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Jermaine Dupri

Jermaine Dupri

Posted: September 2, 2008 03:38 PM

Obama, You Got Me


Yeah, I know I've been quiet this summer. I've been running so hard it's been a minute since I had the time to blog in this space. But something got me fired up last week. It got me so inspired I feel like I'm 19 years old and ready to take on the world again. It was Barack Obama's convention speech.

I've read and heard all the opinions. Plenty of people have had something to say about this. So why do I feel the need to weigh in now? I've always been the guy who found politics boring, and I haven't trusted anyone in Washington to do anything for me for a long while. It had no relevance to me, and I never really got what all the hype about Obama was about. But now I get it. The guy won me over. He touched me in a way no politician ever has before. He hit all the right notes and he hit 'em hard. I was the undecided voter Obama needed to reach with his words, and now he has my full attention.

What resonated with me the most was when he said: "It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it."

That to me sums up what's been the problem with the old way of doing this on all fronts. The old guard ain't bad necessarily. It's just that they don't understand that there's a new reality, and a new way of doing things that's a better fit for our times. When these guys fight change they stand in the way of progress and push back the energy and drive of the young. It hurts their future, and everybody else's.

But Obama's words gave me an energy I haven't felt since I got started in the music business, when I believed anything was possible. That's a powerful thing.

So when I woke up the next day and checked out all the blogs in the black media, I was shocked. I read that Tavis Smiley thought King's legacy was being "glossed over" and that Rev. Jesse Jackson was mad that King's famous speech was "being reduced to a soundbite." A whole bunch of commentators were complaining that Martin Luther King wasn't getting enough respect, and that referring to him as "a young preacher from Georgia" was somehow a dis. It felt like they didn't even hear the same words I heard. But what hurt me the most was when Dr. Cornel West, a man I really admire and respect, said Obama was "running from history."

For real?! Exactly why was Obama supposed to be giving everyone a history lesson in his speech when the whole point was to talk about the future? What he said was exactly what he needed to say to introduce himself to apolitical folks like me and get us fired up and ready to make a change. It was his job to lay out the plan that will bring America into the 21st century, and that's what he did.

I want to know where we're going and how we're going to get there, not where we've already been. It's his actions that carry the torch for MLK, not some boring tribute to the past that other people expect him to make. That's the kind of bullshit that old people who've been here forever get stuck on. They're missing the point. They're forgetting that when they followed Martin Luther King they were young themselves. They were looking ahead, not backwards.

You name me one single politician or president in living memory who could get a standing ovation from 84,000 people before he even spoke. More than 40 million people were watching -- more than anyone paying attention to the Olympics. If anything, even a leader of Clinton's caliber might get a few boos. I've been in the music business my whole life and I've never seen anything close to that kind of excitement in a crowd.

It was intriguing to me to see how the dude caught these people. Obama came out with a power that no world leader has. He commands that kind of crowd because he brings something that goes beyond politics. What I was watching from my home in Los Angeles, Obama had me through the whole 45 minute speech. No one can grab my attention like that! Anyone who knows me can tell you I can't even sit still for five minutes, but I watched that speech from begin to end. His words and mindset spoke to me in a way that's relevant to my life.

Obama's movement is about us, and what we can do to shake things up. He delivers the drive in people to want to do things that make change. That's why older people who've held their spot forever -- the John McCains and Jesse Jacksons of this world -- find him a threat. They have to fuss about the small stuff that has no relevance to the big picture of our future because they got nothin'!

It reminds me of the beef between Ice T and Soulja Boy. Ice T said Soulja Boy was "single-handedly killing hip hop." But whose hip hop? Soulja Boy speaks to his own generation. He makes songs that sound great on a ringtone and get millions of hits on YouTube -- something Ice T could never do today.

No disrespect to these older dudes, but it's not about you, it's about the destiny of our kids. Just because it's new and different doesn't mean it's bad. I run into the same kind of mentality with older executives in the music industry. The business is failing because they're stuck in the old ways of doing things, but they resist the ideas of younger people like me. I've been battling this way of thinking my whole life. When I first started making music in Atlanta, people said I was too country, and that the music of the South would never have the flava of what was going on in New York or LA. Now everyone's coming to Atlanta. It's the mecca of music. Times change.

Things don't need to stay stuck in one gear. If we keep trying to fight progress, it's gonna march right past us. We need to be inspiring young people instead of always telling them what they're doing wrong. That's why I wrote my book, "Young, Rich and Dangerous." There aren't enough people with credentials who can speak to the younger generation and influence them the right way. A few months ago I blogged about the fact that young black people fall off because they don't have a bridge generation that can listen to them without judging them and set them on a path to a better future. Black or white, Obama is a good bridge. We have a long way to go, but he's a start.

That's why it's time for people like myself, who have real influence with kids, to inspire them to get out there and vote. Obama's not going to be able to bring America into the future if the younger generation doesn't get behind him in a way that counts at the polls. He's got my vote, but he needs yours. Now I'm gonna go out there and do everything I can. Because it is time for a change.

Jermaine Dupri, who was named the most successful R&B producer of all time by the Guinness World Records 2007, is a Grammy-award winning music producer, president of Island Urban Records and author of Young, Rich and Dangerous: The Making of a Music Mogul (Atria, October 2007). For more information about this blogger, click here.