Thanks to the Internet, there probably isn’t a surefire way to hammer out success in the music business right about now. Having a 5-star DX rated album, incredible music and large social media following sounds like a bulletproof plan but without the right way to go about utilizing those tools, it will ultimately be one of those tree in the forest situations.
That being said, if anyone has an one-up on scouting talent in today’s digital age, it’s Jermaine Dupri. The longtime So So Def CEO has touched more platinum than Kay Jewelers and he’s confident he’s discovered the new medium that separates commercially viable artists from fans and their hard-earned dollars: television.
Coming off the success of his Lifetime show The Rap Game, Dupri, 43, is back on syndicated TV with BET for Music Moguls, an informative reality show that goes into the business dealings of said “rap game,” specifically of Birdman, Dame Dash, Snoop Dogg and Dupri.
While speaking to HipHopDX, Dupri reveals he’s reunited with L.A. Reid as he looks to make the Hip Hop world younger by using older expertise.
This is the life.
HipHopDX: For Music Moguls did you already have the idea that you and a bunch of famous moguls were going to get together and showcase how it’s done?
Jermaine Dupri: Moguls was an idea that I had heard a bunch of times that people had been talking about, and I think it was just a collection of a bunch of different ideas. Because I used to do vlogs on YouTube called “Living the Life” where I’m basically showing people behind the scenes activities of what would be in the life of Jermaine Dupri. So the ideas were just coming and they finally got to a place at BET where the creator came up with the idea where all four of us would do it and it wouldn’t just be a one show type of situation, its four different people and what’s going on inside their lives.
DX: You guys have been through pretty much any scenario. Do you think there’s still some stuff that you’ve learned or could learn about the music industry while filming, especially during the digital age?
Jermaine Dupri: Oh yeah it’s not even fun if you can’t learn nothing anymore. Life period for me, if you can’t learn something on a daily basis it’s not fun. But as far as the music industry goes, tech has pretty much changed the way we release music, the way that music is consumed. Everything about music has changed because of the Internet. I don’t care how up on anything you are, you can’t know the hundred million things about what’s happening now as far as selling records and putting music out. Even me, I have a new deal at Epic that’s basically created around my TV shows. It’s created around The Rap Game and Music Moguls so it’s based off of how popular my TV shows will be and how many people watch my TV shows and that’s the completely opposite of deals I’ve had in my past career.
DX: Now that you’ve completed The Rap Game, what’s the gage on how successful an artist is who wins the competition or getting exposure on the show? I ran into Niko and Nicky in San Diego and it looked like they’re doing good, so how has their career taken off after the show?
Jermaine Dupri: It’s been doing good. We haven’t really pressed the button on that yet, I wanted to make the deal that I have now with Epic to solidify all the artists that are signed and the kids that come off the show to make sure that all the proper push is behind the records as well as the TV show. But just from the TV show alone, [Miss] Mulatto is pretty much everywhere, she’s working every week, it definitely changed her life drastically, but its going to be even more than that in the next couple of weeks.
DX: So with this Epic deal is it going to be So So Def or are you bringing something new to the table?
Jermaine Dupri: No it’s So So Def. I call it a cosmetic deal basically because its like a designer drug almost because its based on what’s happening with the TV, what’s happening with the artists I have coming off the TV and any other artists that I feel like should be a part of it. I feel like for the most part for the way So So Def is moving forward to me, is signing as many young artists as possible and I’ve never did that before. So now people are probably saying “you’ve always done young artists” but the only young artist I’ve signed to So So Def is Bow Wow, so this is basically a whole new thing for me.
DX: Yeah and I’m glad you said that because the XXL cover just came out and people are saying it isn’t the definitive new artist breaking point anymore, so do you think these shows are that new outlet for new artists?
Jermaine Dupri: Yeah for me it is. I don’t know about everybody else. But I think for me if you could get in a situation where your partner knows what they’re doing-not saying that people don’t know what they’re doing at American Idol and some of these other shows- but a person who’s known for putting out music, then I believe that’s definitely the way to be releasing music. Even like on the new season of The Rap Game, so many people be talking about how many likes they have, and you got all of these likes and that’s cool but The Rap Game itself has over two million people we know are watching the show. Its not a question, its not like likes, its not like maybe someone is jacking the numbers, you automatically know you hit 1.8 million people who root for something like that and it’s a guaranteed number. So for putting out records, you already know there’s over 500,000 people watching this TV show and if you can really crack that audience, that’s a gold record. So if you look at it like that’s its definitely a new wave for me as far as putting out music.
