Today is the 20th anniversary concert for legendary southern imprint So So Def . Founded by Jermaine Dupri, the label launched the careers of acts like Kris Kross, Da Brat, Xscape and more. While known more for partying and having a good time, one thing that that’s not really spoken about when it comes to the label is the beef that they had with others in the industry, primarily Suge Knight and Death Row records. So when Suge Knight stood on the stage of the Apollo in New York City in 1995 and said, “if you don’t want your producer all in your videos, all on your music, come to Death Row,” many believed that he was talking primarily about Puff Daddy and Bad Boy. IN actuality, if you look back at the year, it would more likely seems that that comment was pointed at one, Jermaine Dupri.
Look back in time, and lets start with Snoop Dogg. The artist that was the face of the Death Row and the West Coast at the time blazed a trail in hip-hop by introducing the world to the G-Funk era. His music was heavy with old school funk samples and hooks, geared toward capturing the ears of the streets and the radio. His massive success at the time with records like, “Gin and Juice,” and “What’s My Name,” brought forth many copy cats. One copy cat in particular was Da Brat. After So So Def had success with Kris Kross, JD looked for another act to really solidify his label and himself as a force in the industry and not just a flash in the pan. In comes, Chicago born femcee Da Brat. Da Brat and JD broke onto the scene with her hit record, “Funkdafied.” Her sagging pants, braids, flow and her G-funk sound reminded many people of a female version of Snoop Dogg. JD is known for making acts out of acts, ie Kriss Kross was the answer for A.B.C, Xscape was the female version of Jeodeci. It’s not a shock that JD would look to the West Coast when it came to developing a new artist.
It doesn’t stop there. Go back to Snoop Doggs, “Gin and Juice.” That video helped make Snoop an international star, but it also launched the stardom of one Lil Bow Wow. The pint-sized rapper had a quick cameo in the video after Snoop was introduced to him by his mother at a Snoop Dogg concert in Ohio. Snoop loved the kids style and how much he reminded him of himself, so he put the kid in his video in hopes of possible signing him to Death Row. Those hopes were dashed after Dupri signed Bow Wow. Bow Wow and Durpi turned into the dynamic duo. Again,borrowing Snoops style, Durpi made a version of the Dogg that appealed to children . Bow Wow would go on to become a star in his own right, developing his own style along the way.
Now, think back to that faithful night in New York when Suge Knight stepped on stage that August in 1995 and declared war on what many thought was Puff Daddy. Go back to his statement, “if you don’t want your producer all in your video, all on your songs, come to Death Row.” When Knight said that, the crowd broke out in a round of boo’s. Everyone assumed he was talking about Puff Daddy. Snoop Dogg tried to go on stage and calm the crowd down, shocked that the East Coast crowd that had shown Snoop so much love in the past would just turn on him and his label like that. Later,Diddy and Snoop would embrace after Puff hit the stage trying to defuse the so called beef. But was that diss actually directed at Puff and Bad Boy. This is before Tupac signed to Death Row, so the beef between Pac and Big didn’t exist at the time. There was no friction between Bad Boy and Death Row. So why would Suge step up that night and target one of the biggest acts on th East Coast in their hometowns? He wouldn’t! What he did was send a subliminal diss to the southern CEO who was biting the style of his most profitable artists.
Don’t just take my word for it. Look back at some videos. Tha Dogg Pound released an album in July 1995 called “Dogg Food.” On that album, a song called “What Would You Do,” was featured. The crew did a video for the track. In that video there is a scene where Snoop is playing pool and he is approached by a JD and Da Brat look a like. In the first 17 seconds of the video, you see a fake Da Brat and a broke down version of JD being to told to “Go back to Atlanta.” This was a month before the Source Awards.
Yet, when Suge hit the stage tha night, the anger he had seemed to point at the King of the NYC at the time Puff Daddy. While he never said his name, Puff jumped into the fray, taking offense like somebody with a guilty conscience who heard someone say something about someone else that hurt like it was directed at him personally. We all know what happened from there. The West Coast/East Coast got into a war of words that would eventually bring in many acts outside of both labels, taking up sides. Looking back at it though, I’m not sure that faithful night in NYC was supposed to go down the way it did. While we may never know who that diss was really aimed at or not, what we do know is the beef between JD and Dr. Dre would last years past the East Coast/West Coast beef. JD would go on to mention in an interview with XXL that he was a better producer than Dre and Timberland, a comment neither would take too lightly. That comment resulted in a series of back and forth diss records, like Xzibit’s “Grindin” freestyle where he targeted JD personally for Dre. In 2002, Dre would go on to call JD a “mini-me,” on the Eminem track, “Without Me.”
While we celebrate the 20th anniversary of So So Def today, remember a time in history when Puff Daddy took up a battle that may or may not have been for him to fight and how different the hip-hop world would look like right now if JD would’ve responded in 1995.