Music

Is it Time to Shift the Villain Narrative Surrounding Dame Dash?

Dame Dash been right more than he’s been wrong. It’s time to shift the perception from Dame the asshole to Dame the tireless advocate for Black culture.

Former Def Jam CEO and current YouTube Head Of Global Music Lyor Cohen sat down for a lengthy interview with Power 105’s The Breakfast Club earlier this month. When co-host Charlamagne Tha God brought up ostracized executive Dame Dash, the usually reserved Cohen uncharacteristically played the rapper role by posturing a childish “I don’t know who [Dame] is” routine. Apparently, Dame is still so good at rankling people that he can get a rise out of them without even being present.

The Breakfast Club hosts — Charlamagne, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee — who were all working in the industry during Dame Dash’s heyday, were unamused. They quickly recalled how much money Dame and Lyor made together in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when Dame was the co-Owner of Def Jam subsidiary Roc-A-Fella Records with JAY-Z and Kareem “Biggs” Burke.

Lyor’s audacity to downplay their lucrative relationship is what stirred Dame to strike back on Instagram and call Lyor a “clown” who can “make money off us and then try to erase our true history and act like the real ones never existed.” That casual erasure compounded with financial avarice is at the root of why Dame has targeted Lyor and other executives such as Steve Stoute and Joie “IE” Manda as “culture vultures.”

In a later Instagram post, Dame surmised that Cohen’s business model is to “keep us dumb and take our money” while he “feeds his family and laugh at us behind our back.” Dame also called Cohen a “cancer” to hip-hop on The Joe Budden Podcast for creating the dreaded 360 deal, which gives labels a percentage of every revenue stream an artist grosses. Cohen scoffed at the idea of being a culture vulture on The Breakfast Club, but in the same interview he admitted that “junkie” rappers can’t sip lean in front of him, yet he’s had no qualms about “opportunistically” signing them because “I got people to feed.” That statement unwittingly proved Dame’s assertions right. The 47-year-old has been right about a lot over his 25 year career.

Dame was right about JAY-Z when major labels were preposterously reticent to sign him in the ‘90s. He was right to give Cam’ron the platform for a mid-career rebranding, turning him into a cultural icon with Dipset. And most notoriously, Dame was right about Kanye West when others would kick him out of the studio and wanted him to stick to making beats. With Dame as the day-to-day leader, the Roc-A-Fella crew moved through the room full of culture vultures and went from down and out to a dynasty — together.

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Andre Gee

Andre Gee is a New York-based writer.

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