Dame Dash Talks Kanye West, Dapper Dan, & What Being Independent Really Means [Interview]
Dame Dash was once a force in the music business. Now he’s trying to make his mark in the film industry. And he’s going to try and do it independently
Dame Dash will forever remain a staple in the culture. Not only was he the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella, one of the most successful labels levels ever, but he also grew a fashion and lifestyle enterprise; he helped mold Rocawear into one of the greatest streetwear lines of all time.
Fast forward to 2018, the mogul isn’t letting up. Dame has released a book, Culture Vultures, and a new feature film, Honor Up, which he produced and directed and also stars in. (Dame plays a character named OG, who is deeply rooted in the streets of Harlem.)
The movie also stars Cam’ron, Murda Mook, and Smoke DZA, as well as Dame Dash’s cousin Stacey Dash (who would go on to disown the film.) When the poster for the film was first released, the talk was centered around Kanye West who executive produced the movie.
WATCH: A lot of “Snitches” Get Shot in the Trailer for the Kanye West-Produced Film ‘Honor Up’
We recently sat down with Dame Dash to talk about his vision of the film, his tenure in the rap game, working with Kanye, Dapper Dan’s influence and much more.
OKP: What does being independent mean to you?
Dame Dash: Being independent is everything. That’s all I know. Freedom is priceless…What I take pride in the most about [Honor Up] is that I paid for it. I did everything myself. I figured out how to get it distributed by Lionsgate, but still maintain ownership…I did this on my own. And there’s pride in that. And I was able to work with the people I wanted to work with. When I made Paid In Full, I had to ask. We had to make trades. I got Cam’ron — and their [ask] was [Wood] Harris, which turned out to be good.
I’ve been in both situations and this situation is way better. We haven’t had to compromise. We still have everything that everyone else corporate has. We have more assets. We’ve made more content. We’ve made better commercials. We’ve made better posters. And then when you have someone who has as many eyeballs on them as Kanye — he’s like Michael Jackson today, him and his wife combined. So you don’t really have to pay for promotion.
OKP: What was it like working with Kanye on this?
Dash: It was cool. It’s fun to see Kanye evolve. It was just always fun for us to be bringing him the movie to watch. I think that the better sign of an OG is when he’s happy that the person that he raised got bigger than him and in a position where they could help. Because what do you really do it for? Put them in a position where they can help and not have to expose themselves. They could just have fun and he could be a movie exec. And we could make the movies we want.
He was around for the whole process. We could just keep bringing him the cuts and all that. And he was just like, “Yo, don’t put my name on nothing until I see it.” Which is cool…That’s what I would say. I gotta respect that.
OKP: Being one of the founding pillars of Roc-A-Fella, what was your goal from the beginning?
Dash: World domination. My goal was exactly what we did — I accomplished that. My goal was for that to open the doors to do whatever I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And that’s what happened.
OKP: What were those early convos like with JAY-Z?
Dash: I’ve always been a firm believer of… time is the only thing that’s really your enemy and you gotta do as much with it as possible. So I don’t like to waste moments. So when we speak, I speak about things that are productive, that are gonna evolve. And, honestly, a lot of what we spoke about was the books we were reading that were about evolving our souls. It was weird because they weren’t the conversations that you would expect.
OKP: At the height of Roc-A-Fella did you ever foresee it coming to an end?
Dash: I knew it was coming to an end. Ain’t no “foresee it” — I was leaving. I was done. I did what I had to do. It was time for me to move on. I had daughters, so I couldn’t have that environment around my daughters. I couldn’t have a bunch of aggressive men with their own problems around my child…I had to architect my life where I could raise my children. I had my son. I raised him since he was eight. And I would have done it [differently]. With your boys, you’re a little rougher. You want him to be a little tougher. But with your girls, there’s no exposure. I had to change everything. So I went and got more artistic. I started to open up art galleries. I started to do things — I made my woman my muse. And I started to build businesses around the female energy in my life. And life got a lot better for me.
Roc-A-Fella had to end. As you evolve the things you talk about change. Our core was about our survival skills in an extreme circumstance. I haven’t been in that extreme circumstance in 30 years…Sometimes I think our guidance was in the wrong direction, which is why I’ve spent a lot of time correcting that. Because it was a young perspective with a lot of power. Now here’s an older perspective, a more evolved perspective.
Overall, real wealth ain’t really the dough — and that’s what we were teaching. Real wealth is your quality of living. And love is your currency. And how much is the people you love are having a good time and laughing more than your crying — that’s wealth. And that’s what I’ve been trying to teach to the world. That’s why I made the book Culture Vultures.
OKP: What is your definition of “culture vulture”?
Dash: A person that makes money from the culture, but doesn’t live the culture. A person that doesn’t help the culture that they’re making money from. A person that intentionally hurts the culture, so that they can monetize it. A person that takes care of their children based on somebody else’s work and labor and makes them think they have more than they do, so they can continue to work for them…That’s a culture vulture. And that could be black, white, whatever. There’s black culture vultures, there’s white culture vultures, there’s every kind of nationality. And the worst culture vulture is the one that does it within his own supposed culture. That’s the one that’s the devil because he’s pretending to be something he’s not. And that’s cheating.