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Jermaine Dupri Biography

Last updated: 04/06/2000 07:01:55 AM


In a decade in which popular music has embraced the urban contemporary genre like no other era before, Jermaine Dupri and his Atlanta-based So So Def Recordings have been instrumental in making that possible. It was this young visionary who saw multi-platinum talent in two teens in an Atlanta mall, that later became rap duo Kriss Kross.

It is Jermaine Dupri, the acts he developed on his own label and those outside of So So Def who have benefited from his gifts. All of which contribute to what observers have deemed the most successful decade for R&B and Hip-Hop ever. "What has set So So Def apart from other record labels is our being able to come up with what has never been seen, or heard before," says Dupri, who secured his label deal in 1993 at the age of 19. Four years after he produced his first act, Silk Tymes Leather.

So So Def created acts that were diverse in sound and image. Like Xscape, "four little girls who were the ghetto version of En Vogue. In addition, there was no female rapper like Da Brat in 1994," states Jermaine. "She was the first female solo artist to go platinum because she wasn¹t afraid to say what she felt, and look like she wanted to look. Da Brat paved the way for Lil¹ Kim, Foxy Brown, and all those female rappers out there making a name for themselves. Kris Kross was something people had never, ever seen. Two little kids rapping like the big boys. With Kris Kross came the trend of wearing your clothes backwards. Kris Kross was the total package. This is how we do it at So So Def. We fill voids."

Its Vision

The CEO concedes that So So Def has no needs to fill of its own. The profile of Dupri¹s outside work has certainly bolstered his position in the industry. "I would even say it has pretty much made the name," he says. Now, more than any of the hit making years past, Dupri is dedicating a new concerted energy to the urban music force he controls, his label, So So Def.

Dupri is ushering in this "new era for So So Def and music everywhere" with multi-platinum artists Jagged Edge and Da Brat, and the new players on the So So Def team, multi-platium super kid Lil¹ Bow-Wow and rapper R.O.C. coming in 2001.

"Eventually, we plan to simply strengthen ourselves as an independent entity," explains Vice President and General Counsel, Phillip F. Ransom. "Columbia is certainly our partner in the respect that it finances the operation and recording cost, distributes the product, markets and promotes it. However, the whole creative element is solely and completely our responsibility. We come up with new artist, get albums completed, delivered and make sure each one is as successful as possible." However, the ultimate plan for So So Def is to gear itself up as a full force multi-media entity. When you pick up Jagged Edge¹s debut there will be a web browser linking you to the So So Def site. There you can pick up the first So So Def Bass compilation, listen to the upcoming Trina Broussard CD, and order the T-shirt you saw Jermaine Dupri wearing in that Da Brat video.

"There is a lot of competition now between smaller independent labels distributed by major companies," says So So Def¹s Vice President of Artist Development, Bart Phillips. " Therefore we have got to mean more than music. What we have to do is take So So Def and all its potential into the next millennium. We are going to be very involved in the Internet and just using Hip-Hop culture to get to the next level. In the future, So So Def will incorporate publishing and video production, soundtracks, movies and television into that company¹s daily functions." " Most of the people who were employed by So So Def at its inception are still here because they saw potential of the company early on, " says Phillips. " So So Def has been in existence for almost five years, before Bad Boy and Death Row and very shortly after La Face records started. Here was a kid that, at 19, said ŒI want a record company.¹ He had this huge Kris Kross record under his belt and used that as the means of getting what he wanted. At 19, Jermaine was business-minded; he didn¹t take all his money and spend it as the average teenager would. He put a lot of his money into building a bona fide record company." "Lots of peaks, and very, very, few valleys." Dupri adds, " With all that we have done, its nowhere near where I want to be. We¹re out to dominate."

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