The documentary special, “Power, Influence and Hip-Hop: The Remarkable Rise of So So Def," explores the prolific career of hip hop mogul and legendary producer Jermaine Dupri and features never-before-seen footage and original interviews with Dupri’s contemporaries including Mariah Carey, Usher, Snoop Dogg. The film uncovers the unique stories that make up the history of So So Def, one of the very few black-owned labels from its humble beginnings to multi-platinum success and stardom.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Hey, everyone I'm your host, Brittany Jones-Cooper, and welcome to Build. Today, I'm talking to Jermaine Dupri, who founded the record label So So Def in 1993, specializing in hip-hop and R&B, and managing artists like Kris Kross, Bow Wow, and Usher. In the documentary "Power, Influence and Hip-Hop: The Remarkable Rise of So So Def," we get an inside look at how Dupri's creative genius took the label from humble beginnings to multi-platinum success. Take a look.
- So So Def was a pinnacle force for music that changed the world.
- ATLS, turn the fuck up.
- Back in the early 90s, the south wasn't prominent.
- It wasn't a lot of southern people getting played on the radio.
- LA was known for Snoop and Dr Dre. New York, Eric B & Rakim. So So Def helped Atlanta get on the map.
- JD was the first person to make Atlanta really pop.
- His train of thought it was different than the average CEO. Because he had a variety of artists. Most labels were focused on rap or just focused on R&B. He was able to do them both.
- She's a rapper.
- He's a diva. (LAUGHING) Devo.
- So So Def, Don Chi Chi, Jermaine Dupri. I think that he is a major icon of our time. The music is one part of it, but also hip-hop is a culture, and that was what Jermaine brought across.
- The energy JD was putting out in the world was influential.
- You know, So So Def is a statement. Too fierce, Black power.
- In Atlanta, for a lot of folks in the hood, there wasn't an outlet.
- Jermaine Dupri gave me my first [BLEEP] shot ever.
- He had a way of pushing artists to emotional honesty.
- It's in his DNA, that's all he knows. He's been creating hits his whole life.
- So So Def marked Atlanta as a hot spot of music. Like, hello, we're talented. And we have a sound and a style and a vibe, that no one else possesses.
- Everybody that he's touched has been successful because he put the right spirit in it.
- He created a brand that people could relate to.
- So So Def has changed hip-hop for the world, and JD is a musical genius.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Please help me welcome Jermaine Dupri.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yo, yo, what up? [LAUGHING]
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: How you doing?
JERMAINE DUPRI: I'm good, how you doing?
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I'm so good. I watched this last night and my only complaint is that I wanted more. I--
JERMAINE DUPRI: That's pretty good.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Yeah, I mean, like so many of us, the people in the audience, I, obviously, know your music. All the people you've produced and managed, and have been a fan of yours for a long time. I don't think I understood how much of a genius you were in this field and how respected you were and just how much progress you made. So congratulations on all that. I think this documentary is coming along at a really good time in music to-- to be reminded of, kind of--
JERMAINE DUPRI: Thank you.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: What's important. So tell me, why now? Why is this now, like, you wanted to tell your story?
JERMAINE DUPRI: I feel like, you know, after you do get inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, you celebrate 25 years of your record company. Just like a lot of milestones that, if you continue to keep pushing, as hard as I do, in this fast paced world we live in now. Some of this stuff that's in this doc probably won't even be talked about. I mean, because, you have to do it at some point, you know. Because then it might get-- then you'd probably be saying, oh it's too long. It's too long. Like, you know what I'm saying, so you got to break it up.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I don't think I'd ever say it was too long. I mean, anybody who's a music head, or has favorite songs is gonna love this. And I think, especially, getting to just know you a little more in your background. And I don't think I understood that you started out as a dancer. And that was really an education for you, being on the road and understanding the industry. So what impact did that-- that time in your life have on the rest of your career?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Every bit of it. You know, '84, '85, '86, is like the most, I think, the most important years of hip-hop, because this was when hip-hop was sealed. And this is when the understanding of where hip-hop was gonna go. And people that was a part of that to now, seeing where we are now. So that was, you know, I couldn't even-- I wouldn't change anything. None of that.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You were a kid. How old were you when you were in "The Freaks Come Out At Night?"
JERMAINE DUPRI: 12.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: 12 years old.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And so did somebody teach you how to dance, or that was just in you?
