SO SO DEF – 25 Years Later

” I represent the S-O, S-O, D-E-F, M-O-B, thats me, JD, Brat, JE, so please believe.”

The successes of Jermaine Dupri became the epicenter of southern hip hop, 25 years ago.  So So Def was established in 1993, as the brain-child of Jermaine Dupri, the son of a music executive at Columbia Records, Michael Mauldin, ushering the sound of Atlanta that we all know of today.

Jermaine Dupri, started his career as a dancer for the hip hop group Whodini when he was twelve, after managing to get on stage with Diana Ross during a show that his father coordinated in Atlanta in 1982. He began performing around the country, appearing with Herbie Hancock and Cameo before he opened the New York Fresh Festival, with Run-D.M.C., Whodini, and Grandmaster Flash.  He later formed the teen duo Kris Kross after meeting the boys at a local mall in 1991. The group’s first album, Totally Krossed Out, was released in 1992 and went multi-platinum due to their singles “Jump” and “Warm It Up“. But in 1993, Dupri established his own record label ‘So So Def Recordings’. Xscape, being one of his first signed artist, was a major hit in the Atlanta scene and then branching off onto the mainstream R&B scene. With Xscape under his wing, the group not only debuted a platinum selling album, but also refocused the look of female groups in the 90’s., with their edgy and sultry style. In 1994, after meeting Da Brat through Kriss Kross, she became the first female rapper to become certified platinum for her album Funkdafied, and the first lady of So So Def. The roster of talented artist continued to grow even more when Kandi Burrus, member of Xscape, brought male singing group Jagged Edge to Jermaine’s attention. It was the sound of the R&B, and Hip-Hop that made So-So Def a driving force of bringing hip hop to Atlanta.

In 1998, Lil Bow Wow ( who got this nickname from Snoop Dogg) met Jermaine Dupri at the age of eleven, who then treated him as a son , successfully shaping his career. At the age of 13, he debuted with Beware of the Dog under the stage name Lil’ Bow Wow. Its debut single was “Bounce With Me”, which featured R&B girl group Xscape. So So Def became a powerhouse for new and upcoming talent within the Atlanta area. But in 2003, So So Def’s distribution deal with Columbia ended, so Dupri moved So So Def to Arista.

If there is any conversation about Jermaine Dupri’s contribution to the music industry, you would be remiss to mention the legendary moves that he made within his tenure at So So Def. Aside from his artist success within this label, the record company has branched out to developing soundtracks for movies such as Like Mike, Big Mommas House, and  Why Did I Get Married Too?. With his ear to the streets, Jermaine Dupri always knew what was the next hottest trend, or who had the talent to make it big. So So Def was notorious for signing teenage artist and making them as big as they could be on the main stage. Without the direction of this innovative record label giving us the microcosm of what it was like in Atlanta, we probably wouldn’t have artist such as Migos, Lloyd, Ludacris, and many others. As we reflect on the history and emergence of the sound of the south, So So Def was definitely a pioneer in making that come to life.


Jermaine Dupri is still ushering in the new wave of talent on his Executive produced  show The Rap Game, which features up and coming teenage artist as he pushes them to find their voice, using creative and innovative coaching techniques and weekly challenges. Not only does this show that So So Def is still around and thriving, but also that Jermaine hasn’t lost his touch.

It’s important that we give people their flowers while they’re still around to smell them. For his contributions to hip hop, the Trumpet Awards will be honoring Jermaine Dupri with the Music Innovation Award for his contributions to music by way of production, songwriting, and his artistry. The Trumpet Awards airs on Bounce TV on Sunday, February 11 at 9:00 p.m. Giving Jermaine his flowers, after 25 years of making his mark in hip-hop is why he will always be a legend. Congratulations.

If you missed Jermaine Dupri on Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, check it out here.

Be sure to tune in with Dani’s Digital Dialogue on February 11 as we live tweet during the awards. You won’t want to miss it. 


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