Over the course of three and a half hours, cousin acts two- and three-generations removed and megawatt stars showcased both the label's depth and its founder's inexplicable reach as a talent groomer, image maker, and sought-after producer over the last two decades. From the saccharine-flavored early '90s pop-rap of Kris Kross, who kicked off the show with a three-song set, to turn-of-the-millennium diva Mariah Carey, who provided the icing on the cake (but no vocals) at the show's close, Jermaine Dupri's legacy was made whole. And all the ambivalence surrounding his creative output and "so-so" industry standing was silenced for the moment, if not for all time.
Even Dupri's versatility has been reflected in the city's ability to sonically reinvent itself. As Jon Caramanica of the New York Times recently wrote about the rap capital, "Trap music, snap music, strip club anthems: Atlanta can be almost anything it sets its mind to." It's been the key to Dupri's success, too, while often earning him criticism for producing acts all over the map.
"It feels like a family reunion in this muthafucka!" Lil Jon shouted at one point during the concert. His set was a highlight, as he and Dupri waged a friendly competition by alternately introducing acts they were responsible for to the stage: Bonecrusher ("Never Scared"), Youngbloodz ("Damn!"), J-Kwon ("Tipsy"), Lil Scrappy ("No Problem"), Dem Franchize Boyz ("Lean Wit It," "I Think They Like Me" remix), Pastor Troy ("We Ready").
Oddly enough, So So Def's biggest success, Bow Wow, was the show's sleeper. Mainly because the rest of the acts were throwbacks to a specific era in Atlanta, and Bow Wow's young audience was largely absent. That didn't stop him from taking his shirt off and pulling a young lady out of the crowd to seduce onstage.
Da Brat's set was also a highlight, thanks to her cute between-song banter with Dupri. "J.D. why you always leaving me, man?" she said as he exited the stage after they performed "Funkdafied." LaTocha and Tameka Scott pulled off their Xscape redux without Tameka "Tiny" Cottle and Kandi Burruss. Anthony Hamilton had the whole audience swaying. And Jagged Edge did their thing with producer Bryan Michael Cox - another Dupri find and former staff producer - playing piano behind them. But when Dupri stepped into his own artist/producer bag, the show turned up a notch. Nelly took his shirt off during "Grillz" and got the kind of reaction Bow Wow had hoped for. Dupri and Ludacris performed "Welcome to Atlanta." Luda stuck around and performed "Yeah" and Monica sang a capella and killed it. Then Dupri began rapping the first verse of "Money Ain't a Thang," his 1998 duet with Jay-Z.
Perhaps the real reason Jermaine Dupri has gotten such short shrift over the years is because he chose to stay in Atlanta and build a legacy at home rather than retreat to the media and entertainment capitals of N.Y. or L.A., where he probably wouldn't have earned the right to call himself the "mayor" but may have been more likely to garner the level of industry respect and press clips he desired. Despite his undeniable gift for churning out urban idols and producing pop hits, he's still fighting for recognition - just like the hip-hop capital he calls home.
After Mariah wheeled out a birthday cake and Da Brat lit the candles Saturday night, Dupri told the crowd why he chose to celebrate So So Def's 20th in Atlanta. "[People] were like, 'Why don't you do this shit in L.A.? Why don't you do this shit in New York?' Cause this is my motherfuckin' town. That's how the fuck I get down."
It was the perfect way to sum up the last 20 years.
Killin it. So damn sexy
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
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