in conversation

Jermaine Dupri and Curren$y Invite Us Into the Editing Room

For decades, the Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, and rapper Jermaine Dupri has been known for his magic touch. As a rapper and founder of So So Def, his Atlanta-based record label, he’s known for mixing sounds, fusing genres, and crafting hits for the likes of Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Usher. Last week, Interview was witness to that magic when Dupri met in Tribeca with his latest collaborator, the New Orleans icon Curren$y, to work out the tracklist of their album For Motivational Use Only, out now, and preceded by the release of the single “Essence Fest.” The project came about serendipitously, after Curren$y released a song titled “Jermaine Dupri,” and their connection was instant, so much so that they ended up making enough music for at least one if not two follow-up albums. This first one, uniting an industry OG with an underground rap supernova, is a testament to the galvanizing force of both rap and collaboration. “If I ain’t motivated by the person that I’m working with,” Dupri told Curren$y, “then the music probably ain’t going to come out better than the records that I’ve made in the past.” Below, Dupri and Curren$y work out the sequencing of their joint project in real time and reveal the unlikely origins of their collaboration: an old episode of MTV Cribs.


CURREN$Y: We already on? I know where we at. We not too far from a restaurant I like to go to. I go to Bubby‘s out here. I was looking to see if Randall has any vegan things on his menu over at Bubby’s.

JERMAINE DUPRI: They no vegan cafe.

CURREN$Y: I love the guy, Bubby. I want to bring you over there, or at least to his crib or something before it’s all said and done.

DUPRI: All right.

CURREN$Y: Everybody seems to be pumped about the project. Have you noticed?

DUPRI: What?

CURREN$Y: How pumped everyone is?

DUPRI: I told you that!

CURREN$Y: Well, I went to a car show yesterday at the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans. Of course, DJs do shit when they see you. But I didn’t walk in, I was outside in the parking lot for a cool hour-and-a-half. I heard the joint three times. You know what I’m saying? And when I went in I was like, “Don’t do it now, because I know you just played it. Don’t trip.” When I walked in, the DJ was like, “Oh, shit.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no bro. Don’t trip. I love you. Don’t even worry. I heard you. You already working for us, man. Do your own thing.” You don’t think we got to push back then, huh?


CURREN$Y: We’re still set for April 4th. What you think if we dropped another set of records on 5/4? But that’s too soon, huh?

DUPRI: When is Father’s Day?

CURREN$Y: I didn’t say Father’s Day. I said 5/4, which would be

DUPRI: That’s your birthday. Do y’all celebrate 504 day?

CURREN$Y: No, we don’t have that. I wasn’t created yet.

DUPRI: You could start it. We could drop a new song, though. We could drop a new song on 5/4. We got songs, it just be like, “Here goes a new… pow!”

CURREN$Y: That’s cool. When you thinking we going to put the artwork up? Have you seen?

DUPRI: Yeah, I ain’t see it.

CURREN$Y: Well, I’m going to make sure you get it. So check it out, man. We got 2 Chainz on the joint. We got great production from a legend. JD is even rapping on the thing while he’s over here going to bat for me wanting to drop a bomb right now. We sat on the album for a year. I’m ready to bust the gun. JD sound like he ready to bust the gun.

DUPRI: [To his team] Y’all need to go have a sidebar. This is in the next hour.

CURREN$Y: What you got right now is ground-level footage and you have to pay money for this. You right now in the boardroom. We are in here launching ideas and scrapping ideas. There are tears, there’s blood. It’s going down in here right now. But the album will drop in a minute. We got a couple of features, we’ve got a parcel them out. You’re not going to get them all in this first seven. I was ready to drop like, 21 records, but bro wanted to do seven. He didn’t want y’all to overdose. So we just going to drop seven at a time just to keep y’all going. So we really did y’all a favor. And we still working. Just because this album is coming out on a blank date doesn’t mean that we stopped. We still in the lab right now. How you feeling about it?

DUPRI: I mean, I guess I’m—

CURREN$Y: He’s distraught.

DUPRI: I’m tight. I’m super technical, so I be wanting to… I know we don’t have a list yet.

CURREN$Y: Do we have a track listing?

DUPRI: No, we don’t.

CURREN$Y: We don’t have a playing order? I know, honestly, what we did with Pricey in the studio, I was married to it. I thought that was it.

DUPRI: Okay.

CURREN$Y: You have your phone? Can you rattle off these song titles in the order of which they will play on this album?

DUPRI: It’s on the computer at the studio, but I remember what it was.

CURREN$Y: So you just don’t want to say it to me [Laughs]

DUPRI: “So So Jet’s” first.

CURREN$Y: Okay. Hmm. 

DUPRI: Then we change the name from “Addicted” to “Never Enough.”

CURREN$Y: Yep, yep, yep, yep.

DUPRI: Then it’s “Off The Lot.”

