Jermaine Dupri is a living legend. He experienced fame in his late teens with the breakout success of the pint-sized rap duo Kris Kross, and with the signing of R&B quartets Xscape and Jagged Edge, as well as rapper Bow Wow and female MC Da Brat to his infamous SoSo Def imprint. One of the pioneers of the Hip-Hop/Pop music movement in Atlanta, JD, as he is also called, has produced a slew of hits for world-renowned artists such as Mariah Carey, TLC and Usher. JD knows how to party, which he proved at the much-hyped (and well-deserved) So So Def Reunion concert held at the Fox Theater in ATL on Saturday, February 23rd where fans were treated to a stage filled with A-list talent including Jay Z, Monica, Ludacris and more. It was an honor to speak to the unofficial mayor of Atlanta about the concert, his thoughts about the city’s music scene, social media and more.
First things first. What led to your decision to announce a So So Def Reunion Concert?
I have a lot of history in music and this city. It’s been 20 years and me having such a great influence and impact in Atlanta, which is now the new music mecca, I feel like I helped build that scene and it was definitely needed. The concert was a reminder of an era that basically put Atlanta on the map and I’m proud of that.
You’ve had a storied career in the entertainment business and have seen a lot of transformations in the music business model. In what ways has the industry changed for the good and also for the bad?
It’s a totally different game now with the internet and all that and practically any and everybody can be in the industry now. Everything is available instantly. It’s good because it cuts down on time and things get done quicker; but it’s also bad because a lot of the fundamentals that artists used to have to go through to earn their stripes are slowly fading, especially artist development. An unknown artist might make a hit and instead of being developed, their kind of just thrown out there so you have a lot of one-hit wonders and artists that eventually can’t live up to the demands of the business.
What are your thoughts on the current music scene in Atlanta?
I love it! I love to see how we have transformed over the years and still have maintained a very big presence on the charts. It makes me proud to see how far Atlanta has come and also I look forward to seeing the direction of where these artists will go in the future.
You garnered a tremendous amount of success at 18 years old. What business and personal advice would the present day Jermaine Dupri offer his teenage self?
I would have told myself to take a little more time for myself and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I was young so I had the energy and it was nonstop work, even though I enjoyed it. It all goes by so fast that you look back and realize that you didn’t take full advantage of opportunities to relax a little even though you’re working. Sometimes we find ourselves working so hard we forget to look up and enjoy other things; the simple things in life.
There is no such thing as privacy these days. Being in the public eye, how do you handle constant scrutiny but also engage your fans through social networking?
I’m very big on social networking, which is why I created Global 14. It’s more like a community where people can directly interact according to their specific area of interest. These days social networking is the way to stay abreast of what’s going on and to be a part of the global conversation. It’s without question necessary for fans to be able to get real time information about their favorite celebrity. It’s just no way around it because you can reach so many people instantly and promote your projects how you see fit.