Review Summary: Crunk Rock is music for the ear, not the mind, and if you come expecting something else, you’ll surely be disappointed.
Around 2 minutes and 35 seconds into “G Walk”, Lil Jon yells “I’m a crunk n*gga – I ain’t no f*ckin’ rapper!
” Despite the minor consolation that the statement might provide to backpack-donning hip-hop fans, the statement is resoundingly accurate, which is astonishing considering how egotistic and exaggerative most hip-hop artists tend to be when it comes to talking about themselves. Not only is the one liner Lil Jon in a nutshell, it’s the ethos on which Crunk Rock
hinges. Rowdy deliveries, wild lyrics, and high octane production should indicate that Crunk Rock
makes no attempt at being graceful or artful. Considering how relatively inactive self-proclaimed King of Crunk king Lil Jon has been recently, a refresher course should be offered to provide context. Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia invented the subgenre in the mid 90’s, but it was Lil Jon who pioneered the crunk archetype in the early 2000’s. This album was pushed back five years, and it’s finally here. Although the quality doesn’t merit the delay, it does merit a few spins.
Because of his hypeman-like abilities (or lack thereof), Lil Jon is obviously not one to rely on the strengths of his own vocals. Therefore, he dials up quite a few guests – eighteen in total – to assist him, and in turn, the album is rather reliant on the abilities of the guests artists. Luckily, Lil Jon does a pretty good job at selecting artists he works well with (e.g. Ying Yang Twins, Waka Flocka Flame, and surprisingly, LMFAO.) However, there are instances at which he makes poor decisions regarding guest appearances. Although R&B artists such as R. Kelly, Pleasure P, and Mario aren’t very good ideas, ending the album with a 3OH!3 feature was a horrendous idea. Unless I’m living under a rock, the crunkcore-loving, middle school mall-fags who inhabit Hot Topic aren’t clamoring for rap albums.
Much like Atmosphere thrives on intricate, smart lyricism, Lil Jon thrives on flamboyant, instrumental bombast. Executive produced by none other than Lil Jon, Crunk Rock
is filled with car bangers, club hits, and party anthems. A synth-heavy affair with simple keyboard arrangement, buzzing basslines and hard drums, the production on Crunk Rock
is a swirling blend of electropop and Miami bass with some slight reggae, Latin pop and rock influences, and nearly every cut is impressive. Not surprisingly, the best songs are led by grandiose instrumentals. “G Walk” is another example of Shawty Redd’s signature style – an epic looping synth rendition of Edvard Grieg’s 1876 composition “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. “Killas” is a ferocious rock-tinged affair with grinding, rise-and-fall guitars, loud, hollow drums, and a punching, one-note piano loop.
Sadly enough, Crunk Rock
does suffer from some filler. A few R&B tracks, the song with conscious reggae artists Damian and Stephen Marley, and the final track with 3OH!3 significantly bog down the album. Not only do they diminish its replay value and make it less enjoyable, they prevent it from, dare I say it, transcending greatness. Even though this is Lil Jon’s first solo album, he’s done enough work to prevent things like this from happening.
For the last paragraph of the body, I’ll discuss the lyrics. The reason for this is obvious – a review of an album with little-to-no importance placed upon the lyrics should also place little-to-no importance on the lyrics. Straightforward and to the point, the lyrics of Crunk Rock
center around partying, getting drunk, having anonymous sex, and killing anybody who bumps into you. Simply put, when post-Predator era Ice Cube and f*cking Soulja Boy
have the best verses on your album, you obviously aren’t gunning for lyrical wizardry.
For a 4 minute, 15 second summation of the album, look no further than the music video for “Shots” featuring LMFAO. At first, there are people quietly lounging about a luxury hotel’s pool area, that is, until some guy tackles the old DJ and promptly plays a Lil Jon song. Lil Jon then comes through and barrels some dude over and mayhem ensues. Throughout the video, he can be seen throughout the video carrying a bottle of Patron and jumping up and down yelling while his gold chain swings about, and the members of LMFAO are holding a bottle of vodka (which, of course, they share) while being surrounded by beautiful women in bikinis. There are volleyballs, there’s a pool, and there’s crazy-ass music (until they hit the club ‘later that night’ and things are just as wild, just in a setting with neon strobe lights). Just as the music video suggests, Crunk Rock
is a fun and foolish switch-up from the normally civil and relaxing routine. It’s music for the ear, not the mind, and if you come expecting something else, you’ll surely be disappointed.