Interview: Jermaine Dupri joins 2nd reality show BET’s ‘Music Moguls’ June 28

Jermaine Dupri is juggling two reality shows: LIfetime's "The Rap Game" and BET's 'Music Moguls"

Jermaine Dupri is juggling two reality shows: LIfetime’s “The Rap Game” and BET’s ‘Music Moguls”

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jermaine Dupri produced his biggest stars in the 1990s and early 2000s: Kris Kross, Xscape, Bow Wow, Usher.

Now that it’s 2016, he has decided to double down on reality television – literally. Earlier this year he generated a surprise hit with the reality competition show “The Rap Game,” finding a promising new star in Miss Mulatto. And now he’s joined BET’s “Music Moguls” with Snoop Dogg, Damon Dash (Roc-a-fella Records) and Birdman (Cash Money). The reality show debuts Tuesday, June 28 at 9 p.m.

My interview with Miss Mulatto after she won “The Rap Game.”

BET’s biography on JD is surprisingly unstinting: “The majority of the fans feel JD has disappeared and his relevance and status are in jeopardy.” It notes that he is working with a potential pop star and launched his first solo EDM effort. The bio asks: “Can JD build on the brand he’s created or will he dwell in obscurity and fade away?”

And Dash himself during the debut episode, when confronted about his own irrelevance, bites back: “You’re still in the 90s Jermaine! Still wearing your pants backwards?”

The most interesting tidbit from that first episode is JD missed out on a chance to work with Justin Bieber years ago. He heard Bieber sing Usher’s “Nice and Slow” but didn’t grasp Bieber’s appeal. He hopes with precocious Seattle based 14-year-old Carson Lueders, he can make up for that mistake.

Dupri, thanks to TV, is now generating more attention than he has in years.

“Do TV and mix it with the music,” he said in a recent interview. “Make it work.”

Lifetime is quickly bringing back “The Rap Game” for a second season July 22. He said he is teaming with L.A. Reid and Epic to help  season one winner Miss Mulatto pull out a strong first release.

“I felt like the TV show was so boisterous,” he said. “I needed more behind the music to make sure the music was on the same level as the TV show.”

Since the two reality shows are on rival networks, he can’t reference Miss Mulatto on “Music Moguls.”

“Music Moguls” focuses squarely on JD’s efforts to re-build his prominence. “All I care about is making sure people know my history of music and if I die, I want people to remember me as a man who was out here putting out as much music as possible.”

As an executive producer of “Music Moguls,” JD was aware that the four moguls live in different cities, so he forced them into group and paired interactions. The first episode features that somewhat tense exchange between Dupri and Dash, for instance.

JD likes that the four of them have differing focuses. “Snoop is the artist of the four,” Dupri said. “Damon is the hustler dude. He was never the artist. Birdman is the CEO. I am more the producer-songwriter.”

He believes the success of “Empire” shows an innate interest in what goes on behind the scenes in the music business today. “They know ‘Empire’ is based on some reality,” he said. “We’ve all been in this business for 20-plus years. For the most part, we are all still in the business.”

Of the four of them, Birdman is the closest to Lucious Lyon on “Empire,” Dupri said: “He’s very flashy.” Dupri has his own flash but isn’t quite as out there with it on the show. “I show everyone I’m working!”

Besides Luedders, he is high on a Decatur native and rapper Phresh Ali, who will be featured in “Music Moguls” and is in his mid-20s.

“He’s introduced me to this underground rap scene in Atlanta that I wasn’t so privy to,” Dupri said.

What’s missing, he said, in the Atlanta music scene today is a hot R&B artist. “We don’t have a new Toni Braxton. We don’t have a TLC. We don’t have an Usher right now,” Dupri said.

TV PREVIEW

“Music Moguls,” 9 p.m. Tuesdays, starting June 28, BET

 

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