aimed at achieving crossover success by providing energy-driven anthems for the club, while at the same time providing enough diversity to attract radio play.

It’s when the album focuses on active club anthems that it is strongest. The lead single, “I Don’t Give a…,” with Mystikal and Krayzie Bone, is an example of a how energetic crunk, when done correctly, can be. Songs like “Throw it Up” and “Rep Yo City” are just flat-out raw, and maintain the momentum of the first half of the album. “Knockin Heads Off,” featuring Jadakiss and Styles P, is probably the most successful crossover hit, balancing a dark, eerily hype track and refrain with competent lyrical deliveries by some of the today’s most requested East Coasters.

After eight or nine songs, though, Kings of Crunk begins to peter out. “Diamonds,” an ode to, well, diamonds, signals the beginning of the downfall. After that we have “Nothin On,” a sexed-out, R&B flavored washout, and “Ooh Na Na Naa Naa,” the title of which really says it all.

The last few tracks pick things back up a bit, and the album closes on a high note with the mid-1990s, early crunk throwback, “BME Click,” featuring The BME Allstars. Which leads one to wonder: why all the soft-core, slow-rolling filler in between? Is it because crunk demands too much energy to maintain for all 77 minutes? Or is it a marketing ploy, aimed at drawing some female fans to the overtly masculine world of crunk? Why the low-calorie Crunk Lite?

Crunk is crunkest when the crunkers aren’t afraid of overcrunking. Had they stuck to their guns, Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz would have ended up with a more solid package, something that could carry a party on its own, without the help of a DJ.

If you ignore these few weak songs, though, Kings of Crunk is a success. In a word, the album is crunktastic. Crunkeriffic. Crunkrageous. Whatever. Just get on the floor, rep your city, throw dem bows, and holler “Bia!!” because it’s crunk, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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