JERMAINE DUPRI: I mean, I watched people. You know, if you go on a-- you dance in a circle, people dancing. You actually pick up what they doing, so you teach yourself, kind of. But, you know, from afar, they're teaching you.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Can you still dance like that?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Just checking.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah, of course.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: So So Def really, sort of, took off with Kris Kross.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And again, I think that's something that people are going to be reminded of, or learn for the first time, is that you discovered these boys in a mall, wrote the entire album.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And really launched them into stardom.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: So when you look back at that moment, do you-- do you signal that-- is that the beginning of your, kind of, growth and as a producer?
JERMAINE DUPRI: I mean, as a successful role. You know, I had a group prior to Kris Kross called Silk Tymes Leather that wasn't so successful. Right? And it's interesting because once you start making successful records, I went through this period in my life where I didn't want to make. I wanted to have cool records. And sometimes cool records and not successful records. They're just cool. And the culture likes them, and they're cool to the culture. And I couldn't make those type of records. [LAUGHING] And I wanted those type of records, but I think when I make those type of records, nobody pays that much attention to it. So like my Silk Tymes Leather record, I think it was like a opportunity for 17-year-old kid to write a whole album. But I don't never really get no props for that. Yeah. [LAUGHING]
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Kris Kross is so, I mean, iconic. Do you feel like people now can respect what that did for hip-hop, what that did at the time? Like now?
JERMAINE DUPRI: No, no, I mean, it's not really anywhere I can go where people don't tell me that Kris Kross impacted they life. You know? And that-- that, you know. That trophy of people telling me that Kris Kross impacted they life is bigger than the press giving me props for what Kris Kross did.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And Snoop is featured throughout this documentary, pretty prominently.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Love Snoop. And he says, for you, you're always ahead of the curve. And so for you, creatively, where does that come from? Where does that inspiration come from to-- to be different, and to kind of break down barriers and do things that haven't really been seen?
JERMAINE DUPRI: It comes from being in Atlanta, when, you know, you don't have no choice. You got-- you gotta figure out something, you know, because people was given, you know, giving me a hard time. The whole time. You know, throughout the whole process of making music. You know, when I put out Kris Kross, they were successful, but then I came with Xscape, and people was like, why would you-- why would you do an R&B group? You've got the biggest rap group in the country, why? And I'm like, that's not, you know, my focus is somewhere else. And when I, you know, me saying that made people be like, OK, this guy, we'll see him-- we won't see him again. [CHUCKLES]
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: A lot of you also credit So So Def with putting Atlanta on the map, as far as hip-hop and R&B in the industry. Why was that especially important in the 90s, where we had east coast, west coast, and all the beat that was going on, for you to be able to bring Atlanta up as a destination for music?
JERMAINE DUPRI: I don't know that-- I don't know that I had any-- I don't know that the three things had anything to do with each other. Like the east coast, west coast beef, that was something else. That didn't have anything to do with Atlanta. Me just being from Atlanta, you-- you know, when Kris Kross came out, people was telling me, Jermaine, you should move. . You-- if you move to New York, you'll be much bigger. If you move to LA, your career will go boom, it'll blow up. And something just told me, nah. I'm in my to space, I'm in my space. I gonna make this work. Difficult, yes. Did I have to do things that other people weren't doing, yes. But it was never discouraging. It just made me want to do it, so-- And then once I started seeing people move, and people gravitate more to Atlanta, I was just like, you know, it worked, it worked, it worked, you know.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: What was it about the Atlanta sound that you think was so, kind of, different or interesting for people to hear?
JERMAINE DUPRI: New. It was just fresh, you know what I'm saying? Just a new-- new look on life, and just a fresher way to hear things than what had been heard, probably.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Yeah.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: So you mentioned that you got inducted into the Songwriting Hall of Fame, applause for that. That is a huge
JERMAINE DUPRI: Thank you.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Accomplishment. And just to remind people, you've written songs like "Confessions", "Let It Burn", "We Belong Together", "Money Ain't a Thing", the entire Kris Kross album, the Usher "My Way" album, the-- Bow Wow's first album.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Brat's first album.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Brat's first album.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Xscape's first album.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: So--
JERMAINE DUPRI: [LAUGHING]
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: What does writer's block look for you? Because it doesn't seem like you have any.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Oh, yeah, I showed that. I showed that. I showed that in here. When I'm writing, I'm driving down the street and I'm writing "Confessions", that's what I had. I had a writer's block. I left the studio, and I had got, you know, this was back when CDS was out, you put it-- get to CD, put a CD in the car, and you go down the street. I had writer's block. I couldn't write at the studio. What I wanted to say wasn't coming out at the studio, so I had to get in the car. When I got in the car, and I started driving on the street, that's when, you know, every time I'm in LA with my ex-girlfriend, and every time you call me I'm tell you I'm working, oh. Oh. OK, all right. Oh, there it is, right there.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Can you explain what it feels like, though, when that clicks? Because I think for a lot of people, writing a song feels daunting and impossible, and that's, like, where you seem to thrive. So can you explain what it feels like when it clicks?
