Former CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records, certified music mogul, dope business man and art connoisseur Damon Dash hasn’t been in the spotlight poppin’ bottles like he used to, but don’t sleep on this business genius, because he’s been plenty busy.
GlobalGrind caught up with Damon as he was headed to the beach in Long Island, NY. GlobalGrind was wondering what the vocal, in your face, fast-talking hustler known as Damon Dash has been up to since he removed himself from the scrutiny of the public eye.
When we spoke to Damon, he dished about his website DD174NewYork.com, his new artist McKenzie Eddy, his personal evolution and the excitement of working on new projects.
Check out the exclusive interview below!
GlobalGrind: What have you been up to lately?
Damon Dash: If you guys go on DD172newyork.com it kind of can show you all things, the weird planned stuff I’ve been doing, but you know I’ve just been doing the art gallery and making music, aggregating content and making little movies, curating art and just kind of being artistic.
We’re interviewing your artist McKenzie Eddy. How did you come across her?
McKenzie actually came up to be Citizen Cope’s assistant and I was training her for Citizen Cope and Alice Smith. I had noticed that she had a lot of talent other than just being an assistant on an administrative level. So she kind of went up in the ranks, in my infrastructure pretty fast. Initially, she expressed her love for music and I didn’t really realize she was a singer and I was like ‘put together a band’ and start doing shows and I’ll support it. She did just that and from that we got the rock division under DD172, the music division and she became the president of it and she A&R’ed projects like BlakRoc. She’s doing it along with Raquel Horn who’s like her best friend and went to college with her. They were the ones who put me with the Black Keys and help me put together that project BlakRoc. Actually before that, they helped me help out Jim Jones for the “Pray for Rain” album and help me produce the “Pray for Rain play” with Jim Jones.
It seems like you’ve been keeping low profile, but you’re in a whole new lane. What made you make that shift?
That was my evolution. I think on the level that I’m perceived by the public, that character that’s been created is completely an aspect of me, but that wasn’t what defined me. What they were portraying that character to be, I didn’t think was a very positive character. I didn’t think that character was positive for the culture and that character kind of had to go. I kind of wanted it to go.
I didn’t want to be type casted or be looked at for pouring champagne and yelling in my 20s. That’s just not me and it hasn’t been me for years. All the things that I’ve done aren’t reflective of where I’m at now, so it wasn’t like a conscious shift, it was just an evolution. A lot of the movements that I was a part of, like Roc-A-Fella and all the other things were other people’s dreams, not mine. So after I transitioned into the fashion world with my ex-wife’s line Rachel Roy, once I got them situated and made sure she was straight, I did what I had to do in fashion, I just felt like it was time for me to do what I wanted to be creative with in my way.
I want to do and pay more attention to really good music, live instrumentation, not really be so worried about if it sells or not, just really more worried about the integrity of the project. Me and my ex-wife had a new daughter and I didn’t really want nannies to be watching her from 12 to 4 for the first two years of her life, so I was the nanny. I also was paying attention and spending a lot of time trying to be a good parent and not miss out on the things I had missed with my other children before.
What are some important things that fatherhood has taught you?
The thing about it is, I’ve been a father my whole life. I had my first son when I was 19; I have had custody of him since he was 8. On a lot of levels, the thing about being a parent is you have to put your family before yourself all the time, it’s not even a question and in business it’s almost like that as well. I think just having the time to be the mommy, not to take anything away from her mom, but just being that person during the day that she saw, I just found that I missed a lot of fun, good times and it’s a better world being a child than being an adult because there’s never really anything to be mad about.
You talked about people trying to define you a couple years ago. How would you define yourself today?
Today, just a person that loves creativity and independence and I’ve consistently stood for that regardless to whether perception-wise was the best thing for me or not. I’ve never been absorbed by any corporate infrastructure. I’ve been consistent in that way and I’m consistent now. I still maintain a certain degree of integrity within whatever I do and whatever I work with and I’m still my own boss and also the fact that I think I can take a public beat down and start from scratch and still be relevant and not have to compromise.
You’ve definitely played an integral part in a lot of people’s careers and made them some of the hottest artists to date. Is there ever pressure to still achieve that same notoriety or success?
Not at all. Once you do it, you don’t have to do it again. I just like to have that kind of notoriety in any other thing that I’m doing. It would be ridiculous for me to ever think I could recreate Roc-A-Fella records. It was a moment in time when I was 19 years old until thirty and I’m not there anymore. I wouldn’t want to be that, but at the end of the day I don’t have to do another thing in music, I’m fine. Because of the magnitude of that business when I go and do a Rachel Roy business, yes, there is a pressure for it to be that big, but it is that big, so I’m alright with it. It makes me feel pretty cool and it makes me feel confident to move on and do something else.
That’s why I would never say I have a record company because I don’t. I’ve had a record company before, there’s no reason to have a record company. I have a music division in a communication company where I’m aggregating content and trying to make television networks. But basically that’s what I’ve been focusing on, is really making television networks. And because of the internet there’s a platform to do so without having to be on regular cable television.
Since you’re really into fashion, we want to get your perspective about a new song Chris Brown and Tyga made a song called “Snapbacks Back.” Do you really believe that snapbacks are back?
That probably wouldn’t resonate in my age demographic of what I would consider fashion. For the kids it might be, but I’m not wearing what Chris Brown or Tyga are wearing. We’re in two different completely generations; it’s not a relatable generation. I don’t know what they wear. I wear shell toe Adidas and Levis, I’m very classic in that way so I wouldn’t know.
In your opinion what’s the next big thing? It could be music or fashion or just something that you think is going to be really big in the next couple years.
It’s a gift and a curse for me, because once something gets too big I kind of shy away from it because as an opinion leader, once everybody has it, you don’t really want it anymore. Again, I think as far as music goes I think McKenzie’s going to be really big. I think Sean O’Connell is going to be really big. I think the London Souls are going to be really big. I think Dash is going to be really big. We just did a project with MURS on the West Coast that I think is going to be really big and a project with Tabi Bonney that I think is going to be really big. I think everything I touch is going to be really big. Not in an arrogant way, just because I know that’s just my pattern. We have this magazine BluRoc magazine and AmericaNu magazine and Korin and Raoul magazine.
I think those magazines are going to be really big. I think my television networks DD172 New York and AmericaNu TV and Harlem Blu, it’s another venture that I’m doing with my gospel division with By Higginson up in Harlem, I think that’s going to be really big. I think everything I do is going to be really big. I think the next BlacRoc album is going to be really big so everything I do I think is going to be pretty huge. I think Rachel got really big, I think she’s going to be really bigger. I’m just happy that I can be affiliated with businesses and my name and my face don’t have to be out there anymore.
Damon Dash and his DJing son “Boogie.”
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