Jermaine Dupri, the producer responsible for hits from Usher, TLC, Mariah Carey and Monica, has been named president of newly designated Virgin Records Urban Music.
Dupri will bring the So So Def label into the Virgin fold and oversee Virgin’s entire urban music operation. In addition, he will record as a solo act and produce artists on the Virgin roster as well as providing his production services to all of EMI’s labels.
Based in Atlanta and New York, Dupri will report directly to Virgin Records chairman-CEO Matt Serletic and to Larry Mestel, Virgin chief operating officer-general manager, on operational matters. He also will work closely on a day-to-day basis with Virgin exec VP of urban music Lionel Ridenour.
“By joining So So Def and Virgin,” Dupri said, “I plan to do for Virgin what Russell Simmons did 10 years ago, when he moved Def Jam to Island Records. I will catapult Virgin into a young, hip label with chart-topping success in both R&B and rap music. I also hope to change the whole look of the company so when up-and-coming R&B and hip-hop artists are looking for a home, Virgin will be the first stop.”
Arista released Dupri’s last album, “Green Light,” during the year the imprint was in the BMG family. So So Def was initially a joint venture with Sony Music.
Dupri produced his first No. 1 record when he was 19 — Kris Kross’ 1992 single “Jump.” After the album sold 5 million copies in a year, So So Def was created with Dupri at the helm.
So So Def has broken the acts Jagged Edge, Bow Wow, Xscape, Da Brat and Anthony Hamilton. Dupri also has worked on the side as a producer, working with Usher in 1997 on “My Way,” “You Make Me Wanna…” and “Nice & Slow.”
Dupri is up for three Grammys this year: in the R&B song category for co-writing “Burn” and “My Boo” and for album of the year for his production and engineering/mixing work on Usher’s “Confessions.”
Serletic said Virgin has been moving toward the establishment of an urban division over the past two years. “I approached Jermaine and it became clear that he was a singular leader,” said Serletic, who is also a producer. “Being a songwriter and producer with a keen business sense is an exciting combination.”
Dupri told Daily Variety So So Def will be all new artists plus Da Brat.
“There’s room for improvement at Virgin — the whole thing is open,” he said. “It’s a cool challenge. Making stars out of young musicians is what I’m here to do. My goal is to make records and make the company profitable.”