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Dame Dash On Legacy, Success and Grace

Hiba Hassan

By Hiba Hassan

Hiba Hassan

26 Oct 2022

Photographer and Creative Director: Oliver Buckle 

The name Damon Dash holds a considerable amount of weight in the hip-hop/ rap game globally, through a string of career moves that have placed him in legendary status. Making his first UK visit in 14 years, Dame’s time here was spearheaded by the Chivas Regal and Fan Studios Be Inspired sponsored event, ‘Dame Dash Paid In Full’, at the Indigo O2 on the 9th of October 2022. Hosted by filmmaker Nicky ‘Slimting’ Walker and For The Culture Podcast Host, Tricky. 

On top of this, Dame Dash’s time in the UK was not wasted having taken part in various interviews, spending an evening with Ghetts and D Double E, and also featuring in a Kick Game episode. Having a reputable roster of curating and scouting talent with names like Kanye West, and Kevin Hart, and co-founding Roc-A-Fella Records alongside Jay-Z and Kareem ‘Biggs’ Burke. We sat down with Dame Dash to discuss his legacy, past, present, and future.

Everyone knows who Dame Dash is, but how would you describe who you are?

You know, Julius Ceasar, Alexander the Great, a conqueror, a fighter for the culture, for love, awareness, enlightenment. Right now, I’, an artist and I’m enjoying that, as opposed to making money of people who are creating and making money of that.

On Sunday, 9th October, you’re taking part in the Chivas Regal and Fan Studios Be Inspired Live Show ‘Dame Dash Paid In Full’, tell us a bit about that.

That was all Nicky. He’s a filmmaker, I’m a filmmaker and we work together, we were exchanging ideas on our films and we wanted to collab in some way. Bring both cultures together, and he wanted to bring me out here, covid was up so we just did it. it came from us talking for a few years.

You’ve linked up with D Double E and Ghetts since being here, is there anything in the music scene out here that you’ve been keeping your eye on?

For me, it’s like looking toward the future. I haven’t been out here in a while, so I didn’t really know what I was walking into. I’ve been asking my people to show me people that are like-minded, doing similar things, and have similar aspirations. In that fabric of wanting to be independent, wanting to do it right, that’s what I always do.

I come out looking for partners, people that want to distribute the things I already have or collaborate with. People I can bring together and showcase whatever they’re doing here in America and what I’m doing over there to here. I just want us to link, it’s hard for us as a culture to link from one block to the next. From one state to another, one city to the next, it’s hard for us to stick together. And what does it look like when people from other continents link together? People get scared, look at politics, when you have two powerful forces together it makes something bigger than us. Imagine we do that culturally? 

Is anyone on your radar from the UK?

Obviously linked up with Ghetts and D Double, and the way they fronted on me is the way I want to be fronted on. don’t show me a chain or a car, show me you’re building, talk some real sh*t, talk about the future. Legends talk about legendary sh*t, and how we can evolve as human beings. Which makes us better businessmen, better creatives, and better for the people we love.

Speaking about evolving, you said it’s only now that your dreams are coming true. Looking back at your career, why is that only happening now?

The number one dream that is coming true is that I’m able to raise my son, my baby. I wasn’t able to do that. It took me this long to find a woman that I can have that kind of relationship with an architect. A lot of my dreams now I didn’t know were my dreams back then, I didn’t know I wanted to be a director, and I didn’t know I wanted to be a businessman. All I knew was I wanted to have a lot of money, but that doesn’t make you happy. Being creative, doing stuff that inspires you, giving love, laughing, and all of that, that’s the goal. I get to do what is making me laugh more, but in order to do all those different things, you have to fight for it. it’s not going to work when you feel like it, it has to be your lifestyle. So evolving is a lifestyle for me, and when people get in the way of me evolving it turns into a fight.

Naturally, people say you are very outspoken, but I feel like you just keep it real…

Do you know how many times people have said that but I just say what most people won’t say. When you say things, people don’t want you to say or they can’t say, they say ‘oh, he’s outspoken’. Only because I’m going against what they teach you, what we’re programmed to believe. We get tripped into giving away our freedom all the time, you give someone your master, and they become your master. If you own your master, you are your master.

In the music industry, there is a certain formula people believe that you have to follow.

You don’t have to. But it’s believed you have to sell your right to a punk to make it. Of course, they will tell you that, but do they believe it?

And taking that into consideration, you were one of the people who really saw Kanye and gave him that co-sign he needed to be taken seriously as a rapper. What would you say you were looking for when taking him in?

You have to know you’re invincible. To be able to walk away from money is a power people don’t always have. But Kanye does, and so do I, and that’s why we always make it. when someone tells us to do something we don’t always like or compromises our integrity, I’m out. You’re not going to disrespect me for a dollar.

Speaking on this, I have to mention Roc-a-fella, do you have any regrets about how that ended?

I didn’t leave it behind, that was corny. I don’t have any regrets. Things happened that weren’t cool, and I thought damn I won’t do that again because I don’t like the way it looks.

What did that teach you about how to move in this industry?

Don’t trust dudes. People will pretend they’re your best friend and they’re not. We [Jay Z] used to hustle together so it’s different.

And who do you think the greatest artist or representative to come out of your time there was?

Kanye.

Talking about Kanye, what do you think of the state of current systems we have in place for artists battling with mental health in the public eye, and what more needs to be done?

What you said is key, he has mental health issues. I don’t know why no one gives him a pass or keeps the camera off him when they can see he’s struggling. They think because you’re rich, you don’t struggle, but your struggles are just televised. That is the problem, and Kanye doesn’t say no to a camera, we need to give him grace, like this white lives matter sh*t, the first thing I said was ‘are you alright?’ To check on him, I can’t be mad at him because there is something triggering him right now. People care to buy his stuff but when he’s going through it or saying things that are irregular, no one asks if he is OK.

That would be my main concern, so instead of judging him, find out what’s wrong first. I know I make bad judgment calls when I’m tired, so imagine having a chemical imbalance, endless amounts of money, and being in the public eye on top of that. With Kanye specifically, I do think he is insensitive when it comes to other groups of people, but at the end of the day give him a break and help, he’s a hard guy to judge because he’s my little brother.

What more can be done for artists with those battles?

The thing about mental health is that the artist has to take accountability when they’re alright. If that person doesn’t have accountability, then there’s an issue there. It’s all within, we’re all adults, and you have a choice to let someone push you or not. No one can make you do or say anything, it’s on you.

Let’s move on to a lot of people’s favourite film, Paid In Full, everyone is waiting for the second film, when can we expect that?

I’m working on that. I got to get the script together, I am actively working on that now so I would say it’ll be ready for 2024. Starting in January, I have a movie coming out every three months for two years, Paid In Full 2 is right after that.

With the sequencing of how you’re going to release these films, does that mean anything?

With the order of releases, no, but everything that I put out there has some sort of social relevance. There’s a film about unrecognised trauma, one about entrepreneurship, and another one about love in living.

Finally, what would you say the key to success is?

Dreaming. Visualising your value, if you think that there is a doubt that you won’t win, you will not. You can’t be cautious; you have to walk into it knowing you will win. You have to be able to dream and keep people who will f*ck your dream up away from you. what you visualise last is what usually becomes your reality.

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