JERMAINE DUPRI: No.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: No.
JERMAINE DUPRI: [LAUGHING] Because you don't know what it feels like until the artist sing it, you know. I mean, like, you also have to-- you have to get to gain artist's trust to believe that they can make what you're saying to them sound 100 times better. I don't really have a clue on how I figured this out, but that's just the things, like, you know. And then you'll never know, you know. I'm riding in the car, sound good to me. But then you gotta-- you gotta take that, what you're saying, to somebody else. And you got to sing it to them the way it sounds to you, and you gotta pray that it sounds to them like it sounds to you. And then they want to do it that way. Sometimes it don't work.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: That said, and I'm not asking you to pick a favorite, because I'm sure that's probably really difficult. But is there a song of yours that you wrote that one you hear it, you're like, yeah that's good?
JERMAINE DUPRI: "Nice and Slow". Usher, "Nice and Slow" because that song is almost 20 years old, and if you go on Instagram, you see people, like, dancing in the rain and they singing this song. And I'm like, wow, that song makes you want to do that? You know. And that was one that, you know, I wrote it so fast. It's like, but it's so special to people. So it's just, that's one of the-- probably the most special. Oh, Kris Kross, "Jump", too. But those two records, they're pretty-- they up there with me.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You said you wrote-- wrote "Nice and Slow" fast, what does that mean?
JERMAINE DUPRI: It's really fast. 7 o'clock on the dot, under my drop top, cruising the streets. Like, I was saying this so fast. Like, yeah. Like, sometimes you just sit there and you like-- Soon as I heard where, you know, I had to do the beat. Once I heard-- listen to the beat back, and I was listen to it, I'm just-- it started coming out fast. As opposed to, sometimes you-- I mean, it take me like a whole week to write a song, maybe. Not some of the big ones, but the big records, they come fast.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You've gotta do it in front of people.
JERMAINE DUPRI: It jump 30 minutes. Yeah, at the most.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: One of the cool--
JERMAINE DUPRI: "We Belong Together", sorry, not to cut you off. But "We Belong Together," about 8 hours, thought. That's a long time.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I was actually gonna bring up "We Belong Together" because Mariah Carey, again, is featured really prominently in this. I have to say, I have never seen Mariah like this. She-- I can tell that you guys are friends. I can tell that you are really collaborative partners. She seemed so relaxed in this documentary.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And it was really beautiful to see her like that. Because I feel like a lot of time she'll have a guard up, but with you, it was really chill.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah. I mean, well, Mariah knows that I'm not gonna tarnish her. And she's been tarnished a lot of times, and she knows that I'm not gonna do anything that's gonna make people dislike her. Or I'm not going to throw any flames on-- fuel on the flames of those that do dislike her. I'm not gonna-- I'm not that person for her.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: It seems like a really special friendship. She did mention "We Belong Together" and that writing process, and how you guys were in the studio. But then she more or less, kind of, alludes that it could have been written, inspired by Janet Jackson.
JERMAINE DUPRI: (LAUGHING) What?
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: That's what the read I got.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Really?
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: From-- I watched the--
JERMAINE DUPRI: Tell me, I don't mind, we can feel it.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I'm asking you.
JERMAINE DUPRI: No, really? I didn't get that. What's the point where she says?
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Well she was like, you know, it's kind of inspired by a lot of people, but the-- but the whole part--
JERMAINE DUPRI: She included to saying-- Yeah, she's not talking about me.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Oh, OK.
Kinda sounded like she--
JERMAINE DUPRI: She's not talking about me, she's talking about somebody that probably was in her life. As she probably-- I think. That's how I took it.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Oh, I took it differently.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Oh, OK. All right.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: But what does it mean for you that, not only you have worked with these big artists like Brat and Bow Wow and Snoop and Mariah. And to hear them say the things that they say about you in this documentary, what does that make you feel like?
