Artist: Damon Dash Presents:Title: Roc 4 Life (Mixtape)Rating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Jacob Mustafa
Dame Dash is nothing if he’s not a businessman. His shrewdness is infamous, and he shows no signs of letting up now that he and the majority of his former Roc-a-Fella artists are, for the moment, no longer under the Def Jam umbrella and are out on their own with his Roc 4 Life venture. Because of his late dealings as the head of the Roc, he has an enormous lineup of talented (and not so talented) artists in his stable ready to create as much buzz as possible for their already hyped label. All of this adds up to the mixtape that puts the promotion in “for promotional use” in Damon Dash Presents: Roc 4 Life.
The truth is most of the music here is excellent, but hard to find as most tracks are just short teasers to build interest in upcoming albums for such MCs as legendary Wu-Tang Clansmen Raekwon and the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard or long, drawn-out business statements by Dash. However, what is there is almost all great as Dame’s army is performing like they’re all in their primes; Bun B shows off his flow on a freestyle that will finally reach people outside of Texas, M.O.P. stomps all over “Instigator”, and the whole lineup stars on a remix to the Wu-Tang’s classic “Triumph”, as Joe Budden, N.O.R.E. Raekwon, Young Chris and others bring their A-game to bring justice to the original. However, there are a few musical missteps. Songs that have circulated the mixtapes (and even retail releases) show up here, including Cam’ron’s Kanye West-helmed heater “Down & Out” and Beanie Sigel’s melancholy single “Feel It in the Air”. Also, there are a few unneeded freestyles that should have stayed on studio reels, notably those of Killa 3’s and Jim Jones’s. Overall though, this album is a thorough introduction to a label full of excellent familiar faces and a few misguided newcomers.
It seems Dame’s out to prove he can succeed without Def Jam and his former partner, who just happens to be running that old label of Dash’s. Whether Roc 4 Life is a success is a question of whether credible, talented veterans can succeed where Memphis Bleek and Freeway couldn’t. For now he has all a good label needs: a talented, marketable deceased rapper, a few legends, a man who has beef with G-Unit, reggaeton artists, and Dipset. We’ll see if the businessman is as talented a hustler as that Def Jam president.