Jermaine Dupri: ‘The Rap Game’ season 4 will have ‘a lot of ups and downs’

Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Atlanta’s legendary hip-hop producer Jermaine Dupri didn’t sugarcoat his disappointment in the five kids during last week’s debut of the fourth season of Lifetime’s “The Rap Game.”

But in an interview this week, he tried to look on the bright side.

“I was 100 percent worried at the beginning of the season,” Dupri said. “We expect these kids to be good. The reality is they were good enough to get my attention but they often don’t have stage experience or artist development. If they are already great, they have no need to come on this show.”

He said some of the kids will improve greatly as this season goes along but admits there are “a lot of ups and downs,” more than past seasons. And for those who don’t improve? “That lets you know they shouldn’t be doing this,” he said.

He thought fans would hate all five kids after the mediocre first impressions. But he said Atlanta 12-year-old Street Bud received plenty of positive reaction. “He’s hard not to like,” Dupri said. “He’s a cute kid.” They also thought he was too harsh on RapUnzel.

He doesn’t plan to give the show a breather despite the seeming lack of star quality this season at this early stage.

“The way the show is moving, you can’t really take a break,” Dupri said. “Someone else might slide in that space if the show is off TV. It’s reaching kids and teaching people at home about hip hop in a way that hip hop is not being taught anymore on TV. You get to hear my perspective on artist development. It’s an entertaining, teaching show. I don’t think stopping it is in the cards.”

Dupri said the first three winners – Miss Mulatto, Mani and Nova – are still developing. He has yet to record a full album with any of them just yet. Instead, he is having them perform regularly, working on their stagecraft. “You see someone break big on YouTube, get a hit record and go out and perform and do terrible shows,” he said. “You know how history is. That can just kill your career. It doesn’t matter how many streams he gets.”

He doesn’t think any of them are as good as Kris Kross or Bow Wow yet. But he’s working with them day in, day out. “Last night I did a parade in L.A. with Mani. If you watched him on the show, he was shy. He wasn’t open to things. Now he acts more like an artist. He’s talking to people. He knows how to greet people. He’s learned by being around me and being on the show.”

Bottom line for him is “you’ll feel it when they’re ready.”

His take on each contestant at this stage of the game based on the “foundation” rap exercise last Friday:

Lil Bri: “She paid attention. She went into her foundation rap and painted a picture of Houston and her upbringing there at her age at this particular time.”

Jordan: “He didn’t do a good job describing what Tulsa is like. He could really rap. He wasn’t descriptive.”

Street Bud: “He got close to it. I had to kind of back off a bit. It’s a new era for this type of rapper, these swag rappers like Migos. They have this flow and style. I looked at him like that. He needed to be a little more descriptive. 2 Chainz is really descriptive. He told us about the pink trap house and you know what it looked like before you had seen it. He was the second best out of everybody else.”

Ricci Bitti: “They got so locked into getting Jny back over what she said. But that was the part of the rap where she started paying attention to the assignment. She would have been better off starting with that. She talked about CD burners in her house. It was much more vivid than what she started with, which didn’t have much to do with the assignment.”

RapUnzel: “Her verses were alright. But her performance was low energy. It’s the fourth season of this show. These kids have been watching this. They know what I want.”

One big change in this business, he said, is how radio and record sales are no longer the be all and end all. He had seen a singer named H.E.R. who has two E.P.s and a huge number of streams but no radio airplay. Yet people at the concert knew every word of her songs. He found her talented, a potentially great artist.

“What I’m doing with ‘The Rap Game’ is part of the new era of how music I shared,” Dupri said. “I could take nine kids on tour who have never been on radio and can sell out 2,500-seat theaters, sell T-shirts and have people singing to their records. That’s success.”

ON TV
“The Rap Game,” 10 p.m. Fridays, Lifetime

 


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