Legendary producer Jermaine Dupri presented Xscape with their "Lady of Soul" award at last weekend's Soul Train Awards 2022. Having been born into the business, the Atlanta native’s upbringing laid the foundation for him to become one of the most significant contributors and developers of hip-hop sound and culture.
The veteran music executive founded his record label, So So Def, in the early 90s and has been instrumental in creating some of the most trailblazing acts in hip-hop, including Bow Wow, Xscape, Da Brat, and many more.
On the heels of this year's celebration, we're looking back at some of the industry’s most iconic entertainers that got their big break in the music business thanks to JD.
Best friends Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith, better known as the hip hop duo Kriss Kross, didn’t initially intend to be rappers, but under the wings of Jermaine, who encouraged the pair to wear all of their clothing backward—which later proved to be a hit—they became the hottest act in the early 90s. Their biggest single, “Jump,” written and produced by Jermaine, became the first rap song to remain No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for eight consecutive weeks.
Bow Wow was initially discovered by West Coast legend Snoop Dogg in the 1990s. However, the Ohio-born emcee catapulted into stardom after Snoop took him to Jermaine, who would later sign him to So So Def Recording. The two have worked on several projects together, including Bow’s debut album Beware of Dog.
Some may argue that Kandi Burruss-Tucker of Xscape discovered Jagged Edge when she gave a demo from twin brothers Brandon “Case Dinero” Casey, Brian “Brasco” Casey, and friends Kyle Norman and Richard Wingo to Jermaine. The producer signed them and, in 1997, released their debut album, A Jagged Era. The effort received national recognition and charted on the Billboard 200 chart. The group earned several musical honors, including a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for their 2002 hit single “Where the Party At,” featuring the 2021 BET “I Am Hip Hop” recipient Nelly.
Legendary 90s r&b quartet—LaTocha Scott, Tamika Scott, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, and Kandi Burruss-Tucker—Xscape got their first start in the business after garnering a record deal with the industry who signed them to his label So So Def Recordings following an impressive performance at his birthday party in 1991. Jermaine served as executive producer on the group’s platinum debut studio album Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha and their subsequent releases, Off the Hook and Traces of My Lipstick, respectively. The former of the trio featured two notable hit records, "Just Kickin' It" and "Understanding.” The project peaked at number 17 on the Billboard 200 and 3 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart.
Chicago-born female emcee Da Brat got her big break in 1992 after winning an MTV-sponsored rap contest. For winning, she got the opportunity to meet hip hop duo Kris Kross who were signed to Jermaine’s So So Def label. After earning a recording deal, Da Brat released her 1994 debut album Funkdafied. The project soared to No. 1 on the Billboard US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.