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Why Jermaine Dupri chose Street Bud to win 'The Rap Game' season 4: 'He has the mentality to be a star.'

Posted Thursday, March 1, 2018 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Jermaine Dupri started his rap career when he was 12. So he is suitably excited about the prospects of Atlanta's own Street Bud, who was 12 when he won the fourth season of "The Rap Game," which aired last Friday.

"My goal is to keep the show current and stay on top of what's happening," said Dupri, a legendary producer and rap star in his own right who has turned the Lifetime reality competition program into a hit. "Street Bud is an artist that represents what the rap industry looks like and feels like today especially coming from Atlanta. I've heard a lot of people say if you're going to put out music, Street Bud is the right person to do it."

He's the youngest winner so far after four seasons. "The really young kids watching the show are really excited," he said. "I feel like that's what's going to keep the show alive. The young kids keep the show relevant." (Season five begins production later this month.)

When all four of the other rivals picked Street Bud as the person they think will win if they didn't during the penultimate episode, that left an impression on Dupri. (It's a question I asked during the mock press conference but I was edited out and the producers ultimately had rapper Teyana Taylor ask the question later.)

"I felt really bad for all of them," Dupri said. "I felt like they conceded at that moment. I still wasn't 100 percent sold on Street Bud at that moment. But it was a big turning point."

The most popular person other than Street Bud, based on social media and a poll I posted on my recap of the finale was Lil Bri. But he felt like Street Bud's final performance at Buckhead Theatre was the best, solidifying his choice.

He liked not only Street Bud's rapping but also his look and the fact he was already trying to be an artist.

Dupri, given the rules of the show, was unable to work with Street Bud until now. He said he's watched him improve even since the end of taping several months ago.

Street Bud "is definitely better. I've heard him on the radio rapping on Streetz 94.5. His attitude is already different. He has the mentality to be a star... I feel like he will be the most popular winner of the show so far."

Dupri plans to release both a single Street Bud did during the show with producer Zaytoven and the one he performed during the finale.

In 2018, managing artists has gotten tougher with so much social media enabling artists to pump out new music on their own. Dupri admits his label "mismanaged" season 1 winner Miss Mulatto and season 3 winner Nova because in this day and age, it's harder to focus and build a brand in a methodical way.

"Once they get all this attention on the show," he said, "they go into a huddle with their own teams. They start creating this whole stir putting out music every week or every other day. It just becomes a situation."

Dupri - who broke artists such as Bow Wow and Kris Kross back in the day - hopes he can work with Street Bud in a more calculated, smarter fashion: "We've got to find a happy medium here to hit the market."

He is also a big fan of Street Bud's "mom-ager" Cori, who came off on the show as focused, creative, kindhearted and business oriented. She didn't let being Street Bud's mother cloud her judgment. When her son made mistakes, she told him so. When he was unfocused, she re-focused him.

"She is very observant of her artist," Dupri said. "She told him things I was already going to say to him."

Dupri said if she weren't Street Bud's manager, he'd hire her for SoSo Def Records.

As for the other four artists, here are his hot takes:

No. 2 RapUnzel: "She was pretty close to me as far as actually winning. She seems very seasoned and has a complete total package. I just feel like she fell short in the performance area. And the kids didn't really connect with her at the radio station."

No. 3 Lil Bri: "I feel like she could be a bonafide star. She needs to be more confident, to know she is has good as she is. She's a beautiful girl with a beautiful smile." He felt like she was a wee bit too serious given her young age, that she needed to send out a happier vibe.

No. 4 Jordan: He was really rough in the early going but progressed a lot over the span of 13 episodes. But to Dupri, it wasn't enough to take the crown.

No. 5 Ricci Bitti: At first, he said her lack of focus and confidence hindered her but the young kids did like her. By the time they did the orchestra challenge closer to the end of the season, he saw her blossom. He was also encouraged by the girl group and video challenges. But like Jordan, it wasn't enough to lift her out of the bottom.

He is thrilled that "The Rap Game" continues to highlight Atlanta as the epicenter of hip hop. "Kids are so much into hip hop," he said. "I'm proud of doing this in the city I come from. People continue to look at Atlanta as home for a new generation of hip-hop stars."

Dupri's final observation: "Although I love all the kids from this show. They all have talent. But I have yet to see anyone who was as seasoned as Bow Wow was when I found him at age 12."


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.