It's the #3 song in the country, on the radio seemingly every five minutes — a slow jam so undeniable you can play it after a faster-paced record and nobody leaves the dance floor — yet there's still no video for "Lovers and Friends" by Lil Jon with Usher and Ludacris.
There aren't even any plans for one in sight. The holdup? Paperwork.
"We're trying to work the legal stuff out," Lil Jon said of the very un-crunk situation last week in Los Angeles. "All the record company [red tape], we're trying to get all of that squared away, then we can shoot the video. It's a song right now that's out, but it's not officially a single and my record company is not working it because we don't have all the legal stuff worked out. ... The record is #1 R&B, #3 in the country; the record has done everything it's done on its own, similar to 'Yeah!,' because 'Yeah!' initially didn't have any backing. Nobody's working it at all. It's up to the fans to tell the world they want to see this video, they want to see us together again in this hot video doing crazy stuff again."
"Lovers and Friends" is a reworking of a record by Miami singer Michael Sterling, and Jon said TVT and Sterling are working out how much compensation Sterling will get from the song's success. Jon was attracted to the song because of the reaction it got in the clubs — the kind of clubs where women don't wear clothes.
"It's one of them songs when you go into the strip club you get a lap dance off of," he explained. "It's one of them songs the girls really break it down to. Hearing the song for years, I always wanted to use the song. And I wanted to give it to Usher for his [Confessions] album. I gave him a copy of the original song, but it was the end of the album and so on and so forth, it never got used. When it was time to do my album, I was in the studio in Miami and I said, 'I'mma do the beat over. I'mma use it for something.' "
Jon said he finally got Usher to listen to the song and the singer eventually laid his part down in Jon's Miami studio last fall. Jon sent the track to Ludacris, and later the screaming producer added his verse, where he drops lines like "Are you sure you wanna go that route?/ Let a n---a know."
Jon said he doesn't know if a "Lovers and Friends" video will ever surface, but he's optimistic. "Whenever you have a hit record, you have problems," he opined. "The bigger the record, the bigger the problems — [it's] just normal hit record stuff."
Rumors have been floating that Jon and Usher's problems went beyond label wheeling and dealing and may be personal. Lil Jon pooh-poohed the unfounded banter and even released a statement to the press saying everything was all good.
"We ain't have no problems," the dreadlocked producer said. "All the stuff going on with Usher is [about] trying to get the record company stuff squared away. That's the only problem, and that's not even a problem, that's normal business. ... It's all good."
Both Usher and Ludacris declined to comment on a potential video for "Lovers and Friends" but X, who directed the threesome in "Yeah!" (see "Usher's 'Yeah!' A Nod To That Other Laser-Filled Video"), said not only would he love to direct the clip, he's already got some ideas in mind.
"I'm about lyrics, and when I listen to the song I see that story kinda unfolding for everybody," X said. "Although, I'm not sure if I want to put Lil Jon in a bathtub. I just see the lyrics coming to life and surrounding it with a different style — a setting you won't forget. I see a whole group of leading ladies."