DX: Are you done putting out music? I feel like you could drop another single à la DJ Khaled and get back into the spotlight easily.
Jermaine Dupri: I think its so interesting when people say that because I think my spotlight is doing what I’m doing and being a producer first. I just made music because I can and I will make records on the side, but I feel like I’m getting ready to do something that’s never been done before, so I ain’t got the same time that I used to have to do Jermaine Dupri records and just doing it carefree. I’ve got a lot of records that I have to make, and the time they have to come out is not leisure anymore because the TV companies already have these times slotted, so if I want to catch on to these dates and these crowds and these numbers of people that are watching these TV shows, I have a lot of work to do. Take for instance the kid Carson Lueders. He’s on Music Moguls the first episode. so I’m trying to get his deal done and finish his deal right now and get the song we recorded on that TV show finished so I can have that done and up so people can buy that record that night the show comes on. That’s a lot of work. It’s a lot different than what I used to be doing with putting out records at any time and have the dates moving, because that show date ain’t going to move, its going to stay what it is. So I have to be more on point and make sure I get my music out or else I’m going to miss that date.
DX: So with all these classics you got, how surprised were you to see “My Boo” get back into resurgence? How surprised were you to see it actually hit the charts?
Jermaine Dupri: That goes down in history as one of my greatest signs now right? I could talk about that deal in any business conversations I have with anybody at this point. Any record person like Jimmy Iovine or someone who puts out records, I can have a conversation with them now that a lot of people cant have, because that’s like a Motown situation because the only time I know that’s ever happened was with Motown with “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Basically they did a commercial with the California Raisins, but I think Marvin Gaye was dead at that time. So that has never happened in our generation or since Hip Hop has come alive. I think that’s never happened where the artist didn’t die, nothing has happened to the people involved, and the song came back out to do better than it did when it was actually out. I don’t think that’s ever happened in the history of music.
The funny part about it is people don’t want to take it that far because I don’t know what the reason is, but it’s definitely a credit that nobody else has and I’m 100 percent proud of that. It’s crazy to me because that’s a plaque that when we put the record out at the time, people had told me they weren’t gung-ho about this. It was almost like pulling teeth. Me and Lil Jon were fighting for this and the video. That was the first time people shot videos for like no money. We shot that video for about $7,500 dollars when everyone else was shooting they’re videos for $200K, $300K, $400K. We had a real small budget to shoot a video, and that just goes to show you we had a hit record regardless of what the parameters are.
DX: What’s going on at Epic right now? They got you now apparently, L.A. Reid is back in the mix, they’ve got Rick Ross, they got French Montana, what’s really good over there?
Jermaine: I don’t really know. I think for me I had an epiphany. I was watching the Dungeon Family documentary on Netflix and throughout the documentary they’re talking about the hard times and the times they had that went crazy and the one thing that they said that Rico talked about was he was like “man, Laface Records gave us everything that we needed for us to get our vision out there and L.A. was 100 percent open for us to get our creativity out there but he didn’t give us the money that we needed. We wanted that big check, so we went to Interscope and they gave us that big check but we lost that creative person in our lives and that’s when our whole shit fell apart.” And when I saw that it kept rewinding in my head that I didn’t need money, I have two TV shows, I don’t need the money to get the artists out there, that’s not something I was going to try to find. I needed a creative partner who understood what Jermaine Dupri meant to the culture and what Jermaine Dupri moving forward with these TV shows means to the culture and these kids. And I’ve worked for L.A. at Arista and at Def Jam. Arista had a lot of success with YoungBloodz and Bone Crusher and Anthony Hamilton and that’s just So So Def alone. So then “Always Be My Baby” came from L.A. calling me and saying Jermaine I need you to make Mariah the “Always Be My Baby” record then the Confessions album and my relationship with Usher came from L.A. believing that Usher should be with me. So whether it’s good or bad, the good outweighs me and L.A.’s relationship. So I kept hearing what Rico said, and I’m in a position where I probably could have made a deal that was more about the money and the creative sense wouldn’t be where I need it to be.
Right now I’m in a position where I need somebody and a company of people who understand creatively what I’m trying to do in black music and rap music alone. And so when you ask what’s going on at Epic, the only true black executive we have in the game is L.A. Reid. Everybody else is just working the company; he’s basically the boss. So it’s a smart move for people like that who want to have a creative situation going on more than a money situation.
DX: Something tells me you might be a VP within that company before the year is over.
Jermaine Dupri: Yeah and people don’t look at it like that no more. There’s no back executives and none of these other companies are like that.
BET’s Music Moguls airs on Tuesdays at 9P/8C.