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Jermaine Dupri Headshot

Start at the Beginning

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I love what I do. Do you?

The hardest thing for me to find in the music industry today is people who like doin' what they do. Where are the window cleaners? Where are the kids who deliver the mail or hand out promotion fliers and are just happy to be there? Where are the young Russell Simmons? Where's the person that comes into the game doing something other than rappin' or singing, and leaves the game doing that same thing? Where are the new Berry Gordys?

In the rap world we have a new epidemic of beat makers who call themselves producers. What is it that other producers are showing these kids that's creating this wave? That's just one piece, but let me draw the bigger picture about what I'm talking about here:

Look the word opportunity up in the dictionary and it says: "A chance for progress or advancement." But I hear this word the most in situations like when I'm in the middle of a dinner and somebody brings me a CD. They'll say, I know this probably ain't the best time to do this, but I couldn't miss this opportunity..." Wait a minute. If you already have it in your brain that it might not be the right time, what progress and advancement do you expect to get out of it?

It's crazy to me some of the stuff that people pull to try and short cut their way to success. I can't even tell you how many times my cars have come back with CDs in the stereo when they've been serviced. A long time ago one guy even crashed into me at a stop sign so he could hand me his demo. It was lucky for him it was a rental!

Last year a stewardess on a flight coming back from Anguilla was being extra nice to me, constantly bringing me drinks and popping in movies for me. She was telling me about all the people that she's flown with, etc. Then right when I got good and comfy she knelt down by me and said, "I know I might lose my job for this, but..." Then she handed me a CD and said, "I couldn't pass up this opportunity..." Wait a minute. The demo wasn't even hers! It was her homegirl's!

My question again is: if you think in your mind that what you're about to do could get you fired, why wouldn't you want to go through the proper channels? What is it about giving me that CD at that moment that is worth risking your job for? There is no chance of progress or advancement by doing that. I would say the ratio of people who've gotten a record deal like that is slim to none.

The other thing I don't understand is, when did the custom of setting up an actual meeting with a record company come to an end? Yes, I've heard people say they call and they get the run around. I was one of those people. I made plenty of calls when I was coming up, and it was never easy getting past someone's assistant. But it didn't discourage me. I didn't expect to get in off the top. And there's more than one record company out there. You gotta try them all!

I find that this new generation of go getters doesn't really wanna start at the bottom. They wanna start in the middle, at the very least. But the last time I checked, the definition of "start" was to have a beginning. That's the time in your life when you'll do ANYthing to make it in the business, from driving all night to get to a music convention, to answering phones at a studio and picking up take-out for the engineers.

Since when did it become wack to have a beginning? When did it become wack to sneak into the hot party uninvited? Since when did it become wack to grow old and have some shit to talk about or stories to tell?

The other day I had a conversation with a girl I was trying to get to work for my club in Atlanta, Studio 72. I asked her what was it that she really wanted to do in life. She said she wanted to be a model. I asked her: "So why are you still in the ATL if this is what you REALLY wanna do?"

"Cause if I move to New York or Los Angeles, I would have to get a job until things started clicking," she said.

I said: "Whoa! Since when did chasing your dreams and getting a job to stay afloat stop become wack?"

All of this was new to me. If there was something else I wanted to do besides produce and write I would've chased that to the best of my ability. I would've moved to wherever was closer to where I needed to be for whatever I was trying to do. I would've interned and got myself a job if I had to. This girl is 22-years old. For the next three years, in my mind, she has time to chase her dreams. She doesn't have kids and she's single. That's the best position to be in when you're on that chase!

So finally I asked her, "What's in Atlanta that's keepin' you here?" She couldn't tell me.

I don't knock anybody for trying to do something. But at some point in your life you gotta show that something some serious commitment. You gotta be willing to make sacrifices and push past your comfort zone. If you are gonna be a flight attendant, be the best flight attendant you can be. If you're gonna be a DJ, be the best DJ you can be and don't suddenly decide you're gonna be Prince. If you are going to be anything, give it your all and don't switch it up in the middle without even thinking about it. Play your position, and play it to win.

That's why I try to encourage kids to start their chase now. The older you get, the less time you have.

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.