JERMAINE DUPRI: I guess, like, accomplished, I guess. That's the only thing I could think of, like, you know, like, I did it. You know, this also spawned from a conversation that I had with Babyface one day, and I had Kris Kross, number 1 record. And Kris Kross was number 1 with, like, Bruce Springsteen. So I was, like, you can't tell me nothing. Like, I was little exile, here. Oh, but I ran into Babyface. And Babyface like, oh, you got that little Kris Kross "Jump" record. I'm looking around like, who he talking to, little? Kris Kross "Jump" record? What are you talking about? What kind of conver-- How does that-- that's how you gonna talk about my record? So he said this, and he was like, man, let me explain something to you. That record don't mean nothing until you can do that multiple times. And he said that, it kind of, like, completely killed all of my hype about that song. I think that was, like, probably the last day I listened to Kris Kross, that record. And it was like, Xscape, Brat, I gotta go. I gotta go. I gotta get out of here, I gotta go. You know, I mean, so when I listen to these multiple people talk about me, I just feel like I did that. Like, if I move myself from one person talking about me to the next person, then I can-- I'm able to have multiple people talk about me. Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And that you have uplifted them and inspired their careers in a lot of ways. One with Scooter Braun, who I had no idea that his career started with you.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah, yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: So when you look at him now, going through, you know, he's just such a influence in the industry. That's part of your legacy. Is that something that's important you, just to make sure you're lifting up other producers as well?
JERMAINE DUPRI: 100%. And I think, you know, one of the things that I feel like-- is like things that I want people to know about me and about So So Def, and about the legacy of So So Def is that, you know, we have-- I was at Hot 97 today and they was talking about how some-- I said something about who had the strongest influence in Atlanta. OutKast or Jermaine Dupri? And one of the things that people miss, even trying to throw that out, is that I created an institution. OutKast as a group, and it made records, but I gave people jobs. I gave people-- I took Scooter from Emory. He dropped out of school to work for me. And from there, he's become a mastermind in his music industry. Lil John worked for me. He came from So So Def. He's gone on to become the Lil John that you know. Like, my company and these other executives out here, ya'll probably don't-- probably don't know, but they work in different companies. And they manage these companies very well and do a lot of different things. You know, they all graduated from the high school of So So Def. Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: One note on Scooter, and help me understand. All this Taylor Swift stuff doesn't seem like that big a deal to me. That's, like, par for the course in the industry, right? Like, if a--
JERMAINE DUPRI: I mean, the crazy part about it that I feel like the press is leaving out, is that he didn't just get Taylor Swift's masters. He got Lady Antebellum, I think-- all these people's masters. So, we should-- like, if you're gonna make this story, make it sound good. Put everybody in there. Like, yeah, he got all they masters. Now let's talk about it. Like, you know what I'm saying. So it's like, I don't know. To me, I told him it was a hell of a business move. It is what it is, you know I mean? You get an opportunity, you supposed to do it. I think my-- my father sent me a message. Hold on, let me just look and make sure I say this right. And he said, some people-- opportunity comes, some people pounce and some denounce. Or something like that, right, that's-- I guess, right? That's-- you know, that's it, right? I guess that's what it is.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: He pounced.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah, he pounced.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: He got paid.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: That's how it works.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Well, he didn't get paid. He paid. Yeah, so, he's yet to get paid. But he's gonna-- you know, it's there. It's all there.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I think he's gonna get paid.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah, 100%.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Throughout watching this, the first thing I thought of was Berry Gordy, and then, as we kind of got to the end of it, you sort of referenced that, that is somebody who has inspired you. So when you look at building your legacy, is-- is he somebody who really inspires you? You model after him and look at the work he's done?
JERMAINE DUPRI: 100% I mean, I just told the people at The Post. Like, this side of my body is Berry Gordy, this side of my body is, like, Teddy Riley. The top part of my body is, like, Quincy Jones, like, I built this person. This is the person that I built, with all of these different elements, you know. I wanted to produce R&B and rap music, like Quincy Jones. I wanted to own a record company and be the record company in my city, like Berry Gordy. You know. I wanted to have nonstop number 1 records, like Teddy Riley. I mean, it's so many different elements that I, you know, that these guys offer for you to take. And you just got to figure it out. And that's how I built myself, watching these people. And talking to myself, and saying, and building this person.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: What motivates you now?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Knowing that people watching me, you know. I finally feel like-- I told Usher this, working on his new album, like, we had these conversations about all of these different people. Prince, Michael Jackson, all these people. Unfortunately, they not here no more, so now we are these people. You know, now Usher is Michael Jackson or Prince, not the-- not the same light. But these-- that's who people look at for new music to take us somewhere. You know I mean? So same thing with Mariah, she's, you know. People look at these artists to do something to change what they're listening to. If they don't like it or if they love it, to even extend what they're listening to. We are these people, and it's our job. So I'm motivated to know that it's my job to continue to find more artists and try to make "Thriller". [LAUGHING]
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: We can't wait.
