That would be how long mega-producer Jermaine Dupri has decorated Billboard charts with a slew of hits for the likes of Mariah Carey, Usher, Janet Jackson, and countless others.
Indeed, throughout a storied career of lending a passel of platinum plaques to many-an-Urban Pop favorite, Dupri is now looking to stroll down memory lane with an assembly of stars from his self-fronted record label ‘So So Def’ to celebrate reaching the two decade milestone.
Chatting exclusively with That Grape Juice, JD details the inspiration behind the anniversary special (likening it to ‘Motown 25’) and shares dibs on Mariah’s forthcoming album, thoughts on Bow Wow vs. Kandi, and addresses rumors he’s working on Janet Jackson’s newest record.
As ever, this is a must read:
Jermaine Dupri Shouts Out That Grape Juice!
That Grape Juice: As music lovers, we know what 20 years of So So Def have meant to us. Tell us how does it feel for you?
Jermaine Dupri: It really doesn’t feel like 20 years to me! I feel blessed to even be able to say it. Two days ago I was out at the Grammy parties and a producer I look up to came to me and said, “Jermaine, you stood the test of time. All of these other people with labels have gone out of business or the person who created the label left it behind. But, you’ve proven that you could stand the test of time.”
That’s when I started to look at this a bit closer and now I realize it does mean something more than I think.
That Grape Juice: Absolutely! Now, we’re at the 20th So So Def Anniversary Celebration. Tell us, what inspired the creation of the show?
JD: It’s time. Losing Chris Lighty was a big thing to me. He was a close friend of mine in the industry and you just don’t ever know when something is going to happen. Sometimes if there are things you want to do, if you don’t just jump and go ahead and do them, it may never happen. This has been a thought I’ve had for a while.
I used to say I wanted to do something like ‘Motown 25’ and bring all of my artists back together to perform. The idea was there, but then it went away. I just felt this year it was something that had to happen.
That Grape Juice: Ok! What should we expect from it?
JD: Expect to see something you’ve never seen before which is a concert of nothing but #1 records being performed. For a person in the audience to go and sit through this concert it will be like going to a greatest hits concert!
That Grape Juice: Reflecting over the past 20 years, tell us what has been your proudest moment?
JD: I don’t think I have a proudest moment. I think about moments that were challenging, but once I beat the challenge, then I was proud and I moved to the next. People have asked me, “What’s next after the So So Def Anniversary Concert?’ I see the [new] challenge is after putting so much emphasis on the past 20 years to start focusing on the present artist to make them appreciated the way the ones of the past 20 years have been.
That Grape Juice: And, speaking of those artists, we’ve read line up will include acts like Bone Crusher, Da Brat, Dondria, Kris Kross, and a reported Xscape reunion. We heard Bow Wow (who is also slated to perform) recently weigh in on Kandi’s expected absence.
What are your thoughts on his comments?
JD: No thoughts. Bow Wow is a soldier for me. When people comment on things I’ve done or am doing, he’s ready to say anything to anybody without knowing the facts. At this point, nobody knows what’s going to happen at that show. I never actually said there would be an Xscape reunion. I just told people that Xscape was performing, but when people saw Scott sisters at the press conference, they started making assumptions.
Yes, I know Kandi said something in the beginning. But, trust me, I feel different about what’s going to happen. So, people will just have to come and see what happens. I know those that don’t will hear about it on the blogs though (laughs).
That Grape Juice: You already know! Now, switching gears a bit, we hear that you’re hard at work at Mariah Carey’s new album. How is that album shaping up?
JD: Well, it’s funny – I never said that either. I said I’ve worked on some records. Some people seem to forget that I’m the one who produced ‘Triumphant’ with Rick Ross and Meek Millz. I just let people know I’ve done that and a bunch of other songs for that album.
Now, when she starts putting the album together, I’m sure to have 4 to 5 songs on it. I don’t know what those will be at this point though, because I’m not involved in that decision process. So, I’m waiting to find out just like you guys are.
That Grape Juice: Any hints on what we can expect sonically?
JD: I don’t think any of the other songs are like ‘Triumphant‘. We have a couple of dance records – and no I don’t mean EDM, I mean more for the clubs. I don’t know if they have a “type”. I usually do what I think people want. I can’t really tell you what genre it would fit in.
That Grape Juice: Ok! Well since we’re addressing the rumor mill, another diva you’re rumored to be working with is Janet Jackson. Is that true?
JD: I know nothing about that! I’ve never heard that.
That Grape Juice: Well, with major divas like Mariah and Janet under your belt, tell us, is there anyone else you’d like to work with that you haven’t yet?
JD: I don’t really care for working with established artists. It’s no fun for me because I feel I can’t do much to develop them as they usually already have a vision and direction. The stuff I get into and excited about are already done when it comes to established artists.
I enjoy mainly working with new artists. I like taking them from scratch and turning them into a superstar.
That Grape Juice: Now, as with many interviews, we have a segment called “Five From Fans” where we received five questions from our readers for you. Are you ready?
TGJ: 1) What’s the best advice you can give for aspiring artists and producers?
JD: Follow your heart and make sure it’s in your heart. Make sure that you feel what you’re doing. If you feel it, then follow it.
TGJ: 2) Interesting one here. Will you be attending Janet Jackson’s wedding?
TGJ: 3) Should we expect any more releases from Urban supergroup Ocean’s 7 (Nelly, Trey Songz, Jermaine Dupri, Johnta Austin)?
JD: It’s a hard project because when we first started doing it, Trey was like a new artist. But, now he’s very successful and Nelly is back in the studio working on his own project. If we have the time, we’ll do it. But, we all have so many other things going on, it takes away from that joint recording time.
Plus, we don’t have an [official] deal for Ocean. Now, if i put together a deal and we make a real record, maybe. But for right now, no.
TGJ: 4) Have you ever passed on working with an artist and later regretted it?
JD: I never passed on working with any particular artist, but i did pass on signing Ludacris. That’s one I definitely regret.
TGJ: 5) Lastly, with electro pop (EDM) being such a domineering force in the industry, what do you think the next wave will be?
JD: I think that Justin Timberlake just pretty much killed the EDM (electronic dance music) wave. I think he solidified himself as the coming of the new top R&B artist in the world. He’s proving that it’s ok to not make that EDM sh*t. He’s making records D’Angelo would make. To me, it’s always somebody who’s going to define what people are doing next. It’s interesting that he’s the one who’s going to set the tone for people to pay more attention to more urban sounding records.
That Grape Juice: Thanks so much for that. Now, as we look to the future of So So Def, you’ve already made many-a-superstar and put Atlanta on the map. Tell us, is there any uncharted territory you’d like to conquer?
JD: I want to break more records. Motown did way more than So So Def. So, all of the stuff they did, I feel is uncharted and I want to do it. I know there’s so much more for me to do. Motown became America’s record company and an American staple. I want the same for So So Def
That Grape Juice: Finally, what do you want So So Def’s legacy to be?
JD: I want people to instantly think “music” when they hear So So Def. When I do this concert, its purpose is to bring the audience’s mind to know that artists you may not know or even think about are on the label.
Like, I tell people that Anthony Hamilton is performing and they’re shocked. They don’t know he’s on the label. I want them to know it’s not a rap or hip hop label – it’s a music label. You should expect ANY type of music. I’m all about music.
At any given point, I could pick a jazz record and put it out on the label. People should be cool and not surprised by that because it should be expected.
Interview by: Quinno Rashad (That Grape Juice US)