Dupri got his start as a dancer for the hip hop group Whodini when he was twelve. He made an appearance in their music video for the song "Freaks Come Out At Night". In 1990, he produced his first act- the female hip hop trio Silk Tymes Leather. He later formed the teen duo Kris Kross (Chris Kelly and Chris Smith) after meeting the boys at a local mall in 1991. The group's first album, Totally Krossed Out, was released in 1992 and went multi-platinum due to their singles "Jump" and "It's a Shame". He established his own record label called So So Def Recordings in 1993. Shortly after, he discovered female R&B group Xscape at a festival in Atlanta and signed them to the label. Their first album, Hummin' Comin' at 'Cha, went platinum. During the same year, on Yo! MTV Raps he met Da Brat through Kris Kross, signed her to his label So So Def Recordings, and released her debut Funkdafied (1994) which went platinum. So So Def Recordings entered into a distribution partnership with Columbia Records in 1993. In 1995, he collaborated with Mariah Carey for the first time on the number one hit single "Always Be My Baby." He contributed to Lil' Kim's 1996 album, Hard Core on the track "Not Tonight".
In 1998, Jermaine Dupri was involved in the release of Destiny's Child's eponymous debut album. Dupri renewed the focus on his own music career and released The Party Continues, the lead single from his debut studio album Jermaine Dupri Presents Life In 1472: The Original Soundtrack. Also that year he met Lil Bow Wow and signed him to So So Def Recordings. The two would later part ways but continued to collaborate on later projects. The deal with Columbia was terminated in 2002 and in 2003 Dupri switched to Arista Records. Jermaine worked on Mariah Carey's Christmas album, Merry Christmas II You, as well as with Weezer and Lil Wayne on the song "Can't Stop Partying." He also collaborated with DJ Chuckie to make a vocal version of the song "Let The Bass Kick".