JERMAINE DUPRI: (LAUGHING) Try, try.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: On that note, you said you're in the studio with Usher right now. How's that going?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Great.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Yeah?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: When can we expect to hear something?
JERMAINE DUPRI: I don't know. I mean, if it was up to me, right now. I'd play it right now. But, I know, every interview I go today, they'd be probably getting scared. Like this guy, JD's crazy. If he pulled out his phone, I'm ready to play right now. But, I mean, I'm gonna respect a-- you know, because it's they choice, whenever they, you know, when they ready. Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And then before we go to questions, is there an artist right now that you're really excited about, somebody either you're developing or just somebody that you're watching? That you think is, kind of like, capturing a sound right now that we--
JERMAINE DUPRI: I mean, I always-- I'm always, you know, doing new artists. I've got a new artist by the name of Cedar. C-E-D-A-R. From Atlanta, a rapper. I don't know what's gonna happen with him. I never know what's gonna happen with these artists, but I'm, you know, I'm out here aggressively promoting my young artists. And, you know, from there, it's gonna be more, and, you know, more and more and more. Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I have a demo tape back in--
JERMAINE DUPRI: OK, all right, all right.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: If you're looking for talent.
JERMAINE DUPRI: All right.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I'm joking. We have questions. Who do we have first?
JERMAINE DUPRI: How you doing?
- Good. So--
JERMAINE DUPRI: She was ready.
- Oh, thank you. So a lot of artists think that, just because they make a 60 second video on Instagram or social media, that-- because it's easier to get discovered nowadays, that it's easier to get in the industry. What advice can you to those who don't realize that it takes more than that to be a successful artist?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Well, it doesn't actually, now. I think that that's the problem. It's like, they need to not be able to get into it, so that they can get better. I think that any artist that's out there, they should want to go through a process of getting beat, so that you can get better. What is happening in our industry now that kids are putting out songs that they know are trash. All right? They know-- they know it's not good. And then they come right back like a week later, and they got a new song. Right? That's-- That's a move of-- that-- that was-- that didn't work. Didn't nobody like that at all, right? So, you know, my pride-- When I was coming up, I had to go through this process of people telling me, Jermaine, this song is not good. And not coming out, which would save my life, I don't want you to hear the records that's not good, by the way. And I think-- I would hope that any young artists would feel the same. You shouldn't want people to hear you at your worst. You should only want people to hear you when you're really good.
- Thank you.
JERMAINE DUPRI: You're welcome.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Is that why some of this music is so bad now? Because all I do is play 90s playlists because I can't stand some of the new stuff.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah, well, I mean, the problem with it is that, yeah, these kids are releasing records that are not mixed. That they just got an idea and they homeboy came in and was smoking, and was like, yo, that's it! Put that up on Instagram, whatever. You post it, and then somebody else that feels like you feel, they might like it. And then it catches this buzz. It goes viral. Then it goes viral, then it hits people like you, and you're like, this is trash. And then it's like, oh man, I ain't-- And if you probably-- if you speak to them a year after that song, they'd be like, I never really wanted that to come out. It just happened, and it went viral. And I-- and you know, people liked it, but that wasn't something I was really into. And that's-- that's the process. I feel like we got to get-- that gotta stop. Like, people gotta stop putting out records that you know are not really there yet. I mean, if not, then you're gonna keep getting beat by people like Drake, because he don't do that. You know? [LAUGHING]
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Next question.
JERMAINE DUPRI: How you doing?
- Hi. I'm actually here asking on behalf of Stanley, who couldn't be here. He's in South Carolina.
JERMAINE DUPRI: All right.
- He really wanted to know, out of all of the people that you worked with, who had the rawest talent?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Oh, man.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Making you think.
JERMAINE DUPRI: I want to say Xscape. Xscape, to this day, Xscape sound like the record. Like, they sound like what they sound like. It is what it is with them. Yeah, Xscape. Yeah. That's it, simple.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Then on that, what has it been like for you getting to see them reunite, and just make, you know, just to share that music again?
JERMAINE DUPRI: I mean, well, that's, you know, that's a space that was-- that's been waiting in my heart, for them to do that. Anyways, like, you know, this is my first group. So I-- I ain't never wanted them to break up. I never wanted them to go anywhere. And I always stood on the ground of saying, nobody can sing better than this crew. Right? So them getting back together is like, oh yeah, I finally get what I've been seeing. Now ya'll realized how good you are, OK. Well, good for you.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: That must be hard, though, you're dealing with these artists. And you are doing your job, but in so many situations, as you see in the doc, it's like, they have to live their lives and do what they're going to do. And that must be sometimes difficult to deal with.
JERMAINE DUPRI: I mean, you just-- you just-- You know. I mean, you know, I see it before they see it. So I can't-- I don't expect them to see it the way I see it, you know what I mean? They shouldn't expect me to see they life the way they see it as well, so, yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I think we've got 1 more question. Way in the back.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Deion Sanders jersey on.
- How you doing, Jermaine?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah.
- My question is, what advice would you give to the young-- young guys, and the upcoming artists to learn about the business?
JERMAINE DUPRI: Well, I have so many mixed thoughts about the business, right? Because I feel like, right. Well, we hear so much about people talking about being independent. And we hear so much about people talking about owning they own masters. And we hear so much about people saying, you know, don't sign to a record company, do your own thing. And I feel like, that's an interesting space to be in if you can do it. Right? But 9 times out of 10, the artist that you're watching, and the artists that we listen to, that's at the top of the charts, they're not independent, right? And I think that somebody has to start educating people on that, because sometimes, I hear people say this, I'm like, yeah, OK, but, you're telling an artist, a young kid, don't sign a record deal. He-- he's got people wanting to sign with him. I mean, wanting him to sign. And this kid is watching Drake, right? Drake is on Universal. It says OVO, but it's Universal. No matter how ya'll how want to flip it around. Whatever you want to say. Now, if he makes a better deal for himself with Universal, that's what you're supposed to do. You supposed to go in there and make a great deal. And make it better for yourself. But a lot of times, a lot of stuff that these people are seeing and these artists are hearing, I don't always feel like it's the best information. So, me, I would tell you to, you know, get a great lawyer, be as business minded as you can, and really understand your value. And don't-- don't-- don't undersell your value, yourself, you know? Get-- get out of it what you feel like-- that you're supposed to get out of it. If they like you, and they really like you, they'll really pay you. Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And find somebody like you, who believes in what you're creating. Because that was the overwhelming theme throughout this, is that you were working with artists who you really believed in, and you wanted to help them rise.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah, yeah. I want me-- I also, you know, I wouldn't say I believed in them. Like, I got-- Da Brat project, I felt like I had failed. I did, because I felt like I failed myself. I felt-- for I was-- For the first time, I was asking myself, yeah, you might not be as good as you think you are. Because you're not coming up with this at all. And I would go back and listen to these songs that I did for Brat, and I'm like, this ain't it. This ain't it. I can't put this out, this ain't gonna work, right? And so, you know, how far I had to go and continue to keep pushing myself, and just waking up every day and going into studio and trying to figure it out. I could've really got-- I was close to being discouraged. Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: How long did that album take, then?
JERMAINE DUPRI: 2 years, yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: And typically--
JERMAINE DUPRI: Not 2 years to make the album. 2 years for me to find what "Funkdafied" was all about. Why we should even be in that area, what got us to that point, right? And it just was like, paying attention to Brat, you know I mean? Paying attention to her as a person. Thinking about her style and everything, and like, really formulating what that was. Yeah.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Well, you nailed it.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Thank you. [LAUGHING] Thank you.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Like I said, this documentary, I think a lot of people are going to love, for either reinforcing what they already know about you, or just learning all of the impact that you've had on the industry. So--
JERMAINE DUPRI: Thank you.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Just thank you for the music that you've created. It's a soundtrack to so many of our lives, I know definitely me included. So just know that your work is very much appreciated.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Thank you. Thank you, I appreciate it.
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Yeah, and if you guys want to check it out, the "Power, Influence and Hip-Hop: The Remarkable Rise of So So Def" premieres on Thursday, July 18 on WE tv.
JERMAINE DUPRI: Yeah!
BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Please give it up for Jermaine Dupri.
[AUDIENCE CLAPPING AND CHEERING]