Jermaine Dupri’s Journey to The Hall of Fame
If you had to compile a list of the most influential music moguls of the past few decades, especially when it came to hip-hop and R&B, you would be foolish to not put Jermaine Durpi at the top of that list. Throughout his career, Dupri has been a trendsetter, and a successful businessman, influencing hip-hop and R&B in a way that few others have. But on Tuesday February 6th, he earned perhaps the most important accolade of his career. The Songwriters Hall of Fame officially announced the inductees for the year of 2018. The list included many legendary songwriters such as John Mellencamp, Alan Jackson, Bill Anderson, Steve Dorff, and of course, Jermaine Dupri.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame is no small accomplishment, particularly if your specialty is hip-hop. Legendary hip-hop artist and fellow businessman Jay Z was inducted last year, making Dupri only the second hip-hop act to ever be welcomed. However, when you look over the renowned executive’s resume, it is nearly impossible to come up with a reason why he is undeserving of this award. Over the years the multitalented executive has worked with memorable acts such as Lil Bow Wow, Jagged Edge, Nelly, J-Kwon, Elton John, TLC, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and countless others. His impact spreads far beyond the music. His rise to fame and countless platinum plaques gave him the platform to change popular culture along the way.
Born Jermaine Dupri Mauldin in North Carolina, but raised in Atlanta, he started his career in the music scene as a hip-hop dancer. Fittingly, his father pursued a career in the music industry. His connections earned JD the opportunity to appear on the Diana Ross show as well as a Whodini music video, showing off his dancing skills. These breaks were the first taste that Dupri had of the music industry. From there, his passion for it would only continue to grow, eventually shaping him into a determined producer, songwriter, and rapper, with a destiny set on shaking the hip-hop world. Who would have thought that a hip-hop dancer would one day help mold the style of music for years to come?
His rise to fame began when he was still young, during the developmental years of hip-hop and rap. In 1991 Dupri would discover the teenage sensation that would change his life forever, and lead him down the path of being one of the best producers and songwriters hip-hop has ever seen. In a local mall, he crossed paths with two adolescent rappers who went by the stage name Kris Kross. With the new-found help of Jermaine Dupri, the teen duo released their first album Totally Krossed Out the following year. With stand-out hits like “Jump” and “Warm It Up”, combined with their trademark backwards look that was said to have been conceived by Dupri himself, the project went multi-platinum. With the breakout success of Kriss Kross, JD proved that he both understood how to find talent, as well as set popular new trends. This opened a door for the young prodigy, giving him the ability to start his own label So So Def Recordings in 1993.
Now having his own label, Dupri had the power to discover and sign new artists. This lead to the success of R&B acts such as Xscape and Da Brat, who both signed to So So Def Recordings, and both had platinum-selling albums. It was beginning to seem as though everything Dupri touched went platinum. His next defining moment was in 1997 when he co-wrote and produced many of the tracks on another rising R&B singer’s album, Usher’s My Way. Several of the tracks including “You Make Me Wanna”, Nice & Slow” and “My Way” were chart-toppers as well as platinum singles. The fact that Usher and Dupri’s collaborated work ended up selling over two million copies right out the gate would soon come back into play in a major way for the two later down the road.
In the first 5 or 6 years of his music industry career, Jermaine Dupri proved that he understood what it took to be a top-tier producer. However, in 1988, it was time for him to use his skills on someone else. He released several solo albums, but his debut album Jermaine Dupri Presents Life In 1472: The Original Soundtrack went platinum. This is exactly what one would expect from a multi-platinum producer. But this proved that he not only could create quality music for others behind the scenes but for himself as well. Not only that, but the executive amazingly both met Lil Bow Wow and was involved with Destiny’s Child’s debut album same year as his chart-topping debut was released. Clearly, 1988 was an influential year for the producer and his label.
In 2004 Dupri linked back up with one of his most successful collaborators ever, Usher. This time, it was one of the most unforgettable R&B records of all time, Confessions. This album, complete with singles like “Burn”, “Confessions Part II, and “My Boo”, would eventually become certified diamond by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). With this, Dupri had officially graduated his writing and songwriting skills from platinum to diamond. The only certification that could top diamond was a Grammy, and in 2005 with the help of Mariah Carey, he did exactly that. He had collaborated with the singer before, in the early 90s, but it was not nearly as impactful as 2005’s smash hit “We Belong Together”. The Grammy-winning track was included on perhaps her most memorable album, The Emancipation of Mimi. Let’s not forget Dupri was also involved in Mariah Carey’s Christmas album that consisted of mostly original holiday songs, including a song that still comes back to top the charts every Christmas season, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”.
After many years of discovering and signing breakout acts like Lil Bow Wow and Dem Franchize Boyz, and practically producing entire careers, Dupri decided it was time to diversify in the later 2000s. Most recently, he has used his writing skills in a different way by publishing a memoir titled “Young, Rich and Dangerous: The Making of a Music Mogul”. He even created a reality television series called The Rap Game that focuses on hip-hop artists in and around Atlanta. His infamous label So So Def Recordings will also be releasing a compilation album this summer made up of the label’s greatest hits, most of them thanks to Dupri, and will be titled So So Def 25.
Clearly Jermaine Dupri is skillful with a pen in the studio and knows when he hears a hit. The recognition he has received from the Songwriters Hall of Fame is more than well deserved. However, this new notch in his belt can be attributed to more than producing. Jermaine Dupri was and is a trendsetter. He has an unmatched ability to adapt to changing fads and trends, keeping his work one step ahead of the curve. For instance, over the years Dupri has continuously drawn the eyes of superstars and media outlets alike towards the diverse hub of hip-hop and R&B music that is Atlanta. In a recent interview with the radio show The Breakfast Club, he gave his own personal opinion on his level of influence, especially in Atlanta. “As far as culture, me, I brought people to Atlanta that had never seen Atlanta. I showed everybody in the world Magic City—I was the first person to start throwing money in the club. I had to pay for all the magazines to come to Atlanta…no one was paying attention to what’s going on. As far as culture goes and having parties, bringing Puff, bringing Envy and Clue to Atlanta, that was all me.” It can be argued that Dupri was and is a pioneer for popular hip-hop culture. His journey through the game has inspired a whole new generation of artists, making him one of the best, and most identifiable hip-hop music moguls along the way.