Interview: Jermaine Dupri Talks "New Atlanta," Jagged Edge Comeback, and Receiving the ASCAP Founders Award

The awards go down on Thursday.

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Complex Original

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Jermaine Dupri is gearing up for a hot summer. The So So Def founder already released "New Atlanta," a remake of his 2002 hit with Atlanta's current rising stars: Rich Homie Quan, Migos, and Young Thug. And while we'll always be nostalgic for the So So Def days, Dupri is genuinely trying to revive the feeling later this year with Jagged Edge's long awaited sequel to J. E. Heartbreak.

After an incredible showing at the So So Def 20th Anniversary Show last year, Dupri realized it was time to get back in the studio and once again put on the A. This kind of determination has led him to be this year's recipient of the ASCAP Founders Award. We spoke to him about the upcoming awards, putting "New Atlanta" together, and what's coming up with Jagged Edge.

Interview by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia)

First things first, you're this year's ASCAP Founders Award winner. What was your immediate reaction when you heard?
I've always wanted to be mentioned in the same sentence or at the same time that you say Quincy Jones or you say Stevie Wonder. I never thought that could possibly ever happen. So this probably is one of my most humbling awards because it’s something I wanted but I never really thought could ever actually happen. I never even thought that I could ever actually get to become successful in time to be mentioned with these people. It’s really the most humbling part, especially because I’ve been going to ASCAP all my life, right? And basically since I’ve been a producer and just watching other people get this award, it’s something you just sit there and you’re like, "I wish one day I could do enough to get through to this level."

Have you planned out your acceptance speech yet? 
It’s funny because last year I did the segment that I think Ne-Yo is getting this year. I did that for Usher. I watched Dr. Dre actually get this award last year. And I watched his preparation, him preparing for it, and his preparation for this award must not have been much of nothing. He came and he wasn’t really dressed up, this time I’m getting a suit tailored and all of this other stuff. I’m trying to make sure I look extremely elegant for this particular night.

That’s about it, just making sure my clothes look right. But I was also thinking, "Man, I shouldn’t put all of this into it, just put a T-shirt on and wear some jeans," you know? Dre ain’t get fancy for it, same award. But just making sure the clothes are right and also that I enjoy the night.

Rich Homie Quan actually told me in that session that he used to call up So So Def everyday to try to get somebody to sign him. So these are kids that grew up listening to So So Def.

Well, good luck with your outfit. Let's talk about the “New Atlanta” remix we premiered with Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, and Migos. How did it come together?
I’m the so-claimed mayor of Atlanta, so it’s like you can’t... First of all that’s my beat by the way, so they couldn’t use my beat and not let me get that little piece on there. I think it was the Migos idea though and they always told me that they looked up to what I was doing. Rich Homie Quan actually told me in that session that he used to call up So So Def everyday to try to get somebody to sign him. So these are kids that grew up listening to So So Def and grew up wanting to be a part of So So Def. So me jumping on there and giving them that string to be like “Let’s go” was just... I felt like it was the thing to do.

And it’s the Atlanta way. We don’t beef out here about young new artists trying to get in. Not me anyway. I don’t beef with you ‘cause I always want to make sure that my city is still bigger and better than every other city out there. So if it’s going to help Atlanta for me to jump on a record with all these new Atlanta artists and put them in a different light and make people pay attention to them that they might not pay attention to, I’m definitely going to do that.

What’s one thing that you saw in each of the artists—Migos, Rich Homie and Thug—that you really feel separates them from others in the game right now?
They’re different, period. They’re not really from no hood in Atlanta. Rich Homie, from what I know, I’m hearing that they’re from the Northside I know the Migos is definitely from the Northside. I heard Rich Homie Quan talks about East Atlanta in some of his records, which is Decatur. Then Young Thug talks about Bankhead. But for the most part, this is a North Side movement happening with these new kids. Like this OG Bobby Johnson kid is from the Northside and I think K Camp is from the Northside. It's just a new side of town that’s actually getting their jumpoff.

You know I’m from College Park, which is all Southside, and that’s where 2 Chainz, Ludacris, myself and basically everybody that you saw before came from. And then you got Outkast and them, they came from the Westside. One of these sides is going to crack open and get going and I think the Northside just got going with one and then the next one came and then the next one came. So you got a bunch of them right now. That’s what it is.

Back when you did the original “Welcome to Atlanta,” there was the "Coast 2 Coast" remix with Diddy, Murphy Lee, Snoop Dogg and Ludacris. If you had to pick one person from each of those cities now to be on a new remix to "New Atlanta," who would you chose?
I would put YG on the West Coast version. New York, I would probably put French Montana on there. It’s a toss up between French and—you know, I like Troy Ave, I’m an A$AP Rocky fan, I like the way he flows and things. A lot of people discredit his work because he sounds like a Southern rapper, but he’s from Harlem so I would put either [Rocky] or French on there. It would be a game making decision. From St. Louis is a kid named Fresco Kane that I signed, so I believe Fresco will represent that piece of that city.

Lastly, let's talk about the Jagged Edge reunion.
I haven’t produced them in a long time and J.E. Heartbreak was a while go. The crazy thing about a sequel album is that you don’t really realize how much people actually like the record. Like I didn’t really realize how much people liked that album until you start talking about a number two. When you start talking about a number two album that’s when people start really showing their love for the album. But in the midst of that album, I don’t really remember feeling like it was getting so much attention that we should’ve done a number two. 

The crazy thing about a sequel album is that you don’t really realize how much people actually like the record. Like I didn’t really realize how much people liked that album until you start talking about a number two.

Matter of fact, I don’t think it got that much attention, enough attention when it was out, to garnish going back in and doing part two. Because I know I would’ve paid attention to it and I would’ve did it. So, now the state of R&B, where it’s at right now, it’s definitely needed. It’s definitely a must that we do it and it’s a must that we try to make the best sequel to that album that we can.

Is the dynamic in the studio now just like it was the last time you guys were all together or has a lot changed? 
Our chemistry has never changed. We haven’t ever been away from each other. This whole idea came to life when we did the So So Def 20th anniversary and I saw the response of people reacting to me doing that concert and that whole thing. That’s where this whole baby was conceived. To do part two. It just took a little minute to get the deal right, but for the most part that’s where we started talking about doing a new album, we have to do J.E. Heartbreak Part Two.

We know people want us to come out with some of the best R&B music that we could possibly give you. So therefore the energy is way different than when we first went in because we didn’t know if y’all was gonna like it. Now we know what you like, now we know we have to make something that tops what you like, or fits along in the same lines of what you already like. So the energy is definitely different, and it’s more energy, it’s more excitement, it’s more of the general rush because the blood is boiling. Like you know you got to make killer ballads and you know we got to make killer up tempos and we’re in there slaving every day.

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