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Friday, January 8, 2010

Retrospectively Speaking: Damon Dash


...interviewed with New York Magazine in 2006 and shared insight into the day he was fired and the ways in which Jay-Z pushed him out of his business endeavors:

In 2002, there were rumors in the hip-hop press about a rift between Dash and Jay-Z. One factor was Dash’s giving the rapper Cam’ron, a childhood friend and somebody Jay-Z had never been fond of, his own imprint at their record label, behind Jay-Z’s back. Subsequent tension allegedly involved the conflicts of interest posed by each man’s side projects. Dash made a small, satirical movie, Death of a Dynasty, about the rumors, and it turned out to be prophetic.

“At a certain point, I got ready to depend on my other artists,” Dash recalls. “I started putting together an army—Kanye, Cam’ron, Beanie, the Diplomats. I figured Jay gave me time to prepare.” But in December 2004, Jay-Z invited Dash to dinner to discuss the offer from Def Jam. They met at Da Silvano. “I said, ‘Go ahead and take the money and the job, but don’t take the name—don’t take Roc-A-Fella with you,’ ” Dash recalls. “I didn’t say please, but I might as well have.”

Jay-Z offered that Dash could keep the Roc-A-Fella name if in return he relinquished possession of the master recordings for Reasonable Doubt. Dash wouldn’t agree to it.

“He said, ‘It’s business,’ ” Dash says. “But we were always supposed to be about more than business, Jay especially.” Dash saw his own role as the executive’s so that Jay-Z could remain an artist at all times. “I did everything I possibly could so that he didn’t have to raise his voice. He just had to whisper something in my ear and I’d take care of it. The people I fought with to make money for him, Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles”—executives at Def Jam—“he’s made friends with. He hangs out with Puff now. It’s like if your brother leaves you.”

Many of the most successful artists in Roc-A-Fella’s stable (Kanye West, Memphis Bleek, Peedi Crakk) remained with Jay-Z rather than sign with Dash. Cam’ron, whose full name is Cameron Giles, left Roc-A-Fella after the buyout and went to Warner Music, though in January 2006 he made it clear where his loyalties stood by recording a song called “You Gotta Love It,” a full-fledged attempt to humiliate Jay-Z. It begins by listing his reasons for writing the song: “First, you stole Roc-A-Fella from Dame / Second, you stole Kanye from Dame / Third, you stole Rocawear from Dame.” Then, Cam’ron raps, “It was Rocawear when Dame had it / Now you got it, call it Cock-A-Wear.”

Meanwhile, Jay-Z had rapped on the remix of “Diamonds Are Forever,” a single by Kanye West, “I took the name, I take the blame.” Another verse goes, “I’m not a businessman / I’m a business, man / So let me handle my business, damn!

***


In Dash’s view, he’s the one who brought a kind of smart-set varnish to Jay-Z’s appeal anyway. “I designed Rocawear; I brought the lifestyle upscale,” he says. “Like getting Naomi Campbell and Victoria Beckham to wear it, going to Sundance to promote it. I had an ad campaign planned with Naomi and Kevin Bacon. It was so fly it could be in Vogue.” But Jay-Z and their two silent partners, a couple of Russian businessmen from Delancey Street, were skeptical of the campaign, which would cost on the order of $3 million to produce. “They just wanted Jay in there and to let some cheap photographer do it. All of a sudden, Jay’s voting with those two. I had to go to Mario Testino and say, ‘I can’t do this because my partners are too cheap.’ I felt ghetto.”


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5 comments:

  1. Gay-Z uses people.

    I like how Dame called Beyonce "Jay-Z's girlfriend" NOT his WIFE!

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  2. Gay-Z will bend over backwards for those Russians.

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  3. Published Jun 11, 2006 but still relevant.

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  4. Damon Dash Remembers the Day He Lost Jay-Z
    1/7/10 at 3:30 PM Comment 11Comment 11Comments
    Photo: Getty Images

    In Esquire’s upcoming "People Who Matter" issue, writer Lisa Taddeo investigates Jay-Z’s cross-market appeal. She lets a few ho-hum theories fly — apparently, Jay-Z is successful because he is both a “gangster from the hood” and a “CEO in the boardroom” — and doesn’t get much access*, but the stuff about Steve Stoute and Jay-Z’s advice for Johnson & Johnson (“Baby oil, Jay suggested, should be marketed for its other uses, to remove makeup or to mix with suntan lotion so it glides on smoother”) is pretty great. Our favorite bit, though, came courtesy of Damon Dash. Unsurprisingly, Jay’s former bestie was available for interviews, and he provides the following anecdote about “the day he knew he'd lost Jay-Z.”


    "It was me and Jay and the two Russians voting on every [Rocawear] decision, and I controlled the vote, because I always had Jay's vote." The two Russians were Alex Bize and Norton Cher, old-school clothing slingers from Manhattan's garment district who ran the day-to-day operations. "But one day," Dash says, "they brought me to a hotel ... I said, 'Why are we meeting at a hotel?' and it was because they didn't want anyone to hear me yelling. That was the day they told me they didn't want [celebrity photographer] Mario Testino to shoot the ads." Instead, they were going with someone cheaper, and they were going in a different direction altogether. "Here the Russians were telling me how to cater to my people! I wanted [Rocawear] to be sold at Bergdorf Goodman's, not Dr. Jay's!"


    So there you go: Jay-Z and Damon Dash aren’t friends anymore because Jay-Z is cheap.

    http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/01/damon_dash_recalls_the_day_he.html

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  5. Here the Russians were telling me how to cater to my people! I wanted [Rocawear] to be sold at Bergdorf Goodman's, not Dr. Jay's! In the end, Steve Stoute was making money off them. Jay stopped listening to me and started listening to him."

    According to reports, Jay-Z made their business separation formal when he bought out Dash's stake in Rocawear for $30 million.

    ReplyDelete