Jermaine Dupri Asserts He Put Funk In Hip-Hop Before Dr. Dre’s Chronic (Audio)
The relationship between Jermaine Dupri and West Coast Hip-Hop, especially Dr. Dre is an interesting one. The So So Def Records founder gained strong notoriety in early 1992 when he produced quadruple platinum album Totally Krossed Out for new Atlanta, Georgia Rap duo Kris Kross.
That LP, released through RuffHouse/Columbia Records featured two 13 year-old MCs (Daddy Mac and the late Mac Daddy) rhyming over beats comprised of samples by Zapp, Ohio Players, and George Clinton, among others. Many of those same elements appeared in the West Coast sound associated with Dre, DJ Quik, Warren G, and Above The Law. Speaking with The Cipher show, Dupri—who is credited with production on that album, says history forgets that what is now known as “G-Funk” is a sound he helped pilot.
“What’s crazy is that when I did ‘Jump’ for Kris Kross, [Dr. Dre’s ‘Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang’] hadn’t even come out,” Dupri told Cipher host Shawn Setaro. Referring to Dr. Dre’s lead single from The Chronic. “Jump” released in February; Dre dropped in November. “In ’92, I don’t think ‘G Thang’ had come out [at the time] when Kris Kross came out. So I actually was doing that sound before [Dr.] Dre even started exploiting that type of sound. Those [1970s Funk] records just resonated to me.”
“Jump” would be Kris Kross’ sole #1 single, and double platinum at that. “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” peaked at #2, earning a platinum badge.
The Cipher hones in on JD’s influence by Dre’s overall sound though. While Totally Krossed Out predates The Chronic, “Lil Boys In Da Hood” sampled Dre’s late-1980s production with Ruthless Records. “That’s Ice Cube and Eazy-E, connected from samples,” points out JD, who blended the two N.W.A. members’ voices to make the song’s chorus.
Notably, Erick Sermon—who appeared alongside DJ Quik on the alleged subliminal Dre diss “U Ain’t Fresh,” had also used many Zapp, Ohio Players, and Kool & The Gang samples on EPMD and Redman records in the 1980s and early 1990s.
In the interview discussion—if “exploit” is the word JD intended, it’s the latest development in a longstanding and curious relationship between him and Dre. In 2001, Dupri told XXL magazine that he was the best producer, “That’s my mentality music wise,” Dupri was quoted as saying. “Whether it be Puff [or] anybody that people wanna call my competition, I will take them out. Hands down, ain’t nobody in the industry that can do what I do. Not Dre, not Timbaland, not nobody.”
The Compton, California mogul responded on Eminem’s “Say What You Say,” calling Dupri a “mini-me” and adding, “Over 80 million records sold, and I ain’t have to do it with ten or eleven-year-olds.”
That last line is interesting too. In the interview, Dupri reminds people that one of his star pupils, Lil Bow Wow, was previously a Death Row Records artist. Bow Wow, who appeared on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in the mid-1990s with Snoop Dogg and Suge Knight, would make his debut appearance on Doggystyle—an album produced by Dre, selling more than four million certified copies. Bow Wow was six when that Death Row LP released.
“Bow Wow’s first name was called ‘Lil Gangsta.’ He was signed to Death Row [Records],” confirms JD. “On [Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggstyle], when [interlude takes place in the classroom], that’s Bow Wow. […] Bow Wow’s mindset of what he wanted to do was be a gangsta [or] lil’ hardcore rapper.” Bow Wow also made a brief appearance in the “Gin & Juice” music video. JD says he saw more for the Columbus, Ohio native. “I knew he could be bigger if he cleaned it up and [did] the different [ideas we had].”
After Doggystyle, Death Row launched a 1994 campaign against JD, and his So So Def artists, including Da Brat and JD. In Tha Dogg Pound’s “What Would You Do” music video, they clowned (with Snoop Dogg and Big C-Style), the Atlanta, Georgia-based stars. In the lyrics Daz chided that those acts were “gankin’ styles” the Death Row sound and look. From the Murder Was The Case soundtrack, that was a Dr. Dre-executed project.
In the 2000s, Dupri signed the same artist who dissed him, to a Virgin/EMI-distributed solo project. 2006’s So So Gangsta marked the second-highest charting position of Daz’s solo career. JD produced five of the album’s 12 tracks. “I actually wasn’t trying to change [Daz Dillinger]. I signed him specifically because I heard a mixtape of him and Kurupt [as Tha Dogg Pound] did. I was like, ‘I need Daz signed. He’s so [good].'” Jermaine champions the lyrical abilities of the MC/producer who made his debut on The Chronic. “‘Cause when Daz is on his shit, he’s got a style that can’t be matched. I was looking for that.”
The interview manages to cover an astounding amount of JD’s prolific career, beginning with his involvement with Whodini in the historic Fresh Fest Tour of the mid-’80s, his memories of Keith Haring, remaking Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” for Mariah Carey, how unreleased TLC music influenced their entire discography, using his own life material for Usher’s Confessions album, Slick Rick being his favorite rapper, and much more.
Heads can see more of Jermaine Dupri on television, by way of his two programs. On Lifetime, the unscripted program “The Rap Game” details his work in artist development with artists like Kris Kross and Da Brat. Over on BET, JD’s a part of “Music Moguls,” a series about running a music empire which also features Snoop Dogg, Dame Dash, and Birdman.