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With over 400 million records sold to date, Jermaine Dupri, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, is one of the most successful producers in the music industry. He has established a prolific career as a hiphop artist, award-winning producer, songwriter, author, DJ, and CEO of So So Def, which he founded in 1993.
Rather than impacting only one lane, Jermaine Dupri has changed the course of R&B, hip-hop, and pop throughout an illustrious career earmarked by some of the most recognizable hits of all-time. The GRAMMY® Award-winning iconic songwriter, producer, rapper, artist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist has powered game-changing and chart-breaking smashes such as Mariah Carey’s 6x-platinum “We Belong Together,” Usher’s 3x-platinum “Nice & Slow,” Xscape’s platinum “Just Kickin’ It,” his own “Money Ain’t A Thang” [feat. JAY-Z], and countless others. At the helm of So So Def Recordings as Founder, he has built a catalog of classic albums including Da Brat, the first solo female rapper to go platinum, debut and historic Funkdafied; Bow Wow’s double-platinum Beware of Dog; Jagged Edge’s double-platinum J.E. Heartbreak; Anthony Hamilton’s platinum Comin’ From Where I’m From; and more. Simultaneously, he has launched JD’s Vegan as a mega-popular plant-based ice cream alternative. Plus, he notably stands out as the second rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame® following JAY-Z. Speaking to his presence, Variety attested, “What isn’t recognized enough is his undeniable influence on the current cultural climate.”
However, he never stops setting the pace for the entire game to follow.
“As an artist, I want to be known as one of the best,” he exclaims. “When you come to work with me, I want you to say, ‘JD is one of the best whoever did it’. I can write rap songs, R&B songs, or pop songs. I can work with established artists and young talent, and you know I’m going to pull it off in either case. I’m cut from a different cloth, because I can operate in all of these different worlds. There are a million producers out there. If you’re coming to see me, it’s not to recreate what you already had; it’s to get music that puts you in the spotlight where you feel you should be.”
Born in Asheville, NC and raised in Atlanta, JD discovered music at just three-years-old when he received his first drum set. He often synced up his drumming to the rhythm of songs on the radio. By 12-years-old, he developed showstopping skills as a dancer and landed an opening spot on the legendary Fresh Fest tour alongside Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, Whodini and more from 1984-1986. Pretty soon, he went from dancing to rapping as well. “My life was like the movie Almost Famous,” he laughs. “The tour was high school and college all in one for me.” Upon returning home, he dove into writing and producing. At 16-years-old, he produced the debut from Silk Tymes Leather. It paved the way for him to produce and write the quadruple-platinum Totally Krossed Out for Kris Kross. Entrenched at the forefront of the culture, he built one of the most popular catalogs in music history. He produced seven tracks on the 7x-platinum My Way for Usher, including the Billboard Hot 100 #1 “Nice & Slow.” He created three anthems for Usher’s diamond-certified blockbuster Confessions, namely the Hot 100 #1 “Burn,” “Confessions Part II,” and “My Boo” [with Alicia Keys].
Out of four contributions to Mariah Carey’s 7x-platinum magnum opus The Emancipation of Mimi in 2005, he crafted “We Belong Together”—which not only toppled the Billboard Hot 100 for the year, but it also emerged as “the song of the decade” and “fifteenth most popular song of all-time,” according to Billboard. It took home “Best R&B Song” and “Best Female R&B Vocal Performance” at the 2006 GRAMMY® Awards—the former marked JD’s first honor at the ceremony. He notably ignited “Fallin” and “Success” [feat. Nas] for JAY-Z’s platinum-certified American Gangster, bowing at #1 on the Top 200 and accompanying the Academy® Award-nominated Ridley Scott and Denzel Washington film of the same name. He has energized a new decade with songs such as Ari Lennox’s “Pressure,” - her first single to hit #1 on the Billboard Radio charts - dvsn’s “If I Get Caught,” and more.
In terms of his own artistry, JD delivered a bona fide classic with his platinum-certified full-length debut LP, Life In 1472. It crashed the Top 3 of the Top 200 and clinched #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart. Beyond spawning “Money Ain’t A Thang,” it boasted tracks with JAY-Z, Nas, Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, Slick Rick, and the late DMX, setting the template for curated collaborative albums in the culture. With So So Def Recordings, he also signed and catalyzed the careers of Da Brat, Anthony Hamilton, Xscape, Bow Wow, and more, moving tens of millions of records. Shining on television, he hosted the Lifetime competition show The Rap Game and chose Latto—who would later become a multi-platinum superstar— as the winner of the first season. The Songwriters Hall Of Fame® inducted JD in 2018. Meanwhile, the GRAMMY® Museum paid homage to JD and So So Def with a dedicated exhibit entitled Jermaine Dupri & So So Def, 25 Years Of Elevating Culture. He has also appeared on-screen in the Aretha Franklin movie Respect, Hip-Hop Family Christmas, and Step Up.
At the same time, he has transformed JD’s Vegan into one of the most sought-after all-natural plant-based brands on the market available in major retailers a la Walmart and more.
In the end, all lanes still rely on JD.
“I’m one of the hungriest people in the music industry,” he says. “I’m fueled in a way you probably can’t even imagine. I want to make so many more records. The only thing I care about right now is making my Thriller. I’m dead serious. I’m on a quest to make the biggest record that I’ve ever made and something that trumps everything I’ve ever done.”
Jermaine Dupri is one of only a few producers in music history to garner four positions in the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart at one time and has the Song of the Decade as one of his credits. His career milestones include releasing several platinum recordings as CEO of So So Def, winning a Grammy, being honored with an ASCAP Golden Note Award, and his induction into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. He is also the first recipient of the Billboard Otis Redding Excellence Award for his achievements both in and outside the studio.