Jermaine Dupri and So So Def always had a weird relationship with the city of Atlanta in my eyes. Obviously outside of LaFace, JD’s company was probably the most successful and productive Atlanta-based label, and looking back he and SoSo Def might have had a better run and bigger impact considering that he started out before them and he went on to produce for large acts outside of his own company.
The biggest thing people in Atlanta (the Hip Hop community specifically) used to pick on JD about was that he never signed a “real” Atlanta rapper. Kris Kross is obviously from here but they started off as pop stars from the rip. Xscape is as Southwest Atlanta as the come, but they are a female quartet. Spend any second around Jagged Edge off the stage and you’ll see they are all the way Atlanta from West End to Wesley Chapel. The only rappers JD signed were Bow Wow (from Ohio), Da Brat (from Chicago), Mr. Black (from South Carolina and what happened to him? He was dope) and that dude R.O.C. that sounded like Jay-Z.
People knew exactly what he did and the hits he put out. But cats here really never gave him his props here because he didn’t sign an Outkast, T.I. or even Ludacris type rapper that made you go “oh, that’s Atlanta right there” when you saw them. Yes, he wound up picking up Bone Crusher and Dem Franchize Boys in the 2000s who very much did their parts in keeping eyes on Atlanta’s Hip Hop scene but for some odd reason they “don’t count like that” when you have conversations about Atlanta’ rap history. Due to the fact that they were parts of a bigger movement (Crunk and Snap) that pretty much swallowed them up and washed them away when that ship sailed.
At times, some would even say that JD didn’t rep the A at all. Only a few remember, but T.I.’s 2002 underground classic “In the A” was pretty much a response to JD’s “Welcome To Atlanta.”
I don’t want to go as far as call it a “diss” because T.I. clearly states “I ain’t hatin’ holmes” but he lets it be known that his track is a real “Atlanta song” as compared to JD’s.
In off the record conversations I’ve had with some of the founding fathers of Atlanta’s Hip Hop scene, a rolling joke was that JD named his label “So So Def” because he wanted to be Def like Jam…but his shit was just “so so.”
Rap wise, it seems like everybody outside of Atlanta loved (or loathed) JD more than anyone in Atlanta did. Both Mase and Nelly took trips to Atlanta hoping to meet JD and slip him a CD, hoping they could get signed. Nothing came about from those exchanges but we saw both of them go their routes and make history. Hell, even Kanye was down here before he got on trying to get in the man’s presence.
Nobody in the A really came out throwing salt on JD’s name, but folks like Treach from Naughty By Nature didn’t hold his tongue when talking about how he felt that Kris Kross’ “Jump” was a rip off of “OPP” and his whole style period. Or later when he accused Kris Kross of trying to be hard like Da Youngstas. Hell, a lot of folks believe that Suge Knight was actually talking about JD at the infamous 1995 Source Awards when he made the “all in the video dancing” remark that Puff Daddy wound up taking offense to. This was supposedly due to the thought that JD pretty much lifted Snoop Doggy Dogg’s look, sound and style and put it all over Da Brat’s Funkdafied album. There was even a slight diss at the beginning of an unreleased version of Dogg Pound’s “What Would You Do” video.
Couldn’t have been that serious though, considering that Snoop had a cameo on Life in 1472 and Daz would wind up signing with So So Def to put out an album just over a decade later. Shit was actually jammin on the low.
Maybe the city of Atlanta’s rap community’s insular indifference to JD comes because from the outside looking in, people saw JD is more than just an “Atlanta/Dirty South Hip Hop producer” but as a universal music producer, which is exactly what he was/is. That said, JD will be the first person to let you know that he doesn’t get his props as a producer…and I’ll be the second to say it. Is he better than Dr. Dre and Timbaland as he once said, eh, hey, I don’t know. But any dude that can say he produced the biggest pop rap group ever, the first female rap artist to go platinum, put out successful male and female quartets, produced Usher’s biggest album, Mariah’s “comeback” and had the common sense to sign Anthony Hamilton is ok in my book.
Hell, on some rap shit, dude is responsible for the song that allowed Jay-Z to spit a “Hip Hop Quotable” that made both Hip Hop purists and residual haters still under 2Pac’s spell sit back and say, “damn, dude did snap on that.” On some slang shit, dude said “Bling Bling” before Lil Wayne said and later claimed to invent the term. And yeah, on some “Southern Shit” dude is the first guy to put Youngbloodz on an major label album.
Dude has covered every base pretty well if you ask me. Hopefully the city will show him some love at the concert on Saturday.