Jermaine Dupri is a giant of the music industry now, but it wasn’t always that way. Before founding So So Def Recordings, JD was 19 years old and on the hunt for new acts. In 1991, Dupri came upon a duo consisting of 13-year-old boys at a sneaker store of an Atlanta mall.
“My first big break was meeting Kriss Kross at Greenbriar Mall,” the man known as “The Mayor of the ATL” said exclusively to Atlanta Black Star. “Meeting these guys, seeing these guys and going home and creating music for these guys changed my life forever. 19. A million dollars.”
Kriss Kross consisted of Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith. With Dupri, the group recorded the hit single “Jump,” which was released from their debut album “Totally Krossed Out,” in 1992. The LP went on to go multi-platinum, and was the door that led Dupri to amass success with other acts he later signed to his label, which was established in 1993. They included TLC, Usher and Bow Wow, who joined Kriss Kross, Da Brat and Xscape, the first act JD signed to the label.
But it was Kriss Kross’ “Jump” that started it all for the teen producer and record label founder. In his We TV documentary “Power, Influence & Hip Hop: The Remarkable Rise of So So Def” Dupri explained how he came up with the iconic riff that the ’90s hip-hop single is known for.
“I kept trying to use these Michael Jackson samples because I felt like these kids was young and I needed that sound,” he said. “When I started messing with the Jackson 5 sample, I took the bass line and I just repeated, boom, boom, boom … and then I took a piece of this funky worm, I put that on top of it.
“Hip-hop concerts at the time, people start jumping and they start jumping in the videos,” he continued. “So I’m like, Imma pick this up and start saying what they’re doing. Jump, jump. Jump, jump. And from there, the rest is history.”
In the years since then, Dupri’s reach has only grown. In the 21st century, his roster of So So Def acts has now ballooned to include other hip-hop acts, like Dem Franchize Boyz, who spawned the hit single “White Tee” in 2004. And last year, Dupri marked the 25th anniversary of the label, hitting the road with Bow Wow, Jagged Edge, Da Brat and others.