Jermaine Dupri Says He’s Learned a Lot From His Daughters

The multi-platinum songwriter and producer says being a co-parenting #girldad has changed how he does business.

Jermaine Dupri is a highly successful songwriter and producer behind some of the industry’s biggest names like Usher and Mariah Carey. Through his label So So Def, the music mogul launched the careers of Xscape, Da Brat, and Bow Wow, among others. He’s in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and has platinum plaques galore, but he says none of this will be the legacy that keeps his name ringing long after he’s gone. 

His legacy is his family, which includes daughters Shaniah, 24, and Jalyn, 12. 

Portrait of Jermaine Dupri

Getty Images/Kindred

“Family for me is everything because it's the one thing that keeps your legacy going,” Dupri told Kindred by Parents in an interview. “No matter if you are a superstar, whatever your legacy is, the family keeps that legacy going. And a lot of times, people don't pay attention to that. They think [of] other things they put a lot of energy into and don't realize until it's too late that your family is the most important thing to nurture, to make sure that you live forever.” 

Dupri was already a wildly accomplished industry vet, freshly off working on Usher’s sophomore album, My Way, when he found out he was going to be a father. No matter his income, he had thoughts similar to many first-time fathers-to-be, telling Kindred he worried that he wasn’t going to be able to care for his daughter. Financially, yes, but being present is also essential to the multi-platinum producer. 

“I think my first daughter, Shaniah really made me realize who I am, what my powers were, and what being the boss actually meant,” Dupri said. “[There were] a couple of times when she was in high school [doing] things. And I remember one day I called and was like, ‘I can't make it ‘cause I'm in the studio’ and she actually told me, ‘Dad, you pick what time you go to the studio; you decide the times of the studio, so why don't you just tell them [you're] going push the time back?’ And it was really crazy because I was listening to my daughter trying to basically check me. But at the same time, I needed that because I wasn't focused on the actual title of who I actually am. It was just an enlightening thing that made me realize what parenting is all about – sacrifice as well as maturity.” 

While he says he wasn’t able to give as much of his time to Shaniah, the lessons he’s learned over the years have made it much easier for him to make the necessary space for his blooming daughter, Jalyn. 

“My kids don't live with me, so just seeing them as much as possible is probably the one thing that I learned the most – you just got to get in and be present as much as possible,” Dupri said. 

Most recently, he shared a major moment with Jalyn at Mariah Carey’s CBS Christmas special during which she got to shine onstage and spend some serious quality time with her dad.

“That's not something that you just can sit around and be like, ‘I'm going to put my kid on a Mariah Carey show’ – it's just not average, it's not a regular thing,” Dupri said. “When I got to Toronto [for rehearsal], I was just like, ‘man, I should have brought my daughter.’”

Since the trip would have Jalyn out of school for an entire week, Dupri knew he would need to kindly request her mother’s permission and be content with whatever decision was made. 

“My daughter lives with her mother, so if she feels like ‘no,’ then she basically gets to override what I'm saying, ‘cause she [doesn't] stay with me. And that's that, I respect that, so I actually was nervous about asking,” Dupri said. 

He was grateful for the adventure, which included sharing a hotel room with the tween, an experience he struggles to quantify in words, but encourages other dads to have similar moments. 

“I feel like the whole moment was an ice breaker because it was the first time that she and I stayed in the same room,” he said. “So we basically shared a room in New York and I could tell you that's not really something I was ready for.” 

In the end, Dupri will be known for his work in music, but as his legacy bearers, he’s most interested in leaving Jalyn and Shaniah with as many memories as possible. They have, of course, been his greatest teachers, imparting youthful wisdom of time management, sharing moments, and being challenged in the most fascinating ways.

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