“Feels like I had him as my son, actually,” Jermaine Dupri says of his long-time protege Bow Wow. Dupri was one of the formerly “Lil” rapper’s first cosigns, producing his debut (at age 12) “The Stick Up” for 1999’s Wild Wild West soundtrack. After over a decade of ups and downs, the duo have reunited for “WYA (Where You At?),” the first single off of Dupri’s upcoming EP.
“In the past, me and Jermaine’s working process was different than it is now,” Bow Wow tells Billboard. “How we work now is how I always wanted us to work. I think the whole time, Jermaine just wanted me to grow as an artist and get experience. Now, years down the line, it’s incredible when we work with each other.” Incredible enough that the rapper just left Birdman‘s Cash Money Records (where he had been signed since 2009) to focus on working exclusively with Dupri and Snoop Dogg.
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“Whoever my pops with I’m with,” Bow Wow continued. “I started it out with Jermaine and Snoop, I’m gonna finish it out with JD and Snoop. Right now, JD’s playing my Phil Jackson — I’m Michael. I always wanted to have my family, to win with my day ones.”
“WYA” was the result of a lot of time in the studio — but nobody said it was all work and no play. “When we’re working on party records, I’m telling Jermaine I’m packing the studio with like 30 people,” Bob Wow says of recording the tune. “We have a club in the studio.”
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“It showed out in the studio amongst a bunch of records that we were working on,” Dupri tells Billboard. “It stood out like something that people needed to hear right now, today.” Listen to “WYA (Where You At?)” exclusively below:
Dupri’s upcoming EP will be a combination of unexpected collaborations and new songs from the rapper/producer himself. “We need a lot of good music,” he says. “It’s a redundant situation going on in the music business right now. I’m trying to break that, by putting out new fresh music with collaborations with people that aren’t the normal collaborations that people keep doing every day.”
Who will be featured? Well, the producer has been in the studio with fellow Atlanta artist T.I. recently. “It’s crazy that me and T.I. never made a record together,” Dupri says of a record that might feature Nas as well. “It’s a wish-list of all kinds of things,” he continues. Given his veteran status in the industry, that means just about anything is possible. Dupri’s imprint So So Def has also just partnered with Empire, an independent distribution company based in San Francisco, to release the EP.
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He’s also been in talks with Usher “to give you the lost files of Confessions,” Dupri says. “We’ve avoiding this for a long time, because it’s hard to compete with that. But there’s a lot of stories that have taken place in Usher’s life, that if we tell these stories, it will put you back in the mindset of that.” When he’s not reviving classic records, he’s turning them into video games — yes, his classic “Money Ain’t A Thang” video with Jay Z is now an app (“You gotta pick up money and stay away from the police”).
As for when Bow Wow’s long awaited next album will drop, he says, “It’s been a couple years. I wanna warm ’em up with this hot shit first, and then make ’em want it.” In the meantime he’s staying busy with CSI: Cyber, his NDI vodka, clothing line, and more (though Furious 8 is still to be determined: “If that opportunity presents itself, that’ll be cool, too”).
For now, the pair is just happy to be back together. “It’s a new energy, but we love it,” Bow Wow says. “This time, it’s working for us, and we want to keep the energy alive and share it with the world.”