When recording for Crunk Rock began in 2005, Lil Jon reigned supreme in the commercial Rap world. 2002’s Kings of Crunk and 2004’s Crunk Juice took the world by storm with infectious, hard-hitting production, while smash hits like Ciara’s “Goodies” Fat Joe’s “Lean Back [Remix],” Petey Pablo’s “Freek-a-Leek,” and a little ditty known as Usher’s “Yeah!” kept the gravy train rolling.
When the first single for Crunk Rock, “Snap Yo Fingas,” reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, it seemed inevitable that the former So So Def deejay would continue his unstoppable run – that is, until label politics came into play. The well-documented story of TVT Records’ fall delayed the album a staggering four years – an eternity in music, and in no genre moreso than Hip Hop. Having gone through countless obstacles and iterations, Crunk Rock is finally here, but in what state? With so many delays and interruptions to the recording process, will Jon’s primal production and guttural chants be enough to get him back into fans’ good graces?
Crunk Rock sets things off by revisiting an old favorite, with “Throw It Up Pt. 2.” Pastor Troy is once again along for the ride, and this time Waka Flocka Flame is riding shotgun. The sequel pales in comparison to its epic predecessor thanks to the 2002 version’s killer sampling of “Lux Aeterna,” but it’s incredibly hard-hitting nonetheless, reminding us why we fell in love with Crunk in the first place. “G Walk” doesn’t let up, either, as Soulja Boy and Lil Jon let the listener know to go hard or go home – in furious fashion. Marley brothers Stephen and Damian find their way onto the album via “On De Grind,” which features what has to be one of Lil Jon’s most impressive lyrical outings (and perhaps a veiled Three 6 Mafia diss): “Slumdog millionaire, made it outta nothin’ / Throughout all the Temptation, came up David Ruffin / …somethin’ gotta give, or else I’m takin’ somethin’ / Super hard, Tony Stark, I got that iron on me / Rastafari, don't make me sic the lion on em / I got killers everywhere, it's the City of God / Now ain't nobody seen shit, it's just a mirage / Sunglasses at night, under the street lights / I ain't missin' no meals, I gots to eat right / I'm on hustle overdose, like that nigga from 'Crank' / Ain't no Oscars, we ain't actors, nobody to thank / Try to stay positive, and never give up / Tryin to keep my head up, but I'm fed up / If some bloodclot change don't come / Then bloodclot pain gon' come.”
Following a brief interlude, “Killas” keeps the ball rolling with the aid of Ice Cube, Game, Elephant Man and Whole Wheat Bread. Putting the first bit of Rock into Crunk Rock, the artists are all at home over the loud, flat percussion and heavy electric guitar – though it’s nauseating to hear an intelligent man like Ice Cube rap “you mothafuckas soft as Gandhi.” “Get In Get Out” is Crunk Rock’s first real misstep, as it proves Lil Jon just isn’t engaging enough to carry a song on his own. It’s a shame, as he wastes a perfectly good off-kilter beat to rap maybe 50 different words over the course of nearly four-and-a-half minutes.
“Outta Your Mind” just ever-so-slighty boasts some Rock influence, but comes out most flat, and quickly becomes tiring. “Ride Da D” tries to recreate the magic of Ying Yang Twins collabo “Get Low,” but doesn’t come remotely close, and the travesty that “Ms. Chocolate” boasts a hilariously lame extended metaphor. Women as candy? So original. The question marks keep rolling in, as the inclusion of “Shots.” A bona fide, the song is no doubt infectious; problem is, it hit airwaves last October, and was featured on LMFAO’s debut, Party Rock.
As it stands, Crunk Rock sounds just like its recording process: disjointed. There’s plenty of Crunk, but where’s the Rock? The other major musical influences here are Electronica and Techno – which is fine – but in order to pull that off, Jon will have to do better than Pleasure P, Shawty Putt, and 3OH!3. And really, that’s the story of any Lil Jon album – it’s only as good as its guests. With the kind of clout Lil Jon has, it’s disappointing he wasn’t able to come up with a better supporting cast (especially given his features in the past), which makes for an equally disappointing album.