Jermaine Dupri’s motto for life sounds a little like one of his songs: I’ve got to have it.
While most kids get toys at Christmas, Dupri recalls asking Santa for turntables — a necessary tool to bring him closer towards his dream. Throughout his adolescence he had one thought on his mind: “Wanting to be a deejay, learning how to deejay and then becoming the producer that people know.” Now, the Grammy-winning rapper/producer will be honored with the Breaking Barriers Award at the Global Spin Awards, airing Feb. 22 on REVOLT.
“I’m probably most excited about this award because it pretty much [defines] my existence as a producer,” Dupri, 45, tells PEOPLE. “This award feels like, for me, exactly who I am and that’s why I’m so excited about it.”
And his secret to breaking musical barriers is simple: practice makes perfect.
“I stay fresh and consistent,” he says. “I practice a lot for the people that are my competition. One of the things that sticks out to me in the streets has always been to practice the sport. People act as if when you [rap], you’re so good you don’t have to practice the sport. But you still have to practice the sport, regardless of how good you are.”
From Usher to TLC and Ludacris to Destiny’s Child, Dupri has been known for producing hit after hit, but he never expected to co-write what would turn out to be one of the biggest songs of the ’00s — Mariah Carey’s 2005 smash, “We Belong Together.”
“You have to freeze yourself to enjoy a moment like that because it’s a once in a lifetime type of thing,” he says. “I remember doing interviews back when this happened and I would go to places and tell them I just released the song of the decade…That was something that just makes you think a bunch of different ways – that you’re invincible, unstoppable.”
Heading full speed into the new year with exciting new projects and a clear head, Dupri says his career is only getting better with time.
“One of the things that people don’t tell you is that the older you get, your career starts going somewhere that other people’s careers are not going,” he says. “I’m going to a space where not many people have even been. I’m getting ready to celebrate this year like no other.”
Dupri may have big things in store for his love life as well, as he’s recently been linked with ex-girlfriend and former collaborator Janet Jackson. Although they reportedly parted ways back in 2009, the pair were spotted cuddling at the afterparty celebrating the final date of her State of the World tour on Dec. 17.
While a source tells PEOPLE that the pair are not officially back together, there’s a sense that could change. “They are taking their time getting to know each other again,” the source says.
Romantic or not, Dupri remains strongly impressed by Jackson’s performance skills — and the crowds she continues to draw.
“The reaction [at the show] I saw was people really going crazy. You know, when me and Janet were together, I was on the road with her a lot, but I didn’t see that same reaction [back then],” he explains.
“I saw people coming to the show, but I don’t think I saw people saying, ‘I can’t miss this show.’ This time, through social media, I got the opportunity to see people’s reactions of, ‘I can’t miss this show, I have to see this show – it’s a must.’ They might not have thought she was gonna do it again.”