Lil Jon has a new gig — a brand new HGTV home design series called ‘Lil Jon Wants to Do What?’
“There’s many facets of Lil Jon, as we all know from the Dave Chappelle sketches,” the 50-year-old entertainer tells PEOPLE. “It’s not all about screaming and partying on this HGTV show. It’s really about catching a vibe from people, listening to the homeowners, and [giving them] a place where they can create memories with their family.”
Each episode of the series, which premieres May 2, follows Lil Jon and professional designer Anitra Mecadon as they work with a family to remodel a section of their house. He offers over-the-top ideas, and the 45-year-old design vet figures out how to bring them to life — within homeowners’ budgets.
“Anitra’s always trying to juggle and save,” says the rapper, known for wearing flashy diamond chains and grills. “I’m like, ‘Hey, no, we just do this.’ [And she says,] ‘No, Jon. We don’t have it in the budget.'”
The hosts may seem like a random pairing upon first glance, but their relationship goes way back.
After a pipe burst and flooded Lil Jon’s Atlanta home about five years ago, he called the Mega Dens host (“I was binge watching her show.”) and hired her to help remodel the place and get it back into tip-top shape.
Impressed by Mecadon’s unique takes on his ideas, like giving his home movie theater multi-textured black walls and a speakeasy door made from a tequila barrel, he realized they shared a special connection. “It took the design from basic to over-the-top upscale classiness,” he says. “That was one thing that made me say, ‘Wow, she really knows what she’s doing.'”
It’s Lil Jon’s job on the show to present wild ideas, but some of them have been even too complicated for Mecadon to make happen. While remodeling homeowners Joy and Phil’s basement into a nightclub in the premiere episode, the rapper suggested lowering the floor further into the ground to make the room feel more spacious. “I don’t know why I wanted to sink the floor down,” he says, thinking back to the difficult — and expensive — proposal. “But for us, [there are] no bad ideas, because an idea could stimulate another idea, or another idea, or another idea.”
Lil Jon’s presence in the show also makes for unexpected nods to his hit-filled musical catalog.
Elsewhere in the first episode, Joy references “Turn Down For What” during a discussion about tearing down walls (“For what?”) in the couple’s basement. Throughout the series, he’s discovered a few homeowners are unlikely fans of his music. “You think they’re super buttoned up, but they’re actually cooler than you think,” he teases. “You’re going to see some people take some shots.”
While he’s largely transitioned into television work since his 2011 stint on The Apprentice — appearing on Bar Rescue, Tiny House Nation, and as a co-host on last year’s Bachelor in Paradise season, the mentions of his songs in Lil Jon Wants to Do What? are a testament to how truly iconic his cultural presence has become. If the rapper’s younger self, coming up in the music industry 30 years ago, could see his multifaceted career today, how would he feel?
“He’d think it’s cool because that’s how you have longevity. You have to grow, because the music is not going to always be relevant,” he says. “I learned early on, you’ve gotta be able to adapt and change and grow and always stay ahead, because if you’re kind of behind, you’re going to get left behind.”
It’s hard to believe Lil Jon will ever get left behind. With one foot in television, he also regularly performs at several Las Vegas nightclubs through a TAO Group residency and currently has a collaboration with Daddy Yankee and El Alfa, “Bombón,” rising up the charts worldwide. And after 30 years in the music industry, he still has aspirations as an artist. “I would like to do something with Bad Bunny,” he says.
He’s also connected with Gen Z through his growing presence on TikTok, where his signature Lil Jon-isms like “Yeeeaaahh!” and “Okaaaayy!” have almost effortlessly earned the rapper nearly 7 million likes on the platform.
He recently went viral with a video pairing his voice with the Reading Rainbow theme song, which has racked up over 9 million views to date. “I did the TikTok in like two minutes. I didn’t even think about it,” he says of the clip. “I don’t know why people love that one so much. It just blew me away how big it got.”Lil Jon tends to focus on the present and future, but lately he’s gotten the chance to revisit his past as the subject of a recently-filmed episode of A&E’s forthcoming Origins of Hip-Hop docuseries.
“It made me be like, ‘Wow. I’ve really done a lot of stuff.’ I don’t think about it because I’m always moving on to the next and trying to stay ahead,” he says of his decades-long career. “It’s a major blessing. I’ve definitely accomplished a lot, and [there’s] a lot more for me to do, like Lil Jon Wants To Do What? That’s the next stage of my life.”
That’s one heck of a second act! ‘Lil Jon Wants To Do What?’ premieres on HGTV Monday, May 2 at 10PM ET/PT.
Each episode is available to stream on discovery+ on Mondays starting May 2.