Jermaine Dupri recently claimed that Ciara’s new single, “I Bet” sounds very similar to Usher’s 2001 hit "U Got It Bad,” which he co-produced alongside his longtime producing partner, Bryan-Michael Cox–and itt doesn’t really take a musical genius to hear the similarity between the two tracks. Mirroring the “Blurred Lines" fiasco between Marvin Gaye’s estate and Robin Thicke, which resulted in the court ruling in favor of Gaye’s estate, Dupri is seeking credit for himself and his collaborators. Surprisingly, a lot of the commentary surrounding the situation has been that the Atlanta producer is just another 'broke dude coming out of the woodwork' and that JD should just have a seat, which is rather unreasonable, in my opinion. Shouldn’t credit be given where it is due? And even though it's unfair and presumptuous to equate anyone's value to their finances, Dupri could possibly have a few extra coins if the producers of Ciara's new single didn’t change a few chords in order to dodge garnering a sample clearance.
Here's the bigger issue: Jermaine Dupri is one of the most underrated producers of his time. Have the shade throwers forgotten about his hand in presenting the world with Kris Kross, Da Brat, Xscape, Bow Wow and Jagged Edge? And not just as the one-time So So Def mogul, but as the producer who created all of those artist's biggest hits. His flip of The Jackson 5's "ABC" for "Jump" alone should put him on some producer lists, but he always seems to be left out of the conversation.
Have we forgot his work on TLC’s opus, CrazySexyCool and gifting Usher with My Way and Confessions (which Dupri's own real life drama provided the backstory.) Mariah Carey, anyone? JD’s contributions to the songstress’ career go far back as lending his So So Def touch to her 1995 hit single “Always Be My Baby,” which played a huge role in helping the racially-ambiguous singer cross over into the 'urban' market. After Carey's very public post-Glitter breakdown, Dupri helped the diva slay and curate one of the biggest come backs ever with the Emancipation of Mimi (which turns 10 next month) and even won a Grammy for it.
Jermaine Dupri not only helped establish the sound of some of hip-hop, pop and R&B’s most lauded artists, he helped cultivate the Atlanta sound and bring the intricacy of the South to the masses back when rappers from outside of New York and California had to fight for respect and airplay.
Now it would only be fair to mention Dupri’s downfalls. A foreclosure, tax issues, a bad break up with our beloved Janet Jackson (and his hand in her under-whelming 20 Y.O. album) and a questionable exit as president of Virgin Records Urban Music, but it doesn’t take away from his previous achievements and current efforts.
The industry and fans alike can be incredibly hard on Black artists. We’re entirely too quick to throw away our greats or laugh at their lows (as we have Carey, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Lil Kim and countless others). We often kick our entertainers when they are down or wait until they are six feet under to present them with flowers. And sometimes, even then we still don't let them rest.
It's about time to stop beating up on our artists, especially when they have gifted us bodies of work that we’ve partied to, cried to, made love to and more. Quite frankly, it's just simply unfair to snub someone when they’re trying to obtain what's rightfully theirs and there is certainly a case to be made for the idea that "I Bet" is a rip-off…even if there's not a legal one Jermaine Dupri has given us over two decades of hit records and counting. Give that man his props while he's around to hear them.
Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist, writer, photographer and filmmaker. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop and the women in it, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism and her truth. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan or at www.GlennishaMorgan.com.