This May will mark the 10th anniversary of my graduation from college. I tried not to think about it, because that milestone means I’m officially getting old. I didn’t really think about it too much, because I don’t necessarily feel old. 32’s not old right?
But in those 10 years, trends have come and gone. Even in college, I was aware that many of the things I then liked would be deemed irrelevant. No one really thought that The Darkness’ “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” would be a stone-cold classic, but we all sang it at the top of our lungs at each party.
I just assumed that the same thing would happen to Lil Jon. His famous bark and “What?” catch phrase seemed to only exist for the moment. We all knew he was ridiculous and the absurdity of his presence was tripled by Dave Chappelle’s now infamous parody. “Okaaaay” and “What?” were catchphrases built for one summer and one summer only. Their presence – and Lil Jon – was perfectly suited for a fleeting moment. They’re a perfect marker for a generation. Say any of those 2 words exactly like Lil Jon and people of a certain age will know exactly what you’re referring to. Anyone younger than 27, probably has no fucking clue.
And that’s pretty much what happened. Lil Jon milked his fame for all its worth. In 2004, he seemed to be all over every hit single. 2006’s “Snap Yo Fingers” was the last time he actually had a hit song. Until this year.
So, imagine my surprise when I heard him barking some unintelligible lyrics over a dark and sparse EDM beat while driving my car. This has to be an old song, I thought. There’s no way they can resurrect this dude for a new song. That can’t be possible. So I pushed the info button on the radio dial and there it was: “Turn Down For What” – Lil Jon and DJ Snake.
I sudden wave of depression hit me. Oh great, the last time this guy was really popular was when I graduated college. Now, I suddenly felt old. Yes, Lil Jon made me old. It wasn’t the countless baby photos on my Facebook feed or the receding hairlines of old friends. It was fucking Lil Jon who had turned me into an old man. 10 years have gone by, and now we’ve come full-circle so that Lil Jon can be popular again? I secretly wished there were some younger kids around so I could tell about when Lil Jon was originally popular.
As for the song, it was horrendous. The EDM-heavy track is basically just a vehicle for Lil Jon to spew out the title of the song repeatedly over some weird beats. That’s it. It’s so bad that one can’t even find the humor in it. (Believe me, I tried.)
But kudos for Lil Jon for finding yet another way to infiltrate music once again. He has essentially deconstructed his catchphrase and bought down it to its bare essence. We should have known it was only a matter of time before a song was built around only that. In era where everything is truncated already, having Lil Jon say anything more than a slight variation of “whaaaat?” would be superfluous and excessive.
With “Turn Down For What” I’ve finally accepted the idea that I am now of the age where I don’t or won’t get what the kids are listening to. That’s ok. I’ll revel in being cantankerous. But I do have to wonder what kind of world we are living in where Lil Jon is popular once again.