So Jermaine Dupri got canned from his gig running the urban division in the Island division of Def Jam. Big surprise there. Everybody knows that LA Reid created that position specifically for JD, after his tenure running the urban division at Virgin Records went bust. It was LA Reid’s way of, ahem, “paying it forward.” Which is the way the music business (and most of the world) is run, if you haven’t already caught wind of that fact.
Still, I can’t help but feel that this was a great move for Island Def Jam and for Jermaine Dupri. I’m guessing it was some time last year that a sneaker-fetching intern pulled JD aside and showed him this miraculous new technology that was beginning to gain some steam. It was called, the Internet. Upon discovering the Internet, Jermaine began taping himself and throwing videos up on Youtube, not unlike Diddy and his infamous Diddy vlogs. Difference is, JD’s vlogs weren’t always so self congratulatory. Sure, he had some bad moments, but for the most part, it seemed he was embracing the technology in a very pure and organic way.
But before all of that, I’m sure within hours of being exposed to the Internet, Jermaine Dupri was lead to the third most popular online destination in the world, Youtube, and he discovered this singer Phatffat. He saw that Phatffat was drawing a huge audience with her youtube videos covering other people’s songs, an audience that would ordinarily be paying attention to the artists that Island Def Jam was trying to create a buzz for. Here was a very homegrown online buzz, and Jermaine had to have it. So he quickly signed her up, adopted her real name Dondria, and tried to gain some awareness for her music within the industry, even having listening parties and things of that nature. Basically, the shit a label does for a regular artist.
Later in the year, Proctor and Gamble stepped in, said they wanted to create an ad-supported record label– which is one of the new business models for the music business, don’t be fooled– and TAG Records was created. Unfortunately, rather than use his years of A&R experience to find some genuine talent, JD signed Q Da Kid, who had been sitting on the bench at So So Def for years. Now I’m not insinuating that Q Da Kid doesn’t have talent, or that he won’t “blow up” (in some modern sense of what that means). But I think it’d be fair to say the buzz on him right now is less than stellar.
All the while, Janet Jackson’s album, Discipline, despite being a very solid project, failed to sell many records and overall had brand Janet looking bad. Then there was this guy 9th Ward, who if you may recall, was featured in XXL’s very own Show and Prove section a few months ago. From New Orleans, he was spitting the realest shit he ever wrote, but it failed to impact on listeners, and his project seems to have stalled out.
All in all, seems like during JD’s tenure, he didn’t make much of an impact on an executive level. As a producer, he’s always been noteworthy and capable of churning out hits. He gets the right beatmakers, the best songwriters, and has a knack for pulling great performances out of talent. But as an executive, at least during the last ten years or so, he’s been largely a failure. He bounces around the music business, always gets executive jobs, but doesn’t do much.
For that reason, I think it’s great that Def Jam is giving him the pink slip. I think continuing to give people jobs who’ve continuously failed just shows the ineptitude of the major labels at the corporate level to bring in real executive talent who can truly run a record label from a dollars and cents standpoint. Since the majors want to play the numbers game, and want it to be all about meeting a bottom line, then get some real number crunching type executives in place. Stop wasting your time with music people. Because at this point it’s not even much about real music anymore so much as it’s about creating a sheer musical product, one that can be monetized in whatever way possible. I’m sure anyone who went to the movies over the holidays saw the Flo Rida, Trey Songz and Janelle Monae urban version of “Jingle Bells” playing before the film started. I rest my case on that point.
For JD, this is a great opportunity for him to realize in a very real world way what he’s alluded to a bunch of times over the past few year- that the traditional music business is dead. That the majors are doing business ass backwards, and that the business model is broken. That’s why Jay-Z bowed out gracefully. He wasn’t going to waste his time working at a major label when the business is clearly elsewhere at the moment. So why should JD?
I know JD has a lot… A LOT… of haters. I, for one, was won over by his persistence a few years ago. I had to really acknowledge that dude had hits upon hits. That he really was a slept on presence in the business. I think he’s more forward thinking than he lets on, because, well, being an exec and putting on that show and saying all the right things is what he gets paid for. But deep down, him and anyone else at a major knows the truth. That the business is a complete and utter disaster. Better to get out now and move on to some new way of doing things. I mean, it sucks. It’s like a bicycle maker trying to sell bikes when the automobile was introduced. But that man had to adapt, and so should JD.
So good riddance. Def Jam did you a favor. They just want a product to sell, and they can’t properly sell it anyway. So who cares? Just keep it moving and start a record label with a technology company or something. Ya’know, a company that actually knows what it’s doing.