Jermaine Dupri Shares Thoughts On Music, Technology & Ghetto Metrics [Video]

April 9, 2013

4:41 pm

Back in 1992, Jermaine Dupri (or JD to many) brought Kris Kross to the nation’s attention by producing the hit song that made us Jump. He went on to have his own successful rapping career, which included throwing rhymes with Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, and more as the youngest producer with a number one record. He is also the former president of Virgin Records.

Jermaine Dupri joined us in downtown Las Vegas and participated in the first of our monthly event series called Tech Cocktail Week this past December. Driven by his curiosity to learn from other tech startup founders, Jermaine shared his experiences in working with social networking and media as it collided with the music industry. His journey led him to blog at Global 14. The blog at Global 14 eventually turned into a social network for music.  He led with what he knows by saying:

“Everything in tech cannot live without music. It’s all about music. Music is the main thread throughout everyone in this room. We all care about music.”

He explains what he is seeing in the music industry, technology, social networking, and where he sees things going in his talk below. You can also attend Tech Cocktail Week the second week of every month in downtown Las Vegas to hear from thought leaders, enterpreneurs, and startup founders from around the country.

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Transcript of Jermaine Durpi’s talk at Tech Cocktail Week

What’s up, everybody?  I know when I first got here, a lot of you was looking at me like, “What the hell is he doing here, and why is he here, and what is he here still for the next day, and probably today?”

But make a long story short – a lot of y’all know me.  I make music.  I’ve been making music since god knows when, but I started my career in ’92, and I created this group called Kris Kross, and their first record sold eight million records, and that was the beginning of my career, and it’s just been going and going and going and going.

But at some period in my life, I think about 2000-something, I became the President of Virgin Records, and at that time, Janet Jackson was the biggest artist on that label.  It was when we put out her new album, and I was on MySpace – I think – I was on MySpace, and I didn’t really understand MySpace, because I just have this idea of things, when I get on things that I hear about that I think there’s something else.

So I got on MySpace, and I started noticing that these kids had no kind of contact with a real, true CEO or president of any one of these companies when it was in the music business.

So, I started noticing the things that was happening on MySpace that they was doing for the artist – which was Janet – and I went back to the company, and I said, “Yo, I think we should do this Janet Jackson contest for all her fans, the world – everybody, and I think that we should allow them to make the covers.”

A lot of the people in the company didn’t like what I was saying, because the artwork that they was making, and they was _________ that the people in the artwork division was getting ready to get cut off, and they wasn’t gonna be a part of the biggest artists on the labels project.

Now, I didn’t know that this was what was about to become the way the rest of the world was gonna work, but this is how shit is going down right now.  It’s kids on the internet that’s making a better product than the people that work inside of these companies, and if you’re not a social CEO, you won’t see this.

So, that’s my first leg into this in seeing what was going on.  So I took back, and I went back.  So, we went to – I think we went to Crayola or somebody to get the artwork, and get all the right things for everybody to do the artwork so the contest could really be official.

So the company was going crazy.  They thought it was the greatest thing in the world.  Then one day, somebody from legal – these guys, I hate, by the way – the legal guy comes in the office while I’m having one of my meetings with the rest of the staff, and he says, “Listen, we have a problem.  We can’t make this contest worldwide.”

And I’m like, “Are you really serious?”  And we adults in here, so I’m gonna speak to y’all — I said, “How the fuck are you gonna make – how we gonna have a contest for a global artist, and you’re gonna tell me it’s only gonna be something that we can do in the United States?  Do you know what that’s gonna do to her fans that’s in Paris, and London, and all over the rest of the world?”

This guy didn’t even care.  He was like, “I don’t know, but if you’re gonna do this contest, this is what’s gonna have to happen.”  He left the office.  Told me that, and left it like that.

Now, here I am on these sites.  I’m on MySpace, and these people know that it’s really me, and I’m talking to them.  I’m telling them, “I’m gonna give you all something y’all something y’all never had before.  You have the opportunity to be a part of Janet Jackson’s album cover.”  They’re really stoked – they’re really excited.  They think Jermaine Dupri has become the bridge to online and offline at the same time.

And I am that person, but it’s other people – these legal guys – that just don’t understand what’s going on.  So, this guy prevented this – I can’t blame it on him, but Virgin, and nobody else, made it possible for this contest to be global.  So, I go back to my MySpace, and you can imagine what the comments were.  “You suck.”  “You’re the worst president.”  Blah blah blah.  “We hate you.”  “You’re gonna destroy her career.”  Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

I became furious, because I’m on the site, and I wanted to know these people.  At this point and time, I’m like, “How do I something about this?  What’s getting ready to happen?”

Then at the same time that I was getting mad and all of this, this thing called Twitter came out.  I’m thinking, “Twitter sounds like this might be the saving of my life.  This might be the thing that I’ve been waiting for to get off MySpace, and go here.”  Then I went to Twitter, and I thought – in my mind, I perceived that Twitter was something else, again.

And Twitter was not what I perceived it to be.  Twitter was this thing where you could only talk – put 145 characters.  I’m like, “That doesn’t work for me.  I got a lot of shit to say.  This doesn’t work.  What’s going on?”

So, I’m like, “I gotta cut my conversation in half, and then people read it – if they don’t read the first half, they don’t know nothing about the bottom half.”  So, it’s like they’re just getting one piece.  And then, they start going so much, and then it became this thing of however many followers you have.

So the more followers you get, the more you really don’t understand the conversation that’s happening on Twitter.  So, I’m really frustrated.  So, here I have MySpace, and I have Twitter, and I’m saying, “How do I get back to these kids that I was talking to about this Janet contest, and we’d have a real conversation?”

So then one morning, I woke up, and I heard something about Ashton Kutcher was in Atlanta, and that’s where I’m from, if you don’t know that.  I live in Atlanta, and that’s where I’m from.  So, Ashton Kutcher was in Atlanta, and Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to see who had the most followers on Twitter.  I’m like, “What the fuck is going on?”

So I’m looking at the TV, and he won.  And everybody was like, “Wow.  A movie star beat out a big company like CNN with the most people following, so people are more – they’re more in tune to what he’s talking about then you.”

Then I’m like – so then all my ideas just start – my mind just start going crazy.  So then I just start thinking like, “If this is the outlet that’s saying celebrity is ruling the world, or people are paying more attention to what celebrities are saying, I should be able to create my own place, and bring these same people that was on MySpace to my own home.”

At this time, I think I had 250,000 followers on Twitter.  I’m like, “If I can get half of those people to follow me” – and I only want half.  I don’t need all of them, because if you get too many, you can’t even talk to them.  I plan on talking to the people every day.
I’m saying, “Let’s figure it out.”

So then I told my staff one day – I went to my staff, and I said, “I’m gonna create my own social network.”  Everybody in the room looked at me like, “Yeah, whatever.  You wanna be the black Mark Zuckerberg.”  All kinds of conversation – all kind of little comments.  This is what I heard.

I’m like, “All right.  You think this is a joke, right?”  Now, when I was 16, somebody told me that I couldn’t be a producer.  By the way, I became the world’s youngest producer to ever have a number one record, so if you don’t know that about me, that’s who I am.  But this was the same conversation that they said to me – they were just telling me, “Producers are the people that tell the artists what to do, and they know more than the artists.”  Blah blah blah blah blah.

So I went through the same – I felt like I was going back through my younger childhood, and I went every day, and I was like, “I came make my own social network.”  It was like – nobody believed me.  So then I found this programmer, and I was like, “Yo, listen.  I wanna turn” – and I had a blog at the time, by the way – I had a blog by the name of Global 14.

The reason why the blog is called “Global,” as you can see, is because of the frustration that happened with Janet Jackson.  I wanted nothing about what I was doing to be limited to the rest of the world.  I wanted everybody in the world to see what I was doing, and I wanted to make sure that that was the beginning step in moving forward to all of the business that was done with Global 14.

So I had a blog where I was showing art, cars – things that I love – everything that I’m into – girls – did I say, “girls”?  And whatever else that goes on.  So, the guy that actually helped me build my blog, I said, “Yo.  I wanna make this into a social network.”  He was like, “What are you talking about?”  I said, “I want to – where the people are commenting, I want to be able to comment with them, and I want them to sign up, and I want to be able to talk.”

And he’s like, “You think you’re gonna create a Facebook.”  I’m like, “I don’t even know what that is, ’cause I don’t have Facebook.  I’ve heard about it,” and I still don’t have a Facebook, by the way, to this day.  I don’t have a Facebook, because I thought that if I got on Facebook, it probably would, in some kind of way, taint my mind into what I was already building.

I knew – I’ve heard about it.  I saw the movie.  But I never physically have been on Facebook to know exactly what the workings of it is.  So if you ever go on Global 14, you’d think that I’ve seen it – I haven’t.

But, ultimately, I say, “Yo.  We gonna create this site.”  He was more into it than anybody, but I had to really, really fuel him.  And every day, I had to give him so much information about what I wanted the site to look like, where I wanted to go with the site, and what I wanted to do.

To make another long story short, I created my own social network.  It’s called  It’s up and running right now if you wanna get on there – if you got your computer, wanna look at it.  I created it, and the first night that I went live with the site, I went on Twitter, and I said, “Yo.  I created my own social network, and y’all should join up right now.”

In 30 minutes, I had 1,500 people on my site.  I was excited.  I was running around.  I’m like, “Yo.  I did it.”  And that was the beginning of why I’m here right now, because I started noticing when I created that and I started talking to people on the site, I started noticing that the information that these kids was bringing to my site, they had no way of getting that information to any of you CEOs, or anybody else that’s creating.

So, I took it another step.  I said, “I’m gonna connect myself with as many people from tech so that I can really get into this world, and really see what’s going on.”  So I started doing – I think the first one that I did was Blog World – that’s here in Vegas.  I spoke at Blog World, and the first day I spoke at Blog World, I looked in the audience, and I was on a panel with somebody from Ford, and a panel with somebody from a bunch of other different companies, but nobody from music.

And that was the first time that I noticed.  I’m saying, “Damn.  The music people – they don’t care about this shit, huh?”  But this is the biggest business in the world, and this is where the world is headed to.  The tech world is what’s going on.  And meanwhile, everything in tech can’t live without music, by the way.  Everything.  I don’t care what you got – your phone, your laptop – even we came in here, Tony had the speakers – do you see the speakers?  He had the music going loud.

It’s all about music.  Music is the main thread throughout this whole room.  Everybody in this room cares about music and loves music.  I don’t care what type of music it is.  We all love and care music.

So, that became the top thread of Global 14.  And that became the place where – that’s where I started letting people know.  And as I went from one place to the next, I went to San Francisco.  And when I went to San Francisco – this was my first time going there, and I heard about Silicon Valley, and I went there, and they had this thing called “Silicon Valley Meets Hollywood.”

So I walk in – I know everybody in Hollywood, and I know everybody in the music industry.  I walk in.  I’m like, “I don’t see nobody from Hollywood in here, and I don’t see nobody else from the music business.”  I’m like, “How the hell did you call this that, and you got monster cables” – this thing was great.  It was blown out.  It was a nice place – it was a big old fly mansion and all of this.

I’m like, “They’re spending money, but they don’t have the real shit at the event.”  For real.  I don’t understand this, ’cause I can get you the real shit if you want the real shit.

So I told them the same thing I’m telling y’all – I have become – I call it “Ghetto Metrics – that’s what we call it, right?  Anyway, through my being in San Francisco at Silicon Valley Meets Hollywood, I met one guy that led me to another guy, that then led me to Matt, who y’all just saw on this stage.

One night, they was like, “Jermaine, you should go by the factory.”  I’m thinking, like, “Why?”  They was like, “They just young kids that’s doing what they gotta do, and the whole setting seems like it goes along with you.”

So when I went into the factory – these guys, they got this mansion that’s in some hills and shit in San Francisco, and it’s fly.  The windows is open, and there’s computers everywhere.  And I go to the door, and I’m knocking.  And the door’s unlocked.  You just push the door open, and you go in, and I’m like, “What the hell is going on in here?  I’ve never seen nothing like this.”

But what happened is I went there, and I learned so much education from them that led me to basically being here.  And I came here with Matt and the guys from Factory O — over there, and I just want to say that I’m thankful that y’all even let me be in the same room with y’all and hear what’s going on.

But I am the guy who is the connection between the world that y’all don’t know about, and the world that they don’t know about.  And I’m basically that bar.  And I call that “Ghetto Analytics,” because what’s happening with the majority of these companies that’s falling apart, they don’t know what I’m seeing on Global 14.

And the majority of the companies that’s exploding some kind of way, they’re getting that information, but it’s more companies that’s not having that information than it is the ones that do.  That’s basically my take on this.  I heard a lot of people talk about community, and basically what Global 14 is is a community.  It’s a community of people that have the same likes and the same mindset – starting with music, fashion, the love for art, and other things, as well as tech, video games – whatever, whatever.

One thing that I heard today in this whole room is that y’all still don’t have a place where all y’all are actually supposed to be at.  Some of y’all are on Facebook.  Y’all don’t even know why you’re on there.  Some people are on Twitter; they don’t even know why they’re on there.  There’s just no real rhyme or reason.  You’re just there, because you think other people are there.

But the people that you want to be in the room with are not on the same device, so you have to find ’em.  So then Google creates this thing called circles, and all this other stuff that makes no sense, and you just sit there and make up shit.  For real, by the way.  So I’m telling you what Global 14 is – Global 14 is a community of people that all have the same likes.

I am the general and the boss of my city, and we don’t let nobody on my site with all of that nonsense.  If you come there, and you wanna talk about things that we all have in common, then you become a very, very great member of my community, and that’s what it is.  I’m here to learn, and I hope I gave y’all a little bit of information by me being here.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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