Contrary to ten years ago, little is said these days about the once controversial music mogul, Dame Dash, co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records and former business partner of Jay-Z. For the most part, what folks do know about the Harlem native centers around his reputation in the music industry, along with a tiny bit about his romantic relationship with the late Aaliyah and ex-wife designer Rachel Roy. This week, the 44-year-old visited the Combat Jack show, speaking quite candidly about his life, including how he feels about his ‘break-up’ of sorts with Jay-Z, his departure from the music game, losing Aaliyah and why divorce (with Rachel) wasn’t that hard. It’s a pretty lengthy conversation (a little over 2 hours), but we’ve pulled our favorite excerpts.
I mean you know, it was a while ago but what I can say is at one time my worse fear was losing my mom, that when I lost her it was confronting my fear and being that it was so at such a young age, I never really lived with fear of anything.I mean like I said, as being, becoming a man, things change and puberty and all those things that you’re insecure about but you know being able to survive at a time ah and without the person that I thought I couldn’t survive with again when you face all fears at a young age then you don’t have, I never was scared of anything you know? So I felt my worse pain I thought I could feel, except until Aaliyah died, you know what I’m saying?
You know it was always a thing where there was just no fear of living because I had already, you know, the thing I had dreamed or my worse nightmare had already happen. Which is also a reason why I believe that your mind is strong and that if you manifest the fear, eventually you going to have to face it, so I’m careful about my fears. I just had to get focused. I had to be, you know, I had to take care of myself and survive. My mother left me with all the jewels to be able to articulate anything that was on my mind and make anything that I had dreamed into a reality.
On if Music Was His First Goal:
Nah, my first goal was to make money, you know? I came up again when having money was important for survival. Having the best things you know, and having more then the people that were older, younger and whatever, like that’s just the competitive nature that I grew up around. So I was just always trying to get it no matter what and I still am on certain levels but it’s conditions now that I’ll get it. Like I got it a certain way, so now the only way I want to get it is on my terms.”
Why He Prefers to Work With Women:
Dealing with men, is not always the most funnest sh-t. They’re t0o insecure. You know, it’s too much bullshit with it. You know, no matter what, no matter what you do for a dude, he resents you. The more you do for a dude, the more he resents you, because he wants what you got. It’s always like that and it’s just an innate ah human thing for men you know, to always want to be better than another dude, you know what I’m saying? But girls they tend to be, unless you get them tight, they are a little more cordial, you know? They judge their success by your success; you know what I’m saying? Which is cool and um, I don’t know, I just always had a, I’d just rather be around some beautiful smelling, you know girls.”
How Old He Was When He Got His First Deal:
Nineteen. Yea my first record-deal with Atlantic records. Yea it was good. I mean I had legal money, yea. But I still wasn’t paying taxes. Again, like you know, I was always feeling like I was always behind because I was so far ahead. So, it wasn’t a stat, I was mad I had to be signed. I wanted to have my own. So, I didn’t like the fact that someone had to give me something and shit, I never thought that concept made sense. So, I was alright with it but I was still like this ain’t it.”
Why He Took Things Personal in Business:
I took it personal, you know? It wasn’t business for me ever, it was always about what was like correct and being fair, you know what I’m saying? But ah, yea I guess people that I fought for loved me and ah I guess people that I fought against, probably weren’t to happy with how I would expose the uh, the way they did business. (Now, now what made it personal for you though Damon?) It’s just everything, I’m, I go, honestly like I said, I begin to realize how, how really creative I am. I just really move when I am inspired, you what I’m saying? So if I’m inspired, I’m going to do right by it regardless cause it’s just the cloth that I’m cut from, you know what I’m saying? It’s just the rules of survival where I came from in Harlem; you know what I’m saying and just my family in general. So I’m just not about no fuckery or no bullshit really, you know.”
If He Was Ever Happy In the Industry:
I was happy but not in the, not to work in the, nah. Not compared to the other businesses that I’ve done and my experiences the last ten years now. My experiences in fashion and my experiences in a different kind of music business, nah, I was never really 100% happy because I always had to deal with people that, that weren’t happy, that were to insecure, that weren’t really doing work, that was just into jerking each other on a cultural level. You know watching so many people stab each other in the back is just not fun, especially from the same culture. It’s like people pulling strings.”
His Highest High, Working in the Industry:
I mean I was happy to be number one for five weeks in a row, you know? To be able to, figure out how to master the game with out compromise, you know what I mean? Umm, my happiest, I don’t remember what my happiest moment in the industry was, probably being able to retire. I think my happiest moment in the industry was being able to walk into another one, like I’m done here and feeling complete.”
How he describes ending things with Jay:
Things never really got f-cked up, it just got over. It wasn’t nothing, it was never f-cked up. Me and Jay wasn’t never arguing. Me and Jay never was beefing. It just was over; you understand what I’m saying? And Roc-A-Fella just didn’t exist any more.
What he was going through mentally, the last days of Roc A Fella:
I’m happy, I get to do Rachel Roy. I get to go do fashion. I don’t have to go to no more court cases. I don’t have to deal with Lyor no more. I don’t have to deal with politics. I’m fucking ecstatic that I’m at a place where I can walk away from something because I don’t need it anymore.
If he felt betrayed by Jay-Z:
I mean I thought the way Jay carried things was a betrayal to the company, you know what I’m saying? But other then that, nah, not really. I didn’t think the business way things played out, like I was more into the friendship then the business because that’s really what it was for, for me at that point, know what I’m saying? I felt like, you know Roc-A-Fella over all, we had built a brand for ten years. I knew I would be all right, I was trying to get away from it any way but I was afraid for everybody else, which ultimately was the case. I just felt like Roc-A-Fella should still exist. Like Cash Money still exists, like Bad Boy still exist, like every other label still exist.”
Last time he spoke to Jay-Z:
Um, I don’t remember. I mean he was. [Godfather to Dame's son Boogie] He not thinking bout that sh*t, he got a father. He’s not thinking about it at all. He sent me some tickets the other day; I needed some. I mean, it’s not like you know, I don’t think there’s an issue with him. I just think we took different paths, period. I’m proud of everything that he’s done and I’m proud of everything I’ve done since then and I feel like I’ve done a lot and I feel like what ever his dreams are, he’s made his dreams come true but my dreams aren’t the same as his.
On Divorcing Designer Rachel Roy:
It was nothing. You got to get a mediator, don’t get a lawyer, you know how lawyers are. And so y’all worked. A1, but I’m not really allowed to speak on it, but we’re good money.
On how he and Aaliyah became romantic:
I don’t know, just spending time, you know, we just saw things ah the same and it was ah new, you know what I mean? Meeting someone that is trying to do the same thing you are doing in the urban market, in the same urban market place but not really being so urban. It was just; her mind was where my mind was. She understood me and she got my jokes. She thought my jokes were funny.
Listen to the full interview below: