Despite his flamboyant public persona, Dame Dash's image is reeling. It’s suffering in a way that would destroy most men. But, this is Dame Dash, the same person who contributed to one of the mightiest rap dynasties in Roc-A-Fella Records, brought out the fresh-to-def clothes, the liquors, the films, and every side venture that could bring a rap mogul maximum notoriety.
They say adversity makes a man and, without one god MC, its time to see what the Harlemite is made of. These days, contrary to popular belief, Dame Dash seems excited, not jaded; weary, yet confident. Get a sneak peek at what’s to come, and watch the rumors get shot down like Duck Hunt. He seemed down, but as you’ll see in the AllHipHop.com conversation, he's licked some of his wounds and has now set up a new shop.
AllHipHop.com: How amicable was the split between you and Jay, really?
DD: How amicable? It was cool. I mean I let it be known that I was kind of surprised at how the name went, but other than that it was all good. I mean, I made a movie called “Death of a Dynasty” four years ago. So obviously I saw it coming, even though it was a spoof. So I wasn’t that bothered by it. You can’t ever knock somebody for having personal aspirations. If someone wants to go in one direction and someone wants to go in another, you knock ‘em. We just honestly, Jay Z and myself, wanted to go in two different directions. I wanted to chase the movies, and I’m a businessman, and that’s all that I do and he was content with what he was doing, so it is what it is.
AllHipHop.com: There’s a rumor going around that Jay didn’t acknowledge you in the hall at Def Jam and that you were very upset about it. Is this true?
DD: Well it wasn’t in the hall it was in LA’s office, I mean Steve Garley’s office and I seen him. Damn, that was news? [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Everything is news with you guys. How much has doing business affected - be it strained or strengthened - you and Jay’s relationship.
DD: Jay and I are good. There’s no strain.
AllHipHop.com: Well, has your rape case strained anything for you lately?
DD: I don’t have a rape case. That was another thing that came out in the newspaper. As of yet, I haven’t been charged with anything. It was a civil suit. Hopefully people are smart enough to do the math. I just got finished fighting a civil case where this cat actually challenged me to a fight from my old block and I gave it to him, and I punished him. And he actually tried to sue me for it. But I’ll never pay anybody just to walk away from press. I refuse to get extorted. I’d rather spend the money than cut a check. My morals won’t let me to do it. So I went to trial and beat it. If someone thinks there’s something I should be punished for - especially something as heinous as rape, I feel that anybody that rapes anybody should go to jail. I have a daughter. I have a heavy respect for women.
AllHipHop.com: What do you have to say to people who say there’s no Dame without Jay?
DD: I mean the only way I can have response to that is to say Rocawear, America Magazine, Tiret [line of expensive watches], Armadale, Pro Keds, these are all things I’ve done without Jay. You know, to a degree I feel sorry for people that feel the need to judge other people ‘cause that means that my success must hurt.
AllHipHop.com: So we’ve heard Jay speak about the split. We’ve heard you speak about it, but we haven’t heard Biggs.
DD: When have you ever heard Biggs?
AllHipHop.com: Well that’s the question, why do we never hear Biggs' voice?
DD: It’s not for him. He don’t like it. He spoke on it a little at Angie Martinez one time, but that’s it. I don’t like to hear him talk, it’s not him. That’s the persona he chooses to have, and you just gotta respect that.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me about the Dame Dash Music Group. Who is receiving labels?
Dame Dash: Well, I’ve been running a label for the last decade-maybe a lil’ longer than that. I just was thinking if I’m gonna stay in this business, I gotta do something I’ve never done before. I’m seein’ it as an actual movement. Where they can facilitate that demand and make these records and A & R them and it’s a lil’ more than just one act and I figure that I’m in a good position to get certain kinds of deals, and I can just be the connect and put them to those deals, and they can just rock out. So I’m sure the Wu Tang didn’t need help, they already had the Ol’ Dirty Bastard album done. And I was like, you know, I can’t do this without Wu Tang and The RZA-and he did so much on the album so I was like, “Go ‘head RZA, do ya thing and let’s just do it together.”
AllHipHop.com: How much did RZA do on the Ol’ Dirty Bastard album?
DD: He did about seven records. It’s real, he’s on, like poppin’ for real.
AllHipHop.com: Who else has labels?
DD: And Noreaga has been doing this Reggaeton thing. So I gave him a label, Millitainment Musica. And of course Cam’ron and Beans have labels that exist so they just remained under that umbrella. Whoever Cam’ron’s gone place his label under, we’re still negotiating that now. But it will still be related to Dame Dash Music Group. And I did a label with the First Family, M.O.P. I love M.O.P. because they will never sacrifice their integrity to just fit the format of radio and Billy, Fame, and Fox are some funny muthaf**kas, you know, they’re just stubborn. But their music, they’re like real artists. And then last but not least, this is a label that I actually am a little more involved in, I did a label with 7 Aurelius called the Dream Factory. So I’m actually sitting in the studio with him and I put Nicole Wray on that label. And they made a record that’s retarded. The first record they made was retarded. It’s called 'Lollipop' - it’s nuts.
AllHipHop.com: So Beans is incarcerated, but upon his release who will he be rollin’ with?
DD: Beans is supposed to be runnin’ with Damon Dash. I never wanted it to be like, “You have to chose sides,” or anything like that, but a lot of people under that umbrella are not very happy about this whole situation. And what they signed to is “us”. We were a family and that’s the way it was, so basically whoever felt that same family thing leaned in that direction. That’s why it was cool for Cam to make sure he got off Def Jam, he might even back through that system.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me about Roc-A-Fella Films.
DD: Well, it’s Dash films. I decided to just keep it straight Dash films. You know, I like to make different kinds of movies for different demographics. I’m bout to direct [another] movie. I’m bout to start prepping this movie called Inside Out. Also Beanie has a film coming out - a documentary called The Game. We actually followed him around, actually the progress of the whole State Property and him for the last three or four years, so that’s very interesting as well.
AllHipHop.com: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you also secured the rights to The Bumpy Johnson Story.
DD: Yeah, hey, how you knew that? Through his granddaughter, I got his story, I got [the] Nicki Barnes Story, Chazz [from Blackhand Entertainment], I got a couple things that I think are gonna be ground breaking. I wanna be the Martin Scorsese of my time, and I think I can do it. If get my directing skills up, I think you’ll see it in State Property Part 2. Like when I do this next film, every movie I make is a serious learning experience on a lot of different levels.
AllHipHop.com: You named your film company Dash Films, you also named your music group Damon Dash Music Group. Does branding your actual name inflict on your privacy and your personal life.
DD: What personal life?
AllHipHop.com: For instance, you just got married.
DD: Who told you that? I don’t know, there’s no rings on these fingers. I mean I try really not to talk about my personal business too much. But to a degree, everything that goes on in my life, and everything that’s even an accusation that could go on my life, becomes public knowledge. You know that’s the life that I’ve chosen, to be in the public eye - and to a degree I can’t get mad when all kinds of rumors are spreading. I just have deal with it. I only have a problem when my children are affected by it.
AllHipHop.com: Don’t you think you put your kids in that position by putting them in Rocawear ads, etc.?
DD: To a degree, I think that people - for example, there’s people that get on the radio and talk about my children’s business or what they perceive it to be and I don’t respect that. It’s just disheartening to see that happening. But other than that, I’ve had to brand my name to get where I’m at anyway. It’s important for me to brand myself because everything that I do I wan to be affiliated with quality. At first it was gonna be Roc and Roc-A-Fella, but it didn’t work out that way, so it had to become Dash. Initially it was Roc Films but it didn’t work out, so I had to make it Dash Films.
AllHipHop.com: I knew I didn’t make that up!
DD: Oh yea, it was Roc Film before. But all my partners didn’t aspire to do the same things, so I did the things that reflect my personal aspirations. I would rather it had been Roc and Roc-A-Fella but it ended up being Dash.
AllHipHop.com: So now that the Roc-A-Fella brand is splintered, where does Rocawear stand in all of that?
DD: It’s still where it is. It’s still $350 million.
AllHipHop.com: One last thing. You’re doing films, and many other ventures but you overall consider yourself a man of morals. Ossie Davis is a man who also had many things going and considered himself of a man of principle. In his passing his legacy is one of depth and admiration, how do you want to be remembered?
DD: I guess I want everybody to remember how fair I was. How much I made for everyone around me and how much fun I had while I did it. No one can say they did business with Damon Dash and they got jerked. There are people that can say, “I hate Damon because he won’t let me jerk his artists and he punished me for coming at him sideways and anyone around him.” And also, hopefully I’ve lead by example for my culture.
AllHipHop.com: How so?
DD: You know, every time I do something I try to teach my culture how do things the same way that I did, I try to leave them the blueprint. So when I started in the music business, trust me, people didn’t understand what a co-venture was. And then now, what I’m doing boxing, the Dibella-Dash thing. And then even with the movies that I make. We got nominated for Spirit awards. We’re critically acclaimed. I’ve done a lot for the culture, just saying as an ambassador of the culture: showing that a guy with his hat tilted to the side could do a magazine like America Magazine and make movie like The Woodsman and be savvy, and do all these different kinds of things. And I looked good while I did it.