NEW YORK — Jermaine Dupri helped Usher become Billboard royalty last year, and this year his production work helped Mariah Carey regain her chart throne.
JD was also recently appointed the head of Virgin Records' urban music division, and he still runs his Virgin-owned So So Def imprint (see "Virgin Records Snapping Up Jermaine Dupri And So So Def").
But Dupri is hungering for more. The Emperor would be proud.
"I was watching 'Star Wars' and ... Anakin wanted more," Dupri said Wednesday (May 25) in his office at Virgin's Manhattan headquarters. "He couldn't be a Jedi because he wanted more. He couldn't play the position they wanted him to play. That's pretty much what turned him — he wanted more power. I was watching that, like, 'Damn! That's me.' I hope it don't turn me into no dark dude like Darth Vader, but ... when I'm doing what I'm doing, I'm always like, 'I'm better than this. I can be doing more and I need it.' I seen my eyes be where his eyes were at. You just can't put me somewhere and tell me, 'Jermaine, sit here, stay put.' That's not me. I gotta have the power."
To quote advice given to another conflicted big-screen hero, with great power comes great responsibility. Dupri said he has to juggle roles and check himself at times.
"The So So Def JD has to deal with production of artists and a label; the Virgin JD has to just deal with being the president of a label. I say, 'Just deal with it.' I make it look easy, but it's not easy. The [Virgin] JD has to get up early in the morning, sit in meetings and keep that [So So Def] JD from spending all the money."
We all know that when Mr. "Money Ain't a Thang" sees what he wants, he cops it, whether it's jewelry, cars or a new act on his label.
"Within my first week in the office I signed seven artists," he said. "That's probably overwhelming for the building, the legal department, as well as all the employees, because the thing about me coming into a major label, my first year has to be successful. All the people that go in being presidents, they don't have big first years; they're always trying to figure who they're gonna get to work for them. They're trying to build the company. When I looked at Virgin, it was a great company."
On July 19, Dupri will put out his So So Def compilation Jermaine Dupri Presents ... Young, Fly and Flashy, Vol. 1. Later this year, he's issuing debut LPs by battle-tested MC Sun NY and R&B singer Johnta Austin. On the production end, the Dupri-produced "Shake It Off" has been tapped as the third single off Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi.