American rapper and producer Lil Jon chopped it up with Helen Herimbi about skateboarding and why he feels like saying “no” to yeah!

Lil Jon isn’t a man of many words but, ironically, one word has made him “the man”. Or at least, the man everyone wanted on their tracks a few years ago. That word is: “yeah!”

But fast-forward a couple of years and the dreadlocked musician’s response to the phrase that paid him is something more along the lines of: “hell to the no.”

“I definitely, definitely, definitely, definitely, definitely get tired of saying yeeeaaaaah!” That’s five definitelys. Count them. So when he tells me over the phone from Germany, where he is on tour, “but I do get even more tired of people screaming it (yeah!) at me all the time,” it’s clear he’s not joking.

Understandably, people will fling their arms about and scream it at the top of their lungs whenever they see him. He did, after all, make it his signature saying. One that won the Usher song of the same title (which Lil Jon produced and featured on) a slew of awards.

Unfortunately for him, this US rapper and producer is going to have to deal with throngs of people yelling “yeah!” at him when he performs at the Maloof Money Cup World Skateboarding Championships in Kimberly this week. I know what you’re thinking. A larger-than-life Down South artist with diamonds on his grill at a skateboarding championship? Well, the man born Jonathan Mortimer Smith in Atlanta 40 years ago knows the mixing boards just as well as he knows the skateboards.

“I’ve been going to the Maloof Cup ever since it began (in 2008),” shares this East Side Boyz founding member. “I met the Maloof brothers because I used to stay at the Palms a lot.” These brothers (Joe and Gavin) are from the family who own The Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, where Lil Jon stayed while making his solo album Crunk Rock.

But even before the man who made “to the window to the wall” – and what follows – one of the catchiest hooks was lounging in the hotel and “watching the NBA play-offs with the brothers,” skateboarding was dear to him.

“I was a big skater back in the 1980s,” he reminisces. “I grew up loving the culture and just skating all day, every day. I had all these VHS tapes of skateboarders I looked up to and even today I take my son out to the skate parks.”

It was Fred Reeves, a black professional skateboarder in Atlanta, who showed Lil Jon that black kids could also do damage to the decks.

“There were maybe five of us (black kids) who would go and see Fred rocking and doing his thing,” says the muso, “but skateboarding showed me the diversity within our cultures. It helped open my eyes and ears to new music,” he continues. “Skateboarding helped me be the person I am today.”

The result of being attuned to the sounds skate parks would blast from their speakers was Lil Jon’s own blend of music – crunk. “For as long as I can remember, rock, punk rock, hip hop, even reggae was being played at skating competitions and all the skaters I know listen to a lot of hip hop,” says Lil Jon.