Memorial Day Weekend in Las Vegas is the one time when “Turn Down for What” is a truly legitimate question. In order to properly gear up for the biggest club weekend of the year, Las Vegas Weekly spent some quality time with producer/rapper/DJ/instant-party-in-sunglasses Lil Jon, who’s igniting the weekend at brand-new nightclub Jewel Friday night.
Jewel’s only been open for a week, and not only did you DJ a set last Monday night, you also just kicked off your About Last Night parties at Hakkasan. Yeah, that was pretty crazy. I’ve never started my set off in the audience so it was pretty cool to do that. I started at a customer’s table, basically, and jumped up on the riser. There’s a bunch of stuff we’re doing [at Hakkasan], down to the staff wearing different outfits people are not used to seeing. It’s going to be a great party.
You’ve had residencies and played at lots of Vegas clubs in recent years. It seems like you’re always at the new, cool spot. I guess I’m pretty lucky. But people think the DJ just shows up and does his thing. For me, it’s work. I take a lot of pride in coming in and checking out the venue early, seeing the vibe, what might not work, what will work, studying. I spend a lot of time [online] getting new music and making my own special edits to my set. I put a lot of work into what I do.
Will you adjust your set a lot to play this more intimate space at Jewel compared to a bigger club like Hakkasan? All DJs love small clubs. I grew up doing house parties, playing smaller spaces where there’s more energy and you’re closer to the people.
Everyone is closer to you here at Jewel. Yeah. And I don’t want to play the same set at a different club. What I hate is when I go see some big DJ play and it’s exactly the same set. What I played at Hakkasan the other night is different from what I’ll play at Jewel.
You are constantly traveling, one party to the next, all over the world. I’m going to Monaco after [Jewel on Friday] to do a 1 OAK pop-up set. I just got back from Korea, Macau, Europe, and I was in Dubai two weeks before that. I’m all over the place.
Exactly. Your crazy life is what everyone in Las Vegas will be doing for Memorial Day Weekend, jumping from party to party. So how do you survive that lifestyle? What tips can you give us to help us do it right? The first thing you gotta do is eat. So many people go out and drink, and they have not eaten dinner or even lunch. Those are the people that are gonna go down first, tapping out or throwing up. If you’re going out, eat breakfast and lunch and a nice dinner—preferably eat dinner right before you go to the club, so you can soak up that alcohol.
What else? I juice. In Aria we have a juice bar [Pressed Juicery]. I just got stocked up—I got some greens with ginger, and this mint-pineapple thing. Juice keeps you hydrated and helps to rehydrate you when you’re not sleeping and partying all night.
And if you’re day-drinking, eat in between. If you’re having three or four drinks, get some nachos or wings while you’re drinking. Or pizza! That’ll coat your stomach, so you won’t get as f*cked up.
Even Lil Jon must have times when you’re just tired and you don’t want to turn up. Everybody does. With me, I’m the party guy. The hardest thing is being the party guy. No matter what, I gotta be the life of the party. That sh*t sucks. If I come in and I’m all down and not drinking, people think it’s the end of the world. It’s rough.
How do you power through? Tequila. It’s the only alcohol that’s an upper. Tequila helps, and I just know how to flip the switch. I’ve been doing this for 20 something years, so when it’s time to go to work, I go work. The animal comes out. Party on. It’s showtime.
You may be known as the party guy now, but you’ve produced so many hits. I don’t think people even realize how long you’ve been doing this. “Yeah” with Usher was more than 10 years ago now. “Tell Me When to Go” with E-40 was just reused for an NBA Playoffs commercial, which is crazy. Have you seen this running man challenge thing? You know that [Ghost Town DJs] song “My Boo”? I put that together, and that was 20 years ago next month. That’s crazy! I’ve just been blessed to have a great career. To be in Vegas now helping people rage, it’s great. But more music is coming. I have a new song with Hardwell and W&W dropping next month and I think that’s gonna be a really big EDM song.
Did you ever think you’d be collaborating with artists from other genres like that? I never expected it, it just kinda happened, but I’ve learned it doesn’t matter ... It could be a polka song and I can put my voice on it and make it hype as f*ck. I don’t put myself in a box like most rappers or entertainers who kinda do one thing and stick to it. I like to have a good time and explore and collaborate. I’ve been blessed to pick the right guys and the right tracks and play the right sh*t! [laughs]
Lil Jon at Jewel May 27, doors at 10 p.m., $30-$40+. Aria, 702-590-8000.