A funny thing happened on the way to putting Atlanta on the map. Despite Hotlanta representatives like TLC, Outkast, Ludacris and the Goodie Mob infusing ATL's slang, dress code and rhythmic sensibilities into hip-hop music and videos through the years, according to Jermaine Dupri, nobody has made the perfect ode to the Big Peach. So the producer has taken the task upon himself.
"This is the first theme song Atlanta ever had," Jermaine said of "Welcome to Atlanta," his new single featuring Ludacris. For a video shot at various Atlanta landmarks and hot spots including Club 112 and the Cheshire Bridge Dupri arranged for cameos by celebrity locals ranging from former Atlanta Hawks all-star Dominique Wilkins and boxer Evander Holyfield to artists Usher, Monica, Too Short and the aforementioned MCs.
"This is gonna be the official jump-off theme song where the whole city is involved," he said. "I don't talk about nothing but what's going on in Atlanta, how I do it out here, what used to go on in my life down here."
Dupri's life nowadays is chaotic. With the goal of launching a So So Def tour early next year, he wants to make sure the members of his camp all have albums out no later than February. He's wrapping up work on Lil' Bow Wow's next LP, continuing his work on Da Brat's next album and starting on projects from newcomers ROC and Tigah. Not to mention he's trying to lock down Bubba Sparxxx and Beenie Man for a remix of Jagged Edge's "Goodbye" and he's overseeing Monica's next disc.
Spending all that time on other's people's albums, he's had barley enough time to breathe, let alone worry about his own LP, Instructions, which hits stores Tuesday.
"I do focus and I don't," Dupri said of his album. "I ain't gonna pay no attention to it after it's out. I'll pay attention to my record right now. After that, ain't nothin' much I could do except continue to promote it, pray and hope everybody likes the album."
And hope that Michael Jackson's Invincible, released the same day, doesn't live up to its title?
"He don't really scare me," Dupri said of his idol. "He ain't on the radio as much as I am. If you want people to know about you, then come out on the most popular day in record stores. October 30 should be one of the biggest days in record history because [of] Michael Jackson's new album. A lot of people are gonna be in the store and happen to see this rap guy by the name of Jermaine Dupri. I'm sure I got at least 100,000 fans out there."
Some of those fans as well as people at his label's distributor, Sony Music, were taken aback by Instructions' proposed first single, "Hate Blood," which features Jadakiss and Freeway. After saying in August how excited he was about shooting a big-budget, high-concept video for the cut, he later was swayed to go in a different direction and put out a video for "Ballin' Out of Control."
"A lot of people were thrown by 'Hate Blood' because it was a rougher-type record than everybody is used to me doing," J.D. said. "It's interesting because when I don't do the bling bling, people act like they miss it. When I do it too much, people act like, 'Jermaine, don't you think people get tired of that sh--?' I don't know if people want me to do it or not."
J.D. said he knows what the people want of his close friend Da Brat on her new album sexy party songs.
"We're just picking it up from where we left off," Dupri said. "The interesting thing with Da Brat is that she don't want to be a commercial artist, but [on] the last record (2000's Restricted) we basically found a home for Da Brat with 'That's What I'm Looking For' and 'What'chu Like.' Those type of records."
He's taking a slower-paced approach with Monica.
"We did a ballad last week," Dupri said. "I'm having a lot of success with Jagged [Edge's 'Goodbye'] and Usher's 'U Got It Bad.' I figured I'd shoot down that road one more time with Monica. I'm the executive producer of the record I have to make sure we got the right [songs]."
Which means pulling out all stops, right from the start.
"When she comes out, it's important that she comes out with a record that really shocks and amazes people," he said. "When you've been gone for a long time, you just can't get back in trenches and come with something regular, then come with your best down the line. You gotta come with the 'Oh sh--, I like that!'
"This time she wants to talk about a lot of things in her life," Dupri continued. "You will see a change. She's been like the little girl of R&B so much. She's been in a lot of relationships. I'm trying to put some of these situations in her records."