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Inside the Hype: Jermaine Dupri

by Scott Henderson

In celebration of his birthday today, we’re releasing this behind-the-scenes interview with Jermaine Dupri, hip hop mogul and tech entrepreneur. Learn how he got his start, what obstacles he encountered launching So So Def Recordings, why he’s disrupting his own business, and how the obstacles as a tech entrepreneur (Global14.com) echo his challenges as a music producer. Footage from So So Def Recordings 20th Anniversary Concert at Fox Theatre and Startup Rally 2013 at The Biltmore and Hypepotamus.


Audio Transcript

Transcript services provided by TransciptsHQ, a proud Atlanta startup

Jermaine Dupri, So So Def Recordings and Global14.com:
I realized that I was an entrepreneur at about twelve years old when I started recruiting kids in the neighborhood to cut people’s grass.

I am Jermaine Dupri, CEO of SoSoDef Recordings and Founder of Global14.com.

My advice for kids who want to do their own thing whether business, music, or whatever is that you really have to give yourself a goal. Set these benchmarks out there because if you don’t have a goal, you’ll just keep trying and trying and trying.

I put out my first group that didn’t really do well in music business but they did well enough for me to have money so I didn’t have to get that job. And I think that that was a goal. I made $15,000 dollars. It wasn’t $150,000 dollars, it wasn’t one million dollars, but it was $15,000. That was enough money to show my mother that I didn’t have to get that job.

People usually think too big and you start trying to grab for the stars right off the top. You should just set your goal. Goals are benchmarks to keep you on pace so you know that you are not going in a direction you don’t want to go in.

If you sit down and think about something and you think about it hard enough, you can bring it to life. I basically wanted to be in control of my life and then I started selling mixed tapes, making music, DJing and putting music on mix tapes and selling them to kids at school. And that was the beginning of SoSoDef.

I got all the: “You’re too young to produce music,” “Kid rappers may not work,” “You’re from the South,” “What do you know about rap music?” I got all of that stuff in the beginning and then you do it and then they sell eight million records and they become one of the biggest groups in history. And it becomes the fastest selling record single in the year 1992. And then these two kids that you just took from a neighborhood become the biggest. They can’t even go outside anymore – they go on tour with Michael Jackson.

I guess that is one of those moments where you just go, “Wow, this is definitely what I want to do.” But then I also had older friends that started working at McDonalds and other places. Seeing them work and seeing myself not working was the bridge that allowed me to know what I wanted to do.

I started noticing from that point that I had four to five years to get my life together or I was going to have to do that. This is after I had gone on tour and was dancing on the FreshFest and was around all the rappers and all of this.

So I had already been bit by the music bug but I had not been bit by the seriousness of the bug yet. But that night was the defining factor.

It doesn’t really feel like twenty years to me. It feels like a good ten years probably. I guess when you think of twenty years, it feels super super long. Mine feels like it just happened and we just happen to be at this number. It doesn’t really feel like I’m in twenty years of SoSoDef.

I’m basically starting a new company, which is Global14.com. It is basically going through the same things that I talked about before as far as people telling me: “Jermaine, what do you know about tech? You think you’re the black Mark Zuckerburg,” and all kinds of just crazy stuff.

People can tell you everything about it not working but then nobody can get you prepared for what could possibly happen. And then I get a chance to hear that Tech is right here in my own backyard. And I’m like, “Where?” So I start looking around and I’m looking and trying to find it because it’s not as loud as it is in the rest of these cities here in Atlanta.

And with me being the mayor, it only made sense that I come here and be a part of this and we all connect and everybody understands what everybody is doing. So that’s my interest and my interest level is high.

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