Friday, May 30, 2014


L-R: Dame, Jay Z and Biggs

I have always been intrigued by the story behind the dismantling of Roc-A-Fella Records. A lot of it has to do with the fact that growing up I watched the label go from Jay Z being its sole artist and releasing the hit club single Ain't No N****  to the Roc-A-Fella brand morphing into a conglomerate of sorts with its record label, clothing line (Rocawear), film company (Roc-A-Fella Films) and alcoholic beverage venture (Armadale). The co-owners of Roc-A-Fella --Shawn "Jay Z" CarterDamon "Dame" Dash, and Kareem "Biggs" Burke reminded me of guys I grew up with, so to see them succeed on that level was a source of inspiration. 

Not to mention I really enjoyed seeing the camaraderie amongst the guys. You could tell they truly enjoyed being around one another and lived by the creed Jay Z once rapped: If every n**** in your clique is rich, your clique is rugged, nobody will fall 'cause everyone will be each others crutches

So whenever the opportunity presents itself and more information surfaces about the demise of Roc-A-Fella (thanks Dame!), I'm always game to blog about it!

Former Roc-A-Fella Records co-owner Damon "Dame" Dash recently commented on the EPIC altercation --or as I like to call it Solange-gate, that occurred between Solange Knowles and his former close friend and business partner Jay Z, during the MET Gala festivities earlier this month.

Like the majority of us, Dame thought the leaked video was funny! He explained, "nobody teases Jay except [me]. He added, "this was the first people were [able to] freely express themselves about Jay." 

Listen to Dame discuss his thoughts on the rumors that Solange-gate stemmed from Jay Z and his ex-wife (whom he still refers to as his "wife"), designer Rachel Roy, engaging in an inappropriate relationship; why he feels Steve Stoute "breaks blacks up" to get robbed by corporation; and what's up next for Dame, after the break!

Dame says: 
  • He thought Solange-gate was funny because people get to see how Jay "plays sh*t off"
  • If he had been in a situation similar to Jay Z he would have restrained Solange and told her to chill out.
  • If Jay Z was still hanging with him, he would have clowned Jay Z mercilessly over the altercation. And if Jay Z became upset, he would have clowned him even harder.
  • He knows the people in Jay Z's inner circle and they likely laughed about the altercation behind Jay Z's back because "they don't get down like that" (insinuating Jay Z's inner circle is comprised of yes men).
  • An “uncool moment” happened to Jay Z back in the Roc-A-Fella days when a bird randomly smacked Jay Z in the face while they were in San Francisco.
  • He does not believe the rumors that Jay Z was "trying to holla at his wife" --designer Rachel Roy. However, if the rumors are true it would be "bad", "dark", and "would mean that he [Jay Z] really has some resentment" towards him.
                                  Dame On Solange-gate                                                                                                 

Sidebar: I've always wondered whether Rachel Roy and Dame divorce was more so for business purposes/to thwart off the IRS rather then irreconcilable differences. 

“Even other black people will break other black people's shit up because they have the connect with the white person and it will ruin their check --Steve Stoute! That's what he always do[es]. He always breaks us up to get robbed. A guy like Steve Stoute will always take the people that are protecting you know the creative and eliminate them so he can rob the creators. So he can get his money, even if it kills that black man or that person's brand. Like he did with Mary J. Blige. And how I was against him putting Jay's whole name on a $40 sneaker just so they could get a check. How he had Jay doing Budweiser with a Confederate flag for a check. That's not good for your brand. I wouldn't do it like that. That's his approach. I don't like that dude. Because he doesn't care about his culture, nah mean. And he's a liar. And I['ve] watched him tell me all of LL Cool J's business and Nas' business when they weren't doing well, so I['ve] never trusted him. And I also watched Biggie Small's crew put lipstick on him and a wig on him when he fell asleep. That's how I first seen him, so I couldn't respect [him] ever since from that day. He also tried to rob us [Roc-A-Fella Records] for [DJ] Clue, and I had to run up in his office and tell him, 'cool your jets.' You know he's a guy you have to regulate. He's a sneaky guy. He's a nerd."
Dame On Crabs In The Barrel Mentality/Steve Stoute

Dame On Starting The Careers Jay Z, Kanye West, Kevin Hart, Rachel Roy and Lee Daniels

Sidebar: Dame claims Oscar nominated director Lee Daniels (The ButlerMonster's Ball and Precious), owes him $2 million. 

