Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Life Is The Dash (Part2)

Well I guess I've kept you waiting long enough, but dang it couldn't be a better time to hit you with Part 2 of my Dame Dash interview. I mean with all the name calling and beef that Cam'Ron is stirring with his freestyle rhyme dissing Jay-Z where he also makes no bones about his allegiance to Mr. Dash. Cam definitely takes it back to the old school where heads used to diss and (verbally) battle each other for respect. And yeah the line about Jay being an "ugly Alf a*s nigga" is corny, but then the line, "But your publishing should go to Ms. Wallace. Honest. Stealing B.I.G.'s shit. He made two albums, you wildin'..." is icier than any Jacob timepiece and I won't even tell you how loud I hollered when he asked, "How's the King of New York rocking open-toe sandals with jeans?"

Here's Part 1 and this is Part 2:
With Muhammad Ali and Russell Simmons as mentors, Dash has constructed an empire that is at once urban, uppity and ubiquitous. Not so much the bling-bling type of guy, Dash is more the ka-ching ka-ching type, so it’s no wonder that in the last decade Dash has built a $350 million company from scratch. There’s Roc-A-Fella Films, which has been the platform for a number of flicks including Paid In Full and Death Of A Dynasty and his new film company Dash Films, where he executive produced The Woodsman with Kevin Bacon. Currently he is producing Shadowboxer with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren, and The Council about the infamous Harlem gangster, Nicky Barnes.

But his first entrepreneurial foray under The Roc brand, Roc-A-Fella Records, has however seesawed between success and loss. The setbacks and achievements have been both massive and minor. There was Jay-Z and his over 15 million albums sold to date making Damon and Jay instant millionaires, even though in 1997 Def Jam bought a 50% stake in the record company for about $1.5 million (well under what most insiders felt it should have gone for). "They got us for cheap. But never again," says Dash as he reclines in his leather chair. And so when Universal bought out the remaining 50% for a little under $10 million, it was retribution. To add fuel to the brush fire surrounding Dash and Jay-Z’s parting of ways, it was rumored that Dash's new record label the Damon Dash Music Group — a joint venture with Universal Music's Island/ Def Jam-- has already fallen apart (Dash was unavailable for comment about the dissolution). Allegedly Dash resented his former partner's rise to the top ranks of Def Jam and also wanted more money from Universal for promotions and that request didn't sit well with the top brass at the label.

Rumors be damned, Dash insists that everything is cool. “There ain’t no problem. He chose to be a corporate individual and I chose to remain independent,” responds Dash to Jay-Z's decision to take the position as president of Def Jam. “Let’s say I did have a problem with him, even though I don’t. I wouldn’t like to use the press as a venue to air it out. I ain’t never gonna say anything bad about Jay.” Dash goes on: “I have no emotional attachments to any of my businesses. Like when I sold Roc-A-Fella. For me it’s just a name. I don’t give a fuck. That’s the purpose of business to build equity and to sell it,” says Dash. “The music industry is probably the most lackadaisical industry I’ve been in. Just to get shit done is impossible. So for me the industry is the most frustrating but I also realize it’s the most influential. So I do what needs to be done.”

Discretion may be what’s up with Dash, but others aren’t so tight-lipped about The Roc’s transition. Roc-A-Fella’s new top dog, Kanye West, alludes to his allegiance to the man who gave him his first major break in his single “Diamonds,” from his upcoming Late Registration album: “You know the next question, ‘Yo, where’s Dame at’/ This track's the Indian dance to bring our reign back.”

On MTV.com, M.O.P. manager, Laze E. Laze, talked about the group’s split from Roc-A-Fella. “I want you to understand that Dame Dash doesn't own Roc-A-Fella any more, and we actually obtained our release” from the label, states Laze. "We saw the company was going in a different direction. To me Roc-A-Fella's over."

Dash seems unfazed and is continuing to do what he does best—plot and hustle. There’s still a dozen or so other projects that he is currently overseeing including America Magazine, releases from Nicole Wray and the legacy of Dirt McGirt (formerly O.D.B.), N/A-- the ultra hip nightclub he owns, a licensing deal with PROKeds, Tiret watches, his non-profit organization for Harlem teens called Team Roc, the Roc Box 2 (his version of the iPod), Armadale vodka, and of course, his crowning jewel, Rocawear—the clothing line he launched in 1999 that's racking up sales to the tune of about $300 million a year.

Dash’s background and rise to fame is your typical survival-of the-flyest hiphop rags to riches story. He grew up--fresh and fast-- in East Harlem with his single mom, Carol, who wanted the very best for her only child. Like most young men in New York City growing up in the 80’s, Damon lived and breathed hiphop. He skated at The Rink, danced at The Rooftop and hosted parties at The Cotton Club with his boys known as the Best Out Crew. Damon attended a private school on Manhattan’s upper eastside to his molther's delight, but at 15, Damon’s young world began to come apart. First he crashed his first car, a black Nissan Maxima complete with a customized body-kit (even back then he had “the best cars and the best women”). A few months later his mother had an asthma attack that took her life. In her honor, young Dame took the little money he inherited and used it to enroll in a private boarding school, where he hung out with folks who had private jets, personal chefs, and summer homes. From that moment, Dash made a pact with himself that he too would have wealth beyond belief.

“The lessons I learned about loss are very defining. You know you can’t be mad at death cause it’s a real natural thing,” he ponders. Damon's close relationship with loss would continue. By the time his fiancé, soul singer Aaliyah’s plane crashed in 2001, he understood death’s inevitability and randomness. “With Aaliyah I gained the ability to appreciate another individual’s company. The fact that I was able to spend such quality time with such a legendary individual who was loved and respected by the masses so much...,” his voice fades and then he takes a deep breath. “So when people say I’m such an asshole, I couldn’t be that much of an asshole cause Aaliyah loved me. She was one of the better individuals I ever met—spiritually and soulfully and she acknowledged me as another good individual. She would often tell me how cool I was and all the things she liked about me. Now seeing how many people respected her opinions it makes me know that I probably am everything that I think I am because she told me. It’s an honor to have spent time with that kind of individual.”

For someone who wears his clothes and sneakers only once and is criticized for being arrogant and extravagant, Dash at this moment seems like a man who has experienced the best and worst of life, and is set on living it up while he can. He’s a hustler whose heart has been broken more than once, and so now for Mr. Dash it’s all about the money, the vision and the legacy.

“I’m the boss, and I definitely make people suffer that try to take advantage of certain situations. If you make me lose money I will step up and make an example out of you,” he admits. “In five years I want to have a quarter of a billion dollars. So yes, I be screaming and yelling. But I profess positivity. I fight for the underdog. All I’m trying to do is inspire the rest of the world. 'Cause I’m just a regular guy. If I got it, anybody can get it.”



Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think that dame dash is a very cool dude and i feel that no one should try to judge him. i'm so glad that aaliyah loved him for who he was and not for his looks. {RIP aaliyah!} keep doin' ya thang home boi!

2/03/2006 11:20 AM


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