So So Def Recordings Founder/CEO Jermaine Dupri, recently announced a 20th Anniversary All-Star Concert, set to take place Feb. 23 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA.
The concert will feature performances by every artist on the So So Def label including: Kris Kross, Bow Wow, Lil Jon, Da Brat, Xscape, Jagged Edge, Dondria and many more.
Dupri’s Atlanta-based So So Def Recordings was founded in 1993. The label was established as a joint venture with Sony Music and Columbia Records.
The label’s first act was the female R&B group Xscape, who
Chicago-born female rapper Da Brat was discovered by Dupri in 1992. Upon signing her to So So Def, he produced and released her debut album, Funkdafied in 1994. The title track was an enormous hit, going to number two on the R&B charts and spending nearly three months on top of the rap singles chart. Its success—as well as that of the follow-up singles “Fa All Y’All” and “Give It 2 You,” helped Da Brat become the first female rapper to ever have a platinum-selling album. Funkdafied also hit number one on the R&B album chart.
So So Def solidified their impact on the Atlanta music scene with the release of the So So Def Bass All-Stars compilation series in 1996. Under the direction of Lil’ Jon (who was employed at the label as an A&R), the album marked the first time local bass music vets – Raheem the Dream, DJ Smurf, Playa Poncho – came together on one project and spawned various club classics such as “My Boo” (Ghost Town DJs), “Whatz Up Whatz Up” (Playa Poncho), and “Koochie Kuterz” (Playa Poncho). Two additional volumes followed in 1997 and 1998.
In October of 1996, So So Def released a compilation of Christmas songs which featured a then-unknown Alicia Keys on the song “Little Drummer Girl.”
In 1996, Kandi Burruss (of Xscape) brought the singing group Jagged Edge to Dupri’s attention and the quartet was signed to the label in 1997. Their debut album, A Jagged Era, was released in 1997.
Dupri made his debut as an artist in 1998 with the release of Life in 1472 (1472 refers to the year of Dupri's birth, 1972). It produced the singles "Money Ain't a Thang" (U.S. #52), "Sweetheart" (U.S. #125), "The Party Continues" (U.S. #29), and "Going Home with Me". Life In 1472 spent two weeks at #1 on the Top R&B Albums chart, while breaking the Top 5 on the Billboard 200.
The soundtrack to the hit comedy film Big Momma’s House was also a So So Def release and introduced the world to Lil Bow Wow in 2000 via the track “Bounce With Me.”
In 2000, So So Def issued Bow Wow’s debut album Beware of Dog, which went double platinum and featured the hit singles “Bow Wow (That’s My Name),” “Puppy Love” (feat. Jagged Edge) as well as “Bounce With Me.”
Dupri’s sophomore album, Instructions , came on the heels of Beware of Dog and featured the mega-hit “Welcome to Atlanta” (feat. Ludacris).
So So Def’s next signing came in the form of a six-foot, larger than life personality named Bonecrusher. During a 2002 So So Def Radio broadcast on top radio station V-103 in Atlanta, the rapper gave Dupri his demo. Bonecrusher was signed to the label shortly after. His 2003 debut AttenCHUN!, featuring the #1 single “Never Scared,” topped the R&B/Rap charts and peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200.
Soul singer Anthony Hamilton found his way to So So Def after performing at a Grammy luncheon, which led to a meeting between Hamilton and Dupri and a subsequent signing. Hamilton’s album Comin' from Where I'm From bowed in 2003 and was certified platinum by early December 2004. Its single "Charlene" peaked at number 19 on Hot 100. Hamilton was nominated for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the single in 2005.
In 2005, Dupri released the compilation album Young Fly and Flashy Vol. 1, which featured the remix to Dem Franchize Boyz “Oh I Think They Like Me” (with DFB, Da Brat and Bow Wow). The album peaked at number twelve on Billboard magazine's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and number 43 on the Billboard 200.
The success of Dupri, whose relationship with Janet Jackson reportedly ended in 2009, has been on a meteoric rise.
I recently caught up with Jermaine Dupri to talk about his career and the concert.
DD: 20 years – that’s a helluva feat – does it feel like 20 years!
JD: Somewhat feels like 20 years. I don’t remember a lot. One thing you don’t prepare for is to go back and think about stuff that happened in the past
DD: In 20 years what are you most proud of?
JD: I think this concert will answer that question. The concert is the cherry on top. To have all that happened then to celebrate it with all this music. That’s like every person’s dream to have a body of music that is yours. I’m going to watch this show. I’ll be on stage damn near during the whole set.
DD: A lot of labels have gone by the wayside. How have you maintained So So Def? What’s the secret?
JERMAINE DUPRI & JANET JACKSON
JD: The artists. I put more emphasis on my artists rather than the label, the brand itself. The artists carry me to more and more years. I focus on the brand.
DD: Is there a significance to the date Feb 23?
JD: It just happened to be the time. It felt right, plus it’s Black History Month. I wish there are things I wish could happen in my life – like when they listen to those Black History moments and they say something about So So Def.
DD: When you started the label, what was your goal and how has it changed over the years
JD: My goal was to keep coming with new artists and to have diversity. My goal hasn’t changed.
DD: What new trends do you see coming down the pike regarding the music industry and how has it changed since you’ve been in it?
JD: I don’t see any trends right now. The way it’s changed, the creative side is lost. It’s like people are doing things now just to do them. To me, there is no thought process in what we’re seeing, people are just doing their jobs. Nothing is creative. Haven’t seen anyone doing anything where I go, ‘wow,’ at what they’re doing in a video. A lot of artists are copying what they’ve already seen. All producers do now is listen to the radio and copy what they hear that’s hot. That becomes the next hot record. In my era of making records, if you stole a beat, it was called ‘biting.’ Now you can listen to five records on the radio that sound the same and nobody is calling them a ‘biter.’ Nobody is doing anything creative, they’re just copying. The record companies are making these people do this. I heard an interview about New York rappers being mad about New York radio sounding like the south instead of what New York radio used to sound like. In my era New York had its own sound. LA had its own sound and Atlanta was trying to become its own sound. You don’t hear different sounds. The West Coast is starting to come back and sound like the West Coast.
DD: You mentioned how there is no other label that has all of their artists still alive and doing their thing. Is that true?
JD: Far as I know. The labels I speak of are Bad Boy and their biggest artist, Biggie, passed away. I mean, Diddy is still doing his thing, but his biggest artist is gone. Death Row doesn’t exist anymore. Tupac was their biggest artist.
KRIS KROSS today
DD: Talk about how cool it is to have Kris Kross reuniting for one night.
JD: I don’t know how cool that is. It doesn’t feel like that to me. It feels that way to everyone else. I see them, talk to them and work with them all the time.
DD: Is this concert going to travel?
JD: Not right now. Right now it’s just in Atlanta. It’s always been about Atlanta. Everyone asks when I’m going to move to LA or New York. I have no reason to move. I’ve always had to bring people to my city. So this is the same type of situation. I wanted to create a big event. My hope is to draw people to the city. Back in the day when I first started conventions like Jack the Rapper used to bring people to Atlanta. People have stopped practicing going to other cities for enjoyment. I’m trying to bring that back.