Dame was an executive producer on the Daniels-produced movie, The Woodsman (Kevin Bacon, Mos Def and Eve). Dame was also a producer on the film Shadowboxer. This movie was Daniels' directorial debut
What's Up Next For Dame

Whew! Where do I begin, Dame said a mouthful. 

What I deduced from Dame's "[Jay Z] should be built stronger than that" and "if no one [i]s laughing then he needs to look at his crew" comments, is that Dame thinks Jay Z's inner circle consist of people who will not give Jay Z a reality check when needed, but rather yes men and business partners with questionable ethics --Steve Stoute.

It's obvious that Dame still has some unresolved issues (possibly feelings of betrayal and anger) regarding the Roc-A-Fella split, no matter how nonchalant he attempts to appear in this video. While Jay Z donned his poker face after exiting Solange-gate, Dame says he would not. And therein lies the yin and yang philosophy that propelled Roc-A-Fella Records in its heyday, but was also likely a contributing factor in the demise of their business and personal relationship. 

In one corner you have Jay Z, who can move in a room full of vultures without breaking a sweat if there is significant capital to be made. 

In the other corner you have Dame, who will bark at the sight of vultures, opting out of entering the room in exchange for a room with possibly less capital to be gained, but a room where Dame can control who enters the room --NO CULTURE VULTURES ALLOWED!

Dame also touched on the crabs in the barrel mentality some Black people exhibit towards one another. The crabs in the barrel mentality is the idea that after a person climbs the ladder to success, rather than extending a helping hand to the next person climbing that same ladder, you kick the ladder to the ground in an effort to hinder the other persons success.

Dame revealed in his interview that he once shopped around the idea of a Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam/Wu Tang venture, but the crabs and corporate yes men persuaded the other parties involved against the idea. 

Dame accuses Steve Stoute, a former record executive (Sony and Interscope/Geffen) and current founder and CEO of the brand development and marketing firm Translation, of being one of the main culprits of the crabs in the barrel mentality.

Dame's allegations regarding Steve Stoute's business practices are disheartening if true, but not surprising. Unfortunately this type of behavior is common in the Black community. It's a mentality that has been instilled in Black people since the days of slavery and colonialism. 

Pitting us against one another is a divisive tactic that ensures that Black people are distrustful of one another and remain reluctant to work together for a common good. 

I agree with Dame's observation that some Black people feel we need the validation from others outside our community to impact culture on a global scale. That could not be furthest from the truth. We are trendsetters

Once we as Black people realize that we can accomplish things beyond our wildest dreams when we work together, we will be UNSTOPPABLE! 

Reading through the feedback I received from Facebook and Twitter on Dame's interview, some commentators thought Dame made valid points --one commentator even hopes Dame will write a tell-all book.

While others question Dame's motives in speaking out now about Steve Stoute. A few even suggest that Dame was gossiping like a school girl during his interview. 

In the past Dame has charged that Steve Stoute contributed to the demise of Dame and Jay Z's personal and business relationship. Dame does not conceal his disdain for Stoute, calling him "sneaky" and a "nerd [] you have to regulate". 

However, in a previous interview Stoute blamed Dame's hostile history towards others in the industry as the reason most people did not offer Dash support after his personal and business relationship with Jay Z dissolved. 

I am uncertain if we will ever get the complete and accurate story behind the dissolution of Roc-A-Fella. What is clear is that both Dame and Steve Stoute: 

   (1) place some blame on the other for the breakup; 
   (2) do not hold each other in the highest regard; and 
   (3) do not shy away from expressing their negative feelings toward each other when the         opportunity presents itself.

As for what's next for Dame, he revealed in the interview that he is focusing on being more of an artist. Dash explains he has been preparing for 5 years to transition into directing, and he plans to self-finance his projects. 

Dash had a hand early on in cultivating the talents of some of the people who currently affect pop culture such as: Jay Z, Kanye West, Kevin Hart, Rachel Roy and Lee Daniels, so I have no doubt that Dame will have success again. 

We'll be watching!

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