The Fall of Hip Hop

In 1997, Jonathan Smith reinvented himself as Lil Jon and formed the group Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz, marking the rise of a new sensation in Hip Hop known as Crunk. Their primal energy captured attention and reshaped the genre.


Miquiel Banks

6/3/20242 min read

blog cover image - the fall of hip hop
blog cover image - the fall of hip hop


The Fall

Atlanta Georgia (1997)

The Southern United States

After working for So So Def Recordings for four years, Jonathan Smith decides that it's time to make a change.

In order to make this change official, he dubs himself Lil Jon and forms a new group, Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz.

They sign to an Atlanta-based record label, Mirror Image Records, and debut with their first album, Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album in 1997.

Their two debut singles rank on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts and the world will never be the same.

At this pivotal moment, the world of Hip Hop is introduced to the new kid on the block.

The new wave of sensation in the world of Hip Hop.

And Hip Hop dubs this new phenom as Crunk.

Heating up the South, from Atlanta, St. Louis, Memphis and Dallas, Lil Jon's primal energy captures the attention of Bryan Leach (A&R for TVT).

After going to one of their shows, Bryan is blown away by the passion and extensive energy.

He comments, "It was like early Beastie Boys, when they had the energy of a rock group but they were rapping, and that energy is what crunk music is all about."

And his words resonate with me.

That energy is what crunk music is all about.

Little did Bryan know then, but these words were an accurate reflection of the essential nature of Crunk.

However, before the world of Hip Hop had a chance to focus its attention on its savior, Crunk fell into the wastelands of pop culture and now tainted, the world of Hip Hop turned its eyes to Crunk's ambassador.

Lil Jon.

Faced with such a huge task, Lil Jon's stage antics swayed his opinion and like all celebrities, he was given the role of Theologian and Scientist, a dire position of which he was unable to deliver.

As the mouthpiece of Crunk, he approached an adult question with child-like innocence.

He deduced in the following manner.

Obviously, crunk is the past tense of crank.

At our shows, all our fans are always getting drunk, so by putting two and two together, there's only one answer.

Crunk = Crazy + Drunk!

With this answer, Lil Jon unknowingly sealed the fate and doom of thousands of teens around the world.

Given the permission of pop culture and Hip Hop and Lil Jon, fervent and overzealous teens blindly follow the Peter Pan-like zest of Crunk.

They act crazy, get drunk, and in their devoted circles, they are praised for being the Crunkest one of all!

And on that note, we look back to the Hebrew Bible and come upon one of its greatest stories.

The Story of Adam and Eve.

We read the divine words and we picture this beautiful garden and Adam and Eve, together in their innocence, enjoying this lush environment.

And suddenly, a snake enters the picture and tempts Eve and the destiny of humanity changes for all time.

And in one sense, we must look back to Crunk's Origins in Atlanta and question whether or not Crunk's nature had been corrupted?

And if it was corrupted, by whom?

Was Lil Jon's wrong definition of Crunk really a case of sabotage?

Was it a deliberate effort of Lil Jon to promote his career?

Or was it yet, another, overblown mistake that was catapulted out of control by America's insatiable need for drama?


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