CURREN$Y: I’m not mad at this. I mean, I wish that we were playing these records as we were discussing them. I can’t wait till that happens for everybody. Good glasses too, man.

DUPRI: Thank you.

CURREN$Y: Yeah. Good fucking glasses.

DUPRI: I think since “Screens Falling” has become one of my personal—

CURREN$Y: I think I had to fight for that record. That record almost got swept onto the cutting room floor. That shit was gone with the stems in the sticks out the pound.

DUPRI: Nah, it wasn’t that far off, but we got a bunch of songs.

CURREN$Y: That’s why, yeah. So “Screens Falling,” number four.

DUPRI: Shit, what’s the song? I was just listening to this song too. “Never Fall Off.”

CURREN$Y: All right. He persevered. He prevailed. Yeah. I’m glad that worked out that way.

DUPRI: So now we got to figure out where “Essence Fest” goes*.


DUPRI: “Essence Fest” might come after “So So Jets” because people going to want to get to that song.

CURREN$Y: Told y’all, man. I was bringing y’all directly into the game. You went into the locker room, you heard the coaches’ plans. Now you walking down the tunnel, sitting on the bench. There’s Gatorade for everybody. There’s towels for everybody. The game is about to start. That’s legit.

DUPRI: I’m going to do like I’m interviewing you. How do you actually feel?

CURREN$Y: I’m just wondering. This record created its own monster. It became what it became just off an Instagram post. 

DUPRI: Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. I think that’s the way we prepare everybody for volume two. And volume three—cause, like you said, y’all listening, we got a bunch of songs, right?

DUPRI: We cut 10 songs before we had “Essence Fest.” We actually felt good. And it’s just to show you what music actually is supposed to do to you, right? Because people don’t understand sometimes when people say it’s levels to shit. You could go to the end of the mountain and it’s still another place to go. Right? But you just got to figure out how to get to that space. We was one day away from not getting to that space. We tried to make “Essence Fest” the day before—

CURREN$Y: We were trying.

DUPRI: We made it.

CURREN$Y: That was the mistake. We tried to do it. Shit never works like that. I don’t know how to put that into words, but when you trying to do something, just fuck it. This is a rocket launch at this point. You launched a missile.

DUPRI: That’s what that is right there. 

CURREN$Y: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We had 40 records. He scoffs when I say this, but I don’t think he remembers. We for sure got 40 records done.

DUPRI: I think what’s going to happen is we going to get to volume two and then—

CURREN$Y: Then we going to say fuck it and drop a whole—

DUPRI: Then three, probably, will be a whole album.

CURREN$Y: Oh man. My buddy Harry Fraud gave me a gang of beats, and one of these beats made me remember when I first saw JD on the MTV Cribs with Ferraris and Bentleys and shit in his garage. I saw in real time where I felt like I should be, what I wanted to be doing. And I named the record “Jermaine Durpi” and BDot showed him the record and he was like, “Damn bro, let’s do a record.” And when we jammed up to do said record, just to kind of meet each other. It was too good. We were brothers immediately. We didn’t even know we was working towards a project. We just doing songs. That’s what you do. Like if you hang out with your homie who skates and you skate, y’all don’t even know y’all are training or getting ready for the X Games, y’all really just skating, because that’s what the fuck y’all do. So we hanging out in the studio, songs are going to get made and once you got a bunch of them, you’re a hustler, so what you going to do?

DUPRI: Motivation, to me, is everything. If I ain’t motivated by the person that I’m working with, then the music probably ain’t going to come out better than the records that I’ve made in the past. I think that we started working with each other and we start talking, kicking and just saying shit. And then it starts motivating me to want to be better. Everywhere I go on my way here, somebody done ask me, “Yo, when that album coming out?”

CURREN$Y: That’s a good thing.

DUPRI: That album just made me want to go back to the studio and be like, “Yo, I don’t know if we even ready yet.” ‘Cause it starts feeling like people expecting something—

CURREN$Y: Bro is the king of doing that. I don’t want to cut you off. The king of, “You know what, let’s scrap it.” Like, “Too many people are excited. Let’s throw this shit in the Gulf.” 

DUPRI: But that’s what led to “Essence Fest.” I don’t know that that’s what we making. You know what I mean? I think it’s dope. But like I said, that’s the motivation. To me, that’s the best part of working with him because—

CURREN$Y: I think that’s flat out it, bro. That’s it.

DUPRI: Well, with the title For Motivational Use Only… 

CURREN$Y: You need motivation to do anything. You want to be motivated to do anything—this record fits in any aspect of your life. If you have to wake up and make toast, there’s a record on there for you. You know what I’m saying? Shit’s good. They getting on you at work, go into the cubicle, put the joint on, you’ll be all right. But ideally, I make music for the car. I make music not for the party that you’re going to, but to get you to it. 

DUPRI: I think we good.

CURREN$Y: We did it. You motherfuckers got a lot, the tracklist was created before their very ears. I don’t know what else they want from us.