Jermaine Dupri was understandably a little star-struck at the prospect of working with Aretha Franklin. “She’s a superhero,” he said.
She made it clear that she didn’t need his admiration, though. She needed his help.
“She expected me to talk to her about things to do. This is the Queen of Soul. Her bad notes sound better than every artists that’s on the radio right now,” he said. “Once she started talking to me I just would tell her certain things like to sing on the beat.”
He and Franklin collaborated on the song “Here We Go Again,” a single on her 1998 album “A Rose is Still a Rose.” Dupri produced the song and helped write it, and they recorded the single in Detroit. Franklin arrived with just one or two other people, no huge entourage.
“It was a very calm session,” Durpi said during an interview on Monday morning, amid news of Franklin’s failing health. She died Thursday in her Detroit home at age 76.
“My prayers are with the family,” Dupri said.
Here’s an audio clip of our interview:
The CEO of So So Def and executive producer of “The Rap Game,” Dupri has been working with artists since he was a teenager. He wasn’t even 20 when he spotted two youngsters performing with their pants on backwards at Atlanta’s Greenbriar Mall. Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly and Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith, the duo known as Kris Kross, dominated the charts for weeks with their 1992 hit “Jump.”
Today, Dupri’s vast repertoire includes recordings with artists including Usher, Ludacris, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Janet Jackson. The confidence Franklin all those years ago instilled in him helped propel him to success, he said.
“She was the person who made me realize what my position in the studio was,” he said. “I had an idea prior to working with her. When I started getting the opportunity to work with bigger-name artists, I would shy out a little bit. When I was in the studio with Aretha ... I was almost asking her if she liked it. She definitely corrected me and was like, ‘Jermaine, you’re the producer. If you ain’t gonna produce me, I’ll go home.”