The rapper/producer/DJ, who recently opened a second school in Ghana with the Pencils of Promise charity to provide kids with a stable learning environment, checked in recently to chat about the upcoming festivities in Atlanta.
Q: You’ve been involved in several Super Bowl events over the years.
A: The Falcons brought me out to the Super Bowl (in Houston). I had to do the party that turned into a non-party, the we-don't-like-Tom-Brady party.
Q: Have you thought yet about what you’ll do for your DJ set at this pre-Super Bowl concert?
A: I don't know. For me, every gig is a little bit different because every audience is a little bit different. A real DJ caters to the crowd he has in front of him. For me, I get to the club earlier and I look at the crowd and listen to the DJ who comes on before me, to kind of catch a vibe and just watch. I'm playing what the people want to hear.
Q: You and Ludacris are very memorably linked on Usher’s “Yeah,” but how far back do you guys go?
A: We go back to 2000, when he was (a DJ) at Hot 97.5 (now Hot 107.9 on the air). I wasn't on the radio at that time, but I used to be around a lot. Actually, it goes further back from that. Jermaine (Dupri) brought me a Luda demo tape at So So Def, so I've known Chris (Bridges — Ludacris' real name) going way back. The last time we performed together, we were in Cleveland for a Cleveland/Golden State game, LeBron's last game in the finals. But it's great (performing) at home.
Atlanta rapper Lil Jon will perform with Ludacris, Migos, Lil Yachty and more on Jan. 31 at State Farm Arena.
Q: Do you feel like this lineup — you, Luda, Migos and the others — will offer a fair representation of the Atlanta music culture?
A: I definitely think so. Migos is the biggest rap group in the world right now. Luda is a veteran rapper-actor. Me, I've been doing my thing.
Q: What do you think of some of these new guys, like Lil Yachty and Lil Baby?
A: Lil Baby is killing it right now. Yachty has continuously been doing his thing. These guys are doing their own things.
Q: Some of your peers are boycotting anything to do with the event. What made you feel differently?
A: It's our hometown, we gotta. It's rare when we're able to showcase what we love about this city and showcase our city. I think it's more about the city than it is anything else. The Super Bowl is the Super Bowl, but this is the city we've grown up in, we launched our careers in and the city we live in. It's about showcasing everything we love about our city.
Q: I also don’t think people realize that the Super Bowl never has a performer connected to the city where it’s taking place. New Jersey didn’t have Springsteen or Bon Jovi, they had Bruno Mars, and Houston didn’t have Beyonce, they had Lady Gaga.
A: And Lady Gaga doesn't necessarily fit with a Super Bowl audience. She's a great performer, but the Super Bowl audience is not necessarily Lady Gaga's audience. Super Bowl halftime performers are generally someone who touches everyone who watches the game. I think Maroon 5 is great. But we also don't know what's going on behind the scenes, like who they're gonna bring out with them.
Q: You mean like Cardi B, who happens to be performing the night before?
A: (Laughs) I just know they didn't call me! I could have been there!
Q: Any predictions as to who you think we’ll see in the Super Bowl?
A: I try to watch as much as I can, but I'm in different time zones all the time. I'm really loving the Rams right now. I'm loving Kansas City right now. I don't want to talk about the 'aints (New Orleans Saints), though they got beat (recently). I don't want to see the 'aints in the Super Bowl. In the NFL, you never know who's gonna be there. Like they say, it's any given Sunday. It could be your day to lose.