Beginning with breakout success in 1992 upon the discovery of teenage rappers Kris Kross, Jermaine Dupri became one of the most consistent and all-persuasive producers of the 1990s, producing practically the entire careers of many artists on his label, So So Def Recordings (including platinum entries like Xscape and Da Brat as well as Kris Kross). In addition, Dupri provided a steady hand to many of the most high-profile R&B albums of the decade, such as TLC's CrazySexyCool (ten times platinum) and Mariah Carey's Daydream (eight times platinum).
His promising musical career began before he was even ten years old. His father, Atlanta manager Michael Mauldin, had coordinated a Diana Ross show in 1982; to the delight of concert-goers, Dupri managed to get on-stage and dance along with Ross. He began performing around the country, appearing with Herbie Hancock and Cameo before he opened the New York Fresh Festival, with Run-D.M.C., Whodini, and Grandmaster Flash. Dupri's production career began in 1987, when at the age of 14 he produced and secured a record contract for the trio Silk Tymes Leather. Two years later, he formed So So Def Productions in Atlanta; by 1991 Dupri had found his first platinum act.
After seeing the pint-size rap duo Kris Kross performing in a local mall, he signed them and prepared their debut album. Totally Krossed Out spent two weeks at number one and quickly sold four million copies. The pair's lack of staying power was somewhat obvious, and Dupri kept working, producing tracks on TLC's first two albums, which sold over 15 million copies between the two of them.
During 1993-1994, Dupri debuted two of his new So So Def acts, Xscape and Da Brat. Both debut albums hit platinum, thanks in large part to Dupri, and by the end of 1994, he had become one of the most respected R&B producers in the business. He worked with superstar Mariah Carey and old-school rap acts like Run-D.M.C. and Whodini. Dupri's next major success came in 1997, when he took over the production for a sophomore album by a suave teenage R&B singer named Usher. The album, My Way, became one of the biggest of the year, selling over two million copies in its first three months of release.
Taking a page from the book of fellow super-producer Sean "Puffy" Combs (who debuted a solo project in mid-1997), Dupri returned to performing in early 1998 with a single, "The Party Continues." After collaborating with Snoop Doggy Dogg, fellow Atlanta residents OutKast, Slick Rick, Nas, and Master P, he released his debut solo album (as JD), Life in 1472, in July 1998. Instructions followed in 2001. ~ John Bush