The ATL is synonymous with hip hop. Over the past 20 years, there have been a myriad of rappers from inside the perimeter emerging on the international stage. However, the A wouldn’t be the Hip Hop Capital of the World without Jermaine Dupri. As the unofficial Mayor of Atlanta and head of So So Def Records, JD is well known for making you Jump with Kriss Kross, discovering Bow Wow, and the fact that money ain’t a thang. While he has the rap game on lock, many aren’t aware that the Grammy Award winning songwriter is also a startup founder and technology enthusiast. His site, Global 14, is his passion and fostering an active, engaging online social community is his mission. Accompanied by his friend and ONE/After School co-founder, Cory Levy, Dupri recently spoke at Georgia Tech to offer advice and announce that he’s looking for interns for Global 14. We were in the house to learn more.
In front of an intimate crowd of students at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, Dupri began by discussing the current state of social media. “With all the apps that we have today, social communication is actually lost,” he bemoaned. Although he currently has over 1.04 million followers on Twitter, “no one really talks to me.” In 2011, he decided to start Global 14, a blog focused on fashion, music, and other passions of his. As people began to comment, Dupri realized that his readers shared similar interests and wanted to have a conversation. “People want a smaller community. You talk more, you find out more,” he explained. “Global 14 is one big ‘like’ button. If you’re into living life in a certain way, that’s what Global 14 is.” His social platform now has over 47,000 users and is constantly evolving into the community he originally envisioned.
From L to R: Colin Ake of VentureLab, Cory Levy, & Jermaine Dupri
Georgia Tech Students in Attendance
Dupri was initially attracted to the technology community by its people. He and Levy met and bonded over an appreciation for helping entrepreneurs. Cory invited Jermaine to San Francisco to see the Bay Area tech scene firsthand. “One thing I’ve learned recently is that tech is much more of an open door, shared world than any other thing I’ve been apart of,” voiced Dupri. “In tech, everybody reaches out to help people.” As a veteran of the music industry, the idea of top-level executives interacting with others is something that spoke to Dupri. “In a business today, you have to be a social CEO. There’s a lot of guys who aren’t social CEOs and they fall by the wayside. You have to engage your customers/users all the time,” he said. He spoke of one record exec who didn’t know anyone on the lower floors of the label’s skyscraper in Los Angeles. “Bosses used to have a disconnect with others,” recalled JD. “Social media has helped the bosses, managers and everyone connect.”
Throughout the night, Dupri and Levy took questions from the crowd of Yellow Jackets. One computer science major asked, “Technology is letting people do things themselves. Do you think that will be the death of the music industry?” The effects of innovation on music is something Jermaine feels strongly about and he had harsh words for the industry. “I want the music industry to die,” he stated. “I want a real collapse in the music business because it’s been run one way for 100 years. It has to break in order for it to start running on what else is going on.” This notion was furthered by surprise guest and Justin Bieber manager, Scooter Braun, who was also in attendance. “The whole reason I got into the music industry is because of technology,” said Braun. “I’m well known for causing havoc in the world with my boy Bieber. If you look at the business, it’s changed to a content business. Streaming has outpaced digital downloads. The music business isn’t dying, it’s evolving.”
Scooter Braun (seated), Taking Questions from a Student
JD, Speaking with a Student
Today, Scooter manages some of pop music’s biggest talents from Ariana Grande to Carly Rae Jepsen and is the owner of SchoolBoy Records; but, he got his start interning for JD and So So Def while studying at Emory. “I take great pride watching Scooter do what he does now,” boasted Dupri. Jermaine clearly relishes his role as a mentor and would love to groom another intern with Global 14. When one MBA student in the crowd asked if he thought Atlanta could become a tech hub, JD responded by saying, “I believe that you guys determine that. If no one wants to come work with me, then no, it can’t.”
Dupri also had strong advice for those looking to become successful entrepreneurs. “You have to have some kind of something that flashes in front of you and says keep pushing,” he shared. “Someone said the other day, ‘Jermaine, do you think you’re a genius?’ I said, no, I do things anyone could do, but I just pay attention to the things others don’t.”
Dupri has big plans for Global 14. “When I saw people love Global 14, I thought, I’m doing something that Twitter and Facebook aren’t doing,” he explained. His goal is to further the conversations taking place by starting a Global 14 conference/festival for people to meet each other and connect even more. In the meantime, if you’re looking for an internship in Atlanta, sign up on Global14 and send Jermaine a direct message.
[Photo Credit: Carey Tucker/Hypepotamus]