Legendary artist, songwriter and producer Jermaine Dupri joins The Estelle Show on Apple Music Hits to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his celebrated label, So So Def. Dupri reminisces about his incredible career and tells stories about working with Mariah Carey, Jay Z, USHER, Alicia Keys and more, and how he honed his songwriting skills on the hit song “Where The Party At” by Jagged Edge featuring Nelly. He also shares who he’d most like to work with, what projects he wished had done better, how he got his start, details about his Magic City documentary and a So So Def festival in the works.
Jermaine Dupri Talks About Honing His Skills As A Producer and Songwriter With Jagged Edge’s “Where The Party At” feat. Nelly…
Estelle: One artist that has said that you’ve influenced him is Tyler, the Creator. He speaks about how people don’t understand that you are probably one of the most elite songwriters, period. And of course you were named to the songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018, which is again no mean feat. When you started back with Silk Tymes Leather, was this even a thought down the end of the line?
Jermaine Dupri: No, I never… I remember when I did “Where The Party At” for Jagged Edge, right? And I thought, “This a hit, it’s ready. The song is finished,” right? And I sent the record to Columbia and Donny Ienner, who was the president at the time, he called me back. He was like… I’m waiting for him to call me back and be like, “Yes, this is amazing. Let’s go.” He called me back, he said, “I love it, but it’s not finished.” And I’m like, “What?”
I’m like, “What are you talking about? The song is not finished.” He’s like, “It’s just not finished. It gets to the end of the record and it feels like y’all left something out.” “Okay, well what is it?” He was like, “I don’t make records, that’s your job. But I just feel like it’s not finished.” We got out the phone and I was completely destroyed because I thought that I had delivered, I had to go right back to the drawing board, but it was only for this last little eight bars, right? It wasn’t even like the song, he wasn’t saying the song was not right, he was just saying, “It doesn’t feel like it’s complete.” At that point you have to start thinking about what does that actually mean? Is it Mariah hitting the high note at the end of We Belong Together? Yes, that’s what that is. I wanted to say like, “Yo, you don’t know what the you talking about,” but this is the president of the company telling me, “It’s not finished and once y’all get it’s going to be an amazing record.” So I went back to Jagged and they didn’t understand what I was saying and then we had to just… The song is called Party, so what elements of the party did we leave out of this song? We talked about drinking, we talked about being at the pool, we talked about girls, we talked about everything. Then we got to the chant part of parties and what the DJ does at a party. And when DJs at a party, they do this call and response thing. We didn’t have a call and response, we did kind of, “Uh-oh,” we had that in there with the Nelly part. But you got to think this record is so… There’s so many elements to this song. For almost two, three days, I’m being stubborn. I’m like, “I don’t think he understands what he’s talking about. He don’t know.” And then it hit me, “Right side, put your hands up… Everybody put their hands up when the east side come… East side run this mother.” And I’m like, we should add this to the song. If that don’t finish the record, then I don’t know what he’s talking about. It was only eight bars, so it wasn’t that long, but this was a part of parties and we put that part in there and I sent the song back and he act like it was a brand new record. And I’m like, “This is at the end of the song.” He was like, “This is it. This is going, I’m pushing all buttons.” And I’m like, “That’s crazy.” So I say this to say everybody that think they writing hits, man, it’s such a depth to writing hits.