Jermaine Dupri Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records (Part 1)

Jermaine Dupri f/ Jay-Z "Money Ain't a Thang" (1998)

Producer: Jermaine Dupri
Album: Life in 1472/Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life
Label: So So Def, Roc-A-Fella

"I didn't know what I was trying to do. But yeah, Life in 1472. When I did the 'In My Bed (Remix),' I did this thing at the top of the record. And the way I did the intro, Jay-Z took that on a mixtape and he did something else, but he took the same melody of what I was saying. I heard it. I don't know why I heard it or how I heard it, but for some reason I did. At this point in time, if somebody like me from the south hears an artist from New York like that, you know people are paying attention and giving more credit to incredible artists. You think, 'okay, I struck a chord,' because this guy is paying attention to me. I'm getting deeper, I know people are looking and understanding.

"I saw him when we did the 'A Great Day in Harlem' photo shoot. It was me and Kris Kross, and they did this picture that they tried to reproduce 'A Great Day in Harlem' with all the jazz musicians. This time, they did all the rappers out there. So that day we did the photo shoot, that was like the first time I met a majority of all these New York rappers, and Jay-Z was one of the guys that I met that day. We talked, and I said, 'I heard you took my little thing.' He was like, 'Yeah.' The conversation that me and him had was really weird. It wasn't like a whole bunch of dialogue. It was just like, 'Let's do something.' And from that point, I took that conversation and held onto it, and then once I got my album I was like, I'm going to do a song with Jay-Z.

"I was going to the airport to pick him up, and on my way to the airport I was listening to Reasonable Doubt. On a song he says, "Deep in the south kicking up top game." That line right there is the line that prompted me to use in that next line, because he said 'deep in the south.' If he didn't say that, I probably wouldn't have used 'Money Ain't a Thang,' but the fact that he said 'deep in the south,' I'm like, okay, he's talking about he was out here. It just seemed like that line jumped out to me. As soon as I heard that I was like, we're using that. So he got off the plane, he got in the car. And when I got to the studio at my house, I had the beat up already. I played the beat and the song just came out.

"['Fresh' with Slick Rick, from Life in 1472] was one of my favorites. [Slick Rick] was my idol growing up as a kid, and just wanting to be a rapper, he was my all-time favorite rapper. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick is probably one of my top ten favorite albums of all time. The fact that I got a chance to make a record with him, I was just blown away. But pretty much every song. This whole album has some kind of history that a lot of people probably don't know about.

"I think the Jay-Z record was like his introduction to the south, of people knowing him out in the south. A lot of people weren't really up on Jay-Z. The intro, Kanye [West] produced with Nas on it. That was the first beat that Kanye ever got contracted to do [ed. note—he means nationally]. The whole album was fun to make. I didn't feel no pressure from none of the records that came before it. I felt like I was going somewhere else, and making a record that was separating me from what I had already made with So So Def.

"I felt like I was making a darker record than what my image was as a producer. People knew that I made popular music, and records that get on the radio instantly. When I made 'Money Ain't a Thang,' that was my first single. Columbia was like, 'We should put the Mariah record out first.' I was like, 'No, I want to put out this record.' They wanted to put out 'Sweetheart' because they wanted a bigger song that would go mainstream, and a song with Jermaine Dupri and Jay-Z wasn't mainstream at that time. It's funny."

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