A part of what makes Hip Hop so legendary are the tastemakers who made sure that proper space would be given for the genre to thrive. Record labels like So So Def filled in the gap to curate an unmistakable sound that would ensure that artists maintained a certain quality that would cement their contributions to Hip Hop for decades to come.
Award winning hitmaker, founder of So So Def and Atlanta's finest Jermaine Dupri chatted with EBONY about the iconic label's 30th anniversary, the impact of Atlanta on Hip Hop and more.
You are one of the most recognizable entities and pillars of Hip Hop music and Black culture. As the genre turns 50 and So So Def reaches its 30th milestone, how does it feel to know that many look to you as a beacon of longevity?
Jermaine Dupri: It feels amazing because I know of so many people who didn't expect it to go this far. That's why it's important for me to do the So So Def Festival this year. However, it's really been a headache because I have so many artists who have come through the So So Def umbrella and that I've worked with in general. Having so many artists is interesting because you want to ensure that the legacy of the label is captured properly on stage. Nobody else is going to do it so I have to make sure it goes off right for the fans as well.
You are someone who has had so many timeless hits and crafted some of the greatest songs in music history. What is the formula for making a song that's a certified banger?
I think having hooks that people can sing along with, understand, and relate to is important. Those are the three things that I always try to make sure of when I'm writing a song. For example, listen to Ari Lennox's "Pressure" record. When I worked with Ari, I didn't know that she did never had a number one record. I went in, however, with the mindset [to tap into] the those three elements, which gave her her first number one record. In this space that we are in now, that same formula works as it did before.
You recently sparked a larger conversation recently about Atlanta's space in the Hip Hop 50th anniversary celebrations that have been happening and how you feel that more should have been done in the city to commemorate that. What prompted your thoughts on this?
Well, this whole thing came up as I was being introduced by Wallo at YouTube's Avenues event in the city. He mentioned that if it weren't for Atlanta, he doesn't know where Hip Hop would be. While listening to him say that, I just started thinking about it deeper. First of all, the city of Atlanta represents the culture. I believe that corporate America and the city of Atlanta act as if Atlanta hasn't been the guiding force in Hip Hop for the last 30 years when it has. Everybody in this city needs to start understanding that Atlanta is the new face of Hip Hop. I just don't think that's been addressed. I think it's always been a thing that New York is Hip Hop and Atlanta is like a distant cousin. That's cool if that was your mindset at one particular point in time. But when somebody says that they don't know what Hip Hop would be if it weren't for Atlanta for the last 30 years, that means that Atlanta has moved into a different space and corporate America never adjusted. It's time for them to do so.
Fans have been anxiously awaiting for you to go head-to-head with Diddy during Verzuz. Is that still a happening?
Right now, I'm not sure that that's happening because Puff is focused on his album. Once his album comes out, I guess we'll get back into that.