With over 30 years of experience in the industry, Jermaine Dupri has been a staple in the entertainment industry. He is a CEO of So So Def Records, a Grammy Award winning song writer and producer as well as a DJ and an author. He is also the star and executive producer for the hit show The Rap Game on The Lifetime Network. Just from that alone you can see that Jermaine knows what it takes to succeed.
Dupri has worked with some of the biggest young talents in the music including Bow Wow, Da Brat, Kris Kross and TLC. He has a proven track record of cultivating young talent and making them into stars. Not only is he successful in business, but at his home too. Jermaine had a daughter who is getting ready for college. He can’t wait for her to go out into the world and explore it for herself.
I had the great fortune of talking with Jermaine about fatherhood, his hit show, and what it takes to be a CEO.
Art Eddy: Let’s talk about your show The Rap Game. You have been in the entertainment industry for some time now. You know what works and what doesn’t. What did you learn from Season 1 of The Rap Game to this season and did you make any changes on how you produced the show for Season 2?
Jermaine Dupri: We made changes when we realized that people are more into these kids getting into their craft. The rappers got a little more complex this time. It is a tougher challenge in Season 2. The challenges are a little tougher than they were in Season 1. We were just trying to feel each other out. People got eliminated in the first episode already, which we didn’t do in the last season.
It is not an elimination show. I had people on the show that I felt should be on the show, but they couldn’t take being under the pressure. It was stuff like that. Season 1 taught me that there are audiences for each type of rap style that each one of these kids would have.
AE: From the time you started out in the rap game to now a lot of things have changed. Artists have many outlets to get their music heard these days. Still to have you and other giants in the game like Timbaland, Snoop Dogg, Da Brat, and others come on the show and mentor these kids. Having those kids learn from you and the others is beyond tremendous. What do you hope the young artists takeaway from their time on the show?
JD: I hope they take away the love for the culture. I hope people at home take away the same thing. To understand the culture of Rap and how much you have to study to actually be at the top of this. I think a lot of that has gotten lost. I hope people take away the love for the culture.
AE: I have been a huge fan of your music whether you are on the mic to behind the scenes as a producer. You have made so many hit records. When you are in the studio when do you know a song will be a hit? Is it different for each song?
JD: It is different for every record. You hope that you have this moment. I know that I do. I hope that I have this one little moment that catches me. It makes me say oh man that might be a hit. You can feel it or it is something that shines in the way of music.
Let’s Get Married, by Jagged Edge I knew immediately that it was going to be a hit. If it wasn’t a hit it was definitely going to be played at weddings. We actually didn’t make it to be a wedding song. We were trying to make a good R&B song. It is not that sappy wedding record. I knew that it was going to resonate with women and guys.
AE: As the CEO of So, So Def Records how do you look at your business on a daily basis and look to see what adjustments to make if any to run a successful business?
JD: It is all about the personnel that is working with you. That is the key to the whole thing. You got to have good people that will work with you and get you to where you got to go. In running a good company I would say you staff is damn near eighty percent of the process. You got to have good people that are working for you. You got have people who understand the person that they are working for. So when they are in that moment of truth and have to make that decision they make a decision that based on what they believe that you would actually do.
AE: Switching to fatherhood now, what were some of the first few thoughts that popped into your mind when you found out that you were going to be a dad?
JD: I was so scared. I had this fear that parenthood is a lot different than it actually is. I feared a bunch of things. I feared not being able to take care of my child. I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to be the father that I wanted to be. So when I found out I was going to have a kid I was nervous. I was scared to tell people. It was a bunch of things.
It was a weird thing for me because it happened to me at a latter part of my life. The majority of my friends were having babies when they were teenagers. My kid came when I was full grown adult. I used to walk around calling myself an endangered species because I didn’t have kids. (Both laugh.) So that is why I felt a bit weird.
JD: Just to learn and explore. With my daughter, Shaniah I am pushing her to learn and explore and see more than I did. I have seen a lot, but there was so much more that I could have seen. I was really focused on one thing. That one thing was making sure my roots were as strong as they possibly could be here in Atlanta. I never wanted to leave Atlanta. I wanted to stay here at all times and make sure that I went to parties. Made sure that I was the one people saw all the time.
As I got older I realized that I missed out on a lot that I could have seen. People that I idolized and a lot of people that were like mentors like Quincy Jones, they lived in Paris. He stayed in different cities and got opportunities to see what life is like in different places. I think that helps you become a much more well-rounded person. You can adapt to these different places.
My daughter is about to go to college in Miami. I was encouraging her to go to college somewhere else. I wanted her to go to UCLA and Stanford. She said that she wanted to go to Miami from the beginning. I think she put that out into the universe and it came back. That is where she is going. I am happy that she is going to Miami. I am a little scared that she is going to Miami, but I am happy she is going because she will be a well-rounded person more than me. She is going to college. I didn’t go to college. She is living in a different city. My daughter is eighteen right now. She will live in a different city before she is 21 years old. That is whole life experience that I have never had. So that alone make me excited about that.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads?
JD: Man, just be as strong as you can possibly be, especially if you have a girl. If you have girls be as strong as you can possibly be because your strength will be tested many times. My daughter is going to go to college soon. Boyfriends and all of that stuff will come. You still got to be strong. You got to be a father too. You can’t back off because she is not going to expect that.
I already sense that now with her calling me about books and stuff that she needs. She wants to have me with her when she checks into school next week. You still have to be a father that you have always been, but you got to understand other things that come along with that package. You got to stay as strong as possible.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: What is your favorite family movie you guys like to watch together?
JD: Probably not. I like Star Wars. She is not into Star Wars or Star Trek. She is not into that stuff.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing and dance to as a family?
JD: That changes weekly. When we are driving around we listen in the car. We don’t have a real favorite. It changes every week.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
JD: Vail, (Colorado) Christmas Day on the slopes.
AE: What was your favorite group when you were growing up as a kid?
JD: Probably The Jackson 5.
AE: What was the first thing that popped in your mind when you won your Grammy Award for We Belong Together?
JD: Damn, they didn’t show it on TV. (Both laugh.)