Jermaine Dupri knows one or two things about making hit records.
The producer, singer and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, helped direct the successful works of Usher, Janet Jackson, TLC, Xscape, and Mariah Carey, to name a few. She even won a Grammy final for writing and performed her 2005 song We Belong Together.
As the founder of So So Def Records, he is also a heavyweight in the rap world. In addition to finding Kriss Kross, Bow Wow, and Da Brat, she has worked with the likes of Jay-Z, Ludacris, Nelly, and many others.
But it’s R&B where he shines the brightest light – especially in his work with Usher – and according to him, there is a “big gap” in the genre market category that will come back.
He says: “I feel that culture needs it now.
His comments come after months of recordings, broadcast services and awards vowing to stop using the word “urban” as a participatory name in traditional black music – from rap and hip-hop to soul and Afrobeats.
As the name has been dismissed, it is possible for all of those genres to grow on their own, especially R&B.
The rhythmic pulse, which dominated the aircraft in the late 90’s and early 2000s, was in part thanks to artists such as Mary J Blige, Usher and Baby Desiny.
Its main popularity spread in 2010 and Dupri says there is an (contradictory) obstacle to re-establishing the genre.
“I mean it’s going to take a lot of work because I’ve lost the original origins of R&B music and R. Kelly went to jail,” Dupri said, referring to the star’s arrest and ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual harassment.
Kelly has faced numerous state and federal charges, including allegations of sexual harassment, child abuse, child pornography, competition, and obstruction of justice. The 53-year-old man has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The star, for many years, has been taking “King of R&B” by peers and peers alike, helping to define and revive R&B with songs like Ignition (Remix), I believe I can fly with Bump N ‘Grind.
“He was a very good man at the heart of it all,” Dupri continued. “He was throwing a record that felt like a hip-hop song … but when he wanted to sing, he could actually sing.
“So with this move, with R. Kelly not being part of the music industry there is no longer a big gap right there, and I don’t think people really understand that.
“You can’t talk about it now because you sound like you’re dating him and you’re saying something weird, but in the real technological realm with R&B music, R. Kelly was 65% music.”
‘Divided into lower classes’
But she’s not just Kelly. Dupri lists a few R&B stars – such as Jagged Edge, XScape and Boyz II Men – who say they are not well-represented on commercial radio.
“I do not believe that any record labels believe that R&B ballads can move a needle,” he said.
Even artists who work under the influence of R&B, such as the Canadian star Thendnd, are divided into categories, he argues.
“When you read on iTunes what Thendnd is, it says ‘pop,’ it doesn’t even mean R&B, right? So they take a completely different path from him.
“If you just come with a straightforward R&B record, a ballad, it’s hard because the labels don’t really believe in it.”
Dupri’s comments follow Young MA’s recent claim that modern music has little or no control over Maxwell or Jill Scott.
“Music doesn’t feel that way because we don’t have R&B,” he told Touch in February. “R&B has left that balance in music .. now everything goes the same way smh (shake his head) so it’s played fast! We need the remaining R&B.”
“He made the right point,” Dupri said. “The industry has been demolished now with so many rapper singing their hooks.”
“That’s not R&B, but that. Singing rap is whatever you want to say. What [the young MA] is talking about is artists. You’re talking about people who really sing, as in what they really do.”
Acknowledgment, Pt III
Another qualified artist is Dupri, a longtime collaborator, Usher.
Together, the two are currently working hard on the sequel to Usher’s 2004 diamond sales album.
After releasing a single version of Not Waste My Time – featuring British singer Ella Mai – earlier this year, Usher re-shared SexBeat and I Cry songs, but so far it is unknown if any of them will hit the album.
In February, the R&B titan also previewed the lyrics of a new song he called “the next piece of confession.”
Fans think it will be part III of his song Confidence (Part I sees a man admitting to infidelity, while in part II he admits that his wife is pregnant).
But there was some involvement – speaking during a live concert, Usher told fans, “it was not my confession that made it to Phase III, it was something he told me”.
Continuing to discuss the song, Dupri says it is not even called C Confidence, Pt. III – the real title Trust.
“It’s like a shooting warning for boys who find themselves in positions that are common in Conf Confidence,” Dupri explained.
“It’s about the consequences of when men go out and do what they do and not actually believe that a girl does the same thing.”
“It goes back to storytelling,” he continued. “Usher and I both felt like people wanted to know what happened after this baby situation in Part II, but it’s called Faithful.”
So Dupri thinks Usher can help turn the tide and put R&B on the map with his upcoming album?
“Hopefully,” she replies.
“But if Usher can come back and do what we did with the album and it comes out, one has to defend it and make sure they say it’s R&B.
“Because if it isn’t, and it gets bigger, it’ll be a left incline and someone will call you a pop album.”
As for why the record is withheld, he says: They are waiting to “make everyone believe” that R&B can also emerge as a commercial force.
He concludes: “If I could be instrumental in helping to motivate people who want to sing again, and this Usher album makes people want to sing, then I would be really proud.”