Jonathan H. Smith (born January 17, 1972), better known by his stage name Lil Jon, is an American rapper, DJ, and producer residing from Atlanta, Georgia.
Jon is known to be a pioneer of the Crunk genre with his group The East Side Boyz, gaining credit for bringing the genre into mainstream success, as well as having mainstream success with a wide skew of successful singles, such as “Get Low,” “Turn Down for What,” “Yeah,” and many more.
Jon was born and raised in a middle-class neighborhood in Southwest Atlanta. He is the oldest of five children born to his father, who is an aerospace engineer, and his mother, with a medical career within the military.
At the age of 15, Jon taught himself how to DJ, and although his parents were strict, they gave him a chance to work on his DJ skills by allowing him to have house parties in the basement of the family home, citing that they would rather have him under their watch than for him to “be in the street somewhere riding out. These parties would end up becoming extremely popular with teenagers in the area. In addition to working at the skate shop, Lil Jon also began spinning at house parties and working in local dance clubs as a DJ.
Eventually after graduating from high school, Jon became an in house DJ in Phoenix (a popular Atlanta night club at the time). It was there he would meet established music acts such as The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, and Jermaine Durpi, which he would end up hiring Jon as an A&R to his label, So So Def Records.
After Jon was promoted to be the Executive Vice President of A&R, Jon recruited loval producers and rappers, such as DJ Smurf, Shawty Redd, and more to create the compilation album series, So So Def Bass All Stars as Jon’s first project.
After he was promoted to Executive Vice President of A&R, Lil Jon recruited local producers and rappers DJ Smurf, Shawty Redd, Raheem the Dream, Playa Poncho with others to create the compilation album series, So So Def Bass All Stars as his first project, which would end up becoming a huge success, with three volumes being released at the span of 1996 to 1998.
In 1995, Lil Jon collaborated with Big Sam and Lil' Bo to create a music group, known as The East Side Boyz. The group would end up having massive success, as they would ending up having a massive collection of hits such as “Get Low” and “Real Nigga Roll Call.”. The group’s songs would end up popularizing the Crunk genre, as they are one of the pioneers of the genre. Eventually, the group was disbanded in 2005, after ongoing creative and financial conflicts with TVT Records.
In 2006, Jon started his solo career. In an attempt to fulfill his obligations to TVT, he released the smash single, “Snap Yo Fingers.” After the song’s release, Jon vowed to never record for TVT Records again. In 2008, the label, embroiled in legal battles, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, resulting in all of Jon’s masters to be given back to him.
From there, Jon would continue to create songs, which he would eventually find more mainstream success with the song “Turn Down for What” with DJ Snake. The song was a ultra smash hit, with it being used in various memes and YouTube videos, reaching the 6x platinum status by the RIAA.
Jon is also one of the owners of BME Records, as well as being an actor in a wide variety of movies and TV shows.