Cue The End Of Childhood: On So So Def Records, Alternate Dimensions, And Onion Booty

Cue The End Of Childhood: On So So Def Records, Alternate Dimensions, And Onion Booty

In which Jason and Atlanta writer Brooke Hatfield discuss famous Atlanta Southern hip hop, R&B and bass record label So So Def Recordings.

JASON
Hey, Brooke—and welcome to the first annual Scene Missing So So Def Bass All-Stars Conversation! Let’s meet back here this time every year and talk about So So Def Records, okay? And we’ll make a deal that if neither one of us is married by the time we’re 40, one of us has to marry Jermaine Dupri.

Also, if we do not honor this pact, Jermaine Dupri will stomp his foot hard enough to sink it into the ground.

Speaking of magic contracts and Jermaine Dupri, I think don’t think Dupri should have stopped at “So So Def” when he was naming his label. I think he should add an extra “So” for every year SSD has been in business. And stipulate in his will that another “So” must be added to the business title in all official documents every year after he dies.

I guess 2014 would make it “So So So So So So So So So So So So So So So So So So So So So Def Records,” or “So21 Records,” if you want to save space on all the business documents.

Like the way you count the rings of a tree to know how old it is, now all you have to do is count the “So’s” to know how long ago Jermaine Dupri founded the label that paved the way for Atlanta rappers.

Hell, I think we ought to use the So-So-Year system for our own names and ages—I’d be So35 Jason, in case you’re wondering, which means I only have five more years before I marry Jermaine Dupri.

All I’m saying is we should ditch our traditional age measuring techniques and switch to an Atlanta-bass-and-Southern-Hip-Hop-record-label-based system.

So what about you, Brooke? How do you figure out how old record labels are?

BROOKE
I ask them where they were on 9/11!

My younger sister was super into the So So Def Bass All-Stars compilations, which frequently thudded through my 1991 Nissan Stanza’s garbage speakers as we entered the Lee County High School parking lot. Atlanta is rich in hip-hop, and So So Def was a literal part of the geography here thanks to an infamous billboard on I-85 that now features Young Money. Which is why I cross-stitched the So So Def billboard, because you must be the cross-stitched So So Def billboard you wish to see in the world.

sewsewdef

I asked my sister if I could interview her about So So Def and her immediate and exact response was “Is the skin on a frog’s butt wet? The answer is yes.” She played this particular So So Def Bass All-Stars compilation all the time, and it remains unimpeachable because it introduced the world to “My Boo” by Ghost Town DJs. This was the Lord’s work. (Strains of the song are the unmitigated highlight of the Ciara song that samples it, which I refuse to call anything other than “The Song That Isn’t My Boo.”)

When my sister was in sixth grade (when she was So11), she attended her first co-ed party and the dudes were being from Mars on one side of the room and the ladies were being from Venus on the other. BUT THEN SOMEONE PUT ON “MY BOO.” Cue the end of childhood.

Another song from that So So Def Bass All-Stars compilation, Black Dave’s “Go Big Girl,” is still such a jam! “Puttin it down for my healthy sisters,” yeah! “Shake it in all directions,” yeah! At its best that song made a lot of women feel good, and it also probably led to my sister getting grounded at least once, but that was long ago, when I was but So16. Jason, what do you think a world in which time is measured in Sos would be like? Is Janet Jackson queen?

JASON
Hell, I suppose anything’s possible—there’s probably all kinds of Janet-Jackson-based realities out there. Who knows how many Rhythm Nations there are in the universe, nearly identical to our own?1

I bet there’s even an alternate dimension where you’re the queen, Brooke! Maybe in your version of America, Black Dave’s “Go Big Girl” is the national anthem. Congratulations, big girls! You finally get a shout-out before baseball games. Frankly, there’s not enough love for big girls in the preamble to our current dimension’s sporting events.

All I know is, if I ever find a magic door to a world where I’m the king, I’m killing him and taking over. Sorry, King Other-Me. It’s every version of me for himself! Or myself, I guess. “Every me for myself!” I’m going to put that on all the money when I take over. At least on the quarter, the most quotable of all the coins.

Although, I can’t help but wonder if this other Jason also runs a Scene Missing website in his world.

Maybe when I go through the magic door, I’ll be like, “How’s the website going?” and he’ll be like, “Oh, the web traffic is great, I made it a law that you have to set Scene Missing as your homepage. It’s punishable by death!” and I’ll be like STAB.

Sounds like he was a real monster, anyway. I believe that a man’s freedom to choose his own homepage is an inalienable right, Brooke. That’s the real difference between me and this other Jason. He has no respect for basic human internet rights. He’s the Comcast of doppelgängers! His Black Dave national anthem is probably, “Go Big Cable!”

Anyway, you know what my favorite thing about the art for the So So Def Bass All-Stars albums is? Everybody looks like they’re having a good time. Like a big old perpetual block party. People dancing in front of parked cars, people hanging out of the window watching—I guess if I had to choose between a magic door to murder my shitty-Internet-king-twin, or to a universe entirely populated by people and places from So So Def album art, I have to go with So So Def every time.

BROOKE
You can’t kill your shitty-Internet-king-twin, that guy owes me money! Weirdly, because he hired Annie Leibovitz to recreate the cover of “So So Def Bass All-Stars.” Which does indeed look like such a good time! The woman at the bottom right is all “Car, you are about to learn some things about the correct way to party.”

Sometimes I wonder what the So So Def and Jock Jams franchises would be like if they were people. What would their relationship be like? The stench of Disney Channel Original Movie is all over this daydream. Would straitlaced Jock Jams be a nerd who got his ass kicked every summer at space camp? Would his fun-loving party machine brother So So Def throw a legendary and insane throwdown when their parents go out of town? (One that would later serve as a vehicle for noted dreamers Kid ‘n Play?)

The next morning their parents call to say they’re coming back early! In a montage soundtracked by Kris Kross, So So Def and Jock Jams combine their book learning and spirited resourcefulness to build a house-cleaning robot that helps them clean up their wrecked home just as their parents pull up. As the credits roll, So So Def and Jock Jams realize they’ve learned a valuable lesson about each other… and themselves. In a secret scene at the very end, we see So So Def and Jock Jam’s parents in an OB-GYN office. Turns out their mom is pregnant with Jock Jams Volume 2.

Speaking of things your OB-GYN has seen, a couple of hours after I talked to my sister about So So Def she texted me this solid-gold magic 2:

Brooke-SoSoDef-4

Here a butt. There a butt. Everywhere a butt butt. Kilo Ali for Poet Laureate! Of the butt!

JASON
:: waves hands at butts that seem to be everywhere, shooing them away like a flock of birds ::

Can I tell you something I didn’t know about butts until recently? I thought the phrase “onion booty” referred to a butt that was shaped like an onion. Like two onions in one of those mesh bags, maybe? I didn’t think about it too hard, to be honest.

Who am I to say what kinds of produce look like butts? Let the guy who installs the vegetable-misting machine with the speakers that make thunderclap noises at Kroger take that responsibility. KABOOM CRASH, fresh lettuce, that looks like a butt. That’s the stream-of-consciousness of the Kroger mist-machine installer, by the way.

At the very least, I assumed the onion was the police-artist-sketch equivalent of a butt—not a photorealistic painting, but close enough to hang in the post office.

Then I read on the internet that “onion booty” actually refers to a booty so good it makes you want to cry.

Have you ever found yourself being quietly corrected on something you didn’t know you’d been getting wrong this whole time? I used to think “Cheshire Cat” was pronounced “Shesh-ire Cat” until a girl I was dating told me I was an idiot, which I guess isn’t exactly the definition of being quietly corrected, but it’s close enough to hang in the post office.

Now that I know what “onion booty” means, I feel like whoever coined the phrase doesn’t understand what onions are all about. Onions don’t make you want to cry, Brooke—they force you to cry. It’s a chemical process! Having an actual onion booty would be like having a butt that forced everyone who looked at it to appreciate it against their will.

Hey, butts—I should get to choose whether I have an emotional reaction, not be forced to participate in a biological response. Don’t tread on me, onion booties!

:: refers to own butt as a “Cheshire Booty” due to its habit of leaving behind only a smile ::

BROOKE
“Having an actual onion booty would be like having a butt that forced everyone who looked at it to appreciate it against their will.”

My struggle is real, Jason. So So real.

Illustration by Joe Karg.

  1. Are citizens of a rhythm nation subject to the the laws of our regular, non-rhythmic nation? Maybe being a part of a Rhythm Nation means you operate under a special set of rules and privileges, much like diplomats and their families. Which is I why whenever I drunkenly run someone over in my limo I claim “Rhythmatic Immunity.”
  2. Technically Kilo Ali’s “Nasty Dancer” was not a So So Def record, but it’s totally part of the same canon of ‘90s Southern hip-hop that woke up the hopes and loins of a generation that’s about a decade in to being able to rent a car, so let’s welcome it with open arms.
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