There was a time when the name Dame Dash rang bells in the music industry. Before the Roc split, before Dash got sued by his latest and now former artist Curren$y, Dame diddy-bopped into the hearts and minds of millions when he ripped into, then Def Jam president, Kevin Liles in the Hip Hop film ‘Backstage’ which documented the Hard Knock Life Tour. The self proclaimed asshole reveled in his stance as the hardheaded C.E.O. who will go all out for his team. Dame’s dreams of having “A billion dollars liquid” and popping’ tags everyday must seem like a lifetime ago, since then Dame has racked up more bricks than that third little piggy. Here are 10 of them as we examine the trials and tribulations of ‘The Ultimate Hustler’.
The Roc Box.
Sure, you can’t knock Dame for attempting to capitalize on the digital music player craze that was taking off back then and the marketing strategy seemed sound. To cross promote Rocafella artists with Roc Box special edition releases would have been a novel idea, but as a CNet review of the device put it, “At 4.4 by 2.9 by 0.7 inches, the Roc Box is definitely bigger than the svelte iPod. Then again, next to a chromed-out Hummer, the Roc box will look tiny (and appropriate).” With a clunky user interface, which resulted in Roc box owners complaining that the device couldn’t find the operating system, the Roc Box ended up being found in the bargain bin at Comp USA.
After the split of the Roc was finalized and Dame was tasked with recreating an empire, to replicate Rocawear he launched the C.E.O. clothing line. To hear Dame tell it, “I thought it would be interesting to have someone from the urban marketplace attack fashion from that aspect – not regular fashion, but couture. I’ve learned a lot about fashion, not just urban fashion.” Apparently those lessons might have been learned, but not remembered. As C.E.O. sported logos the size of which would make Karl Kani envious, the only person you would find wearing C.E.O. was Dame who ironically enough wasn’t a C.E.O. anymore. Though I’m sure if you can find a C.E.O. sweater online somewhere, it might go good with those Dada shoes that had a spinning rim in the heel.
BlockSavvy was Dame’s vision of a social networking site where you could pick the virtual ‘Block’ you wanted to live on (Fashion, Main Street and others) and what brands you wanted displayed in your photo-realistic place. It was invite only, the problem was no one wanted to be invited. Emphasizing quality of users over quantity (whatever that means in a venture where the more users the merrier) Blocksavvy eventually bottomed out at a thousand users weekly. The block was not indeed hot.
Dash Films was the kind of production house that sandwiched a movie like the generally well reviewed ‘The Woodsman’ featuring Kevin Bacon and an amazing performance by Mos Def, between The self fulfilling prophecy ‘Death of a Dynasty’ and hoodtastic shit show ‘State Property 2’ (so much for quality over quantity). Dash tried too much with his film division. The only film worth a damn was the aforementioned ‘Woodsman’ and it raked in whopping $1.5 mil while costing $3 mil to produce. Grand Opening… Grand Closing.
America Magazine was Dame’s first foray into publishing (not to be confused with America NU which launched in 2010 and so far has released 1 issue), he described the vision for the mag as follows: “America Magazine is like a young fashion forward vogue from a Hip Hop person’s perspective. A guy like me will be on the runway of a Victoria’s Secret fashion show… and the next day I’ll be uptown on my block on 142nd