Should Success Be Measured By Sales And Awards Alone? New So So Def Documentary Explores Rise Of Jermaine Dupri

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Written by Lauren DeLisa Coleman
So So Def
The rise of So So Def founder Jermaine Dupri is explored in a new documentary, “Power, Influence and Hip-Hop: The Remarkable Rise of So So Def”, premiering July 18, 2019: Photo: WE tv

The documentation of successful men in the music industry doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

From “The Defiant Ones” — a series that tells the stories of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine — to “Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men” and others, storytelling around the business and creative triumphs of men in the music industry has never been hotter.

Now “Power, Influence and Hip-Hop: The Remarkable Rise of So So Def”,  is the latest to join the list.

Premiering on WE tv on July 18, this documentary is more a look at the rise of So So Def founder Jermaine Dupri rather than the overall label.

This story is about the making of a mogul-of-sorts against the odds, location of Atlanta, Georgia, being one that is prominently noted. We learn about Dupri’s interest in entertaining from a young age and his first encounter with the duo that would become Kris Kross to his chart-topping work with Mariah Carey, Nelly and Lil’ Bow Wow.

While it’s engaging to live through the behind-the-scenes of much of this seminal work in Black music today, the documentary is far too short at only one-hour long to do the story real justice. We are privy to direct commentary from artists who have worked with or intersected somehow with Dupri – from Snoop Dogg to Usher to Da Brat. However, the more intriguing parts of Dupri’s life, from the death of Notorious B.I.G. to his former relationship with superstar Janet Jackson and more, are barely touched upon. They had to impact such a creative individual.

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In addition, his massive financial woes are simply glossed over. Fans who really know the roster of So So Def artists at the label’s zenith will miss the inclusion of voices from Xscape and Jagged Edge, among others.

What is uncovered to a certain extent, however, is the rise and fall of the now-deceased Chris Kelly (of Kris Kross) via his mother, which is heartbreaking. In an era of growing social awareness and social good — Colin Kaepernick, CEO activists and more — it’s striking that Dupri was not present as support in Kelly’s life and also did not visit his other artist, the first solo platinum-selling female rap artist Da Brat, during her incarceration.

Dupri mentions a belief that the artist’s life outside the studio is not really his concern, as if life exists in silos. It is such statements that leave the viewer wondering if success should really only be measured by sales and awards.

The documentary is well-produced and of course, Snoop Dogg steals much of the show in the candid manner which only he can command when he is on screen.

The question remains, can those who were once giants back in the day not only maintain their positions but actually lead in an era of quickly ephemeral hits, streaming wars, blockchain and AI where neo-creatives produce, write, design clothing labels, launch vineyards, produce TV, film, Broadway shows, rule social media and make mega-brand deals for breakfast?

Only time will tell.

“Power, Influence and Hip-Hop: The Remarkable Rise of So So Def” premieres on WE tv on July 18, 2019. This is a special production of WE tv in association with Entertainment One (eOne).