Jermaine Dupri knows plenty of people are not going to like what he has to say about Kanye West.
“I’m sure people will hate me for saying this, but I thought this was a free country and you can say and think however you want,” he told CNN in a recent interview. “Last time I checked, anyway.”
West is just one of the many artists the music impresario who helped put Atlanta music on the map has worked with over the years, and Dupri said he would do so again.
That’s because music has been Dupri’s life since he burst onto the scene in the 1990s.
The label he founded, So So Def, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with an exhibit at the Grammy museum and a tour, which kicks off Sunday at the State Farm Arena in his hometown of Atlanta, GA.
It will include some of the acts he helped make famous like Da Brat, Xscape, Jagged Edge and Bow Wow.
Dupri said he never envisioned how big and influential So So Def would become.
He just set out to study the greats like Berry Gordy and his legendary Motown Records.
“I know I’ve paid very close attention to everybody and everything that’s going on and if you pay attention to everything, you should be able to find your way because of other people’s mistakes,” Dupri said. “Teach yourself from others mistakes.”
That includes some mistakes he said he sees young people in the industry making these days, including giving away too much of themselves on social media.
“Give the people a little bit of information, don’t give them everything,” he said. “We are people that people look at as special and as having this special talent and social media takes away a lot of the special. My key would be to tell somebody, make sure you protect your special.”
Twitter has helped get West in hot water for sure.
The rapper had some of his first exposure as a producer working with Dupri on the producer’s debut album.
And while Dupri said he doesn’t agree with much of what West has to say politically, the producer said the rapper’s propensity for being controversial is nothing new.
“This is a pattern from a guy that says things and gets a reaction for people, but then still delivers a great album,” Dupri said.
Making great music is at the heart of what Dupri has always tried to do, and he’s had success with artists like Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, TLC, Alicia Keys and former girlfriend Janet Jackson.
He said he learned a valuable lesson from working with Aretha Franklin, who died earlier this year.
Dupri said he was feeling intimidated working with the legend when she came with some words of advice for the young producer.
“I was in the studio with her and I wasn’t telling her what to do and she hit the button on me and said, ‘Jermaine, if you are not going to tell me what to do, then you can go home,’” he recalled. “That let me know regardless if I’m in the studio with a young artist or in the studio with an artist that does have a bigger name, your job is your job.”
Now Dupri is focused on making even more moves in the industry, or as he likes to call it “finishing my breakfast.”
“I’ve gotten to 25 years, but that’s not me finishing,” he said. “I still have food on my plate and it’s time to finish.”