The first thing you should know about the So-So Def 20th Anniversary All-Star Concert which took place Saturday at the Fox Theatre is that it was as much a concert as it was a “family reunion,” a “party,” or even like “the Grammys.”
There was definitely a family like atmosphere among the label mates of So So Def -- the record label Jermaine Dupri founded in 1993. It is also true that most everyone in the crowd was on their feet, dancing, jumping and drinking the entire evening – kind of like a party. As for the Grammys? I can’t speak to that, but I’ll trust Jay-Z on his assessment of what things looked like backstage at the Fox.
Dupri kicked things off (on time!!) with Kris Kross -- all grown up and wearing clothes the right way. The start time was so prompt, that quite a few attendees missed the Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac doing their thing.
Next up was Xscape starring Tamika and LaTocha Scott – the two sisters who comprised one-half of the group. While the absence of Kandi Burruss and Tiny ‘Tameka” Cottle was noticeable on-stage ( and on the many blogs reporting the rift that prevented this reunion), the Scott sisters’ big voices somehow made it sound like all four of them were there.
Da Brat gave a memorable performance -- which included her hit “Funkdafied” -- even without the help of “special guests like everyone else.” A giant screen playing videos of the hits each artist performed was a reminder of the good old days…and of just how long So So Def has been around.
Jagged Edge had ladies and guys -- arms raised in the air -- singing their ballads, before Lil Jon crunked it up. It was a rousing performance, but Lil Jon also took the time to offer up a story about working at So So Def in 1993 and he acknowledged Dupri for giving him his first job.
It was one of several moments throughout the evening for anyone who didn’t really get it to grasp just how instrumental Dupri has been in not just launching artists, but also grooming them for the music business.
A battle ensued between Dupri’s artists and Lil Jon’s. It was unclear who won and no one cared anyway since they got to hear Bonecrusher, YoungBloodZ and J-Kwon perform.
One misstep in an otherwise solid arrangement of acts, was offering up Bow Wow after the King of Crunk. Bow Wow announced that he was singing to the ladies, which was a good thing since the only people on their feet for “Outta My System” and “Let Me Hold You” were some ladies.
In the final third of the show, Anthony Hamilton’s hits “Charlene” and “Coming From Where I’m From,” left Dupri – notorious for talking on his artists’ records – with nothing to say. Dupri said it had always killed him not to be able to talk on Hamilton’s songs, but he had the good sense to restrain himself then and now.
Jagged Edge returned to the stage with Nelly for “Where The Party At” and the Scotts returned to sing the Xscape remake of “Who Can I Run To?”
Dondria – a current So So Def artist - also performed as did surprise guest Monica, who sang a cappella.
When Usher hit the stage, the crowd exploded, but he slowed things down long enough to tell the story of how he first met Dupri at the Fox Theatre during a Kris Kross performance. Dupri didn’t sign him, so he ended up at LaFace records – but things didn’t take-off, he said, until he started making number one songs with Dupri. “I had more number one hits with this man than anyone else,” said Usher.
And so began the game of which-hit-should-Usher-sing as they ran though the greats like “You Make Me Wanna,” “Nice and Slow,” and “You Got It Bad.” At a point, the crowd just wanted to hear the man sing. So he did. And “Confessions Part II” was the chosen one.
Ludacris showed up to sing “Welcome to Atlanta” and told the crowd about how he trotted his demo out to Dupri’s house and Dupri actually came outside to see him.
Jay-Z took the stage with Dupri to perform “Money Ain’t A Thing." He hung around to perform a few other hits, but cut it off when he heard his lead vocals. It made no sense for him to be there and rap over his own voice, he said. The DJ scrounged up the instrumental version of "Public Service Announcement" but didn't have it for a song with a title I can't write here. So Jay-Z launched into an a cappella version of "Clique" before handing off the stage to Young Jeezy.
It was clear things were winding down, but Dupri had one more guest to bring out -- Mariah Carey emerged with a cake for Dupri and a non-working mike.
Just as well -- Dupri’s legacy in Atlanta and beyond was clear -- with or without a five-octave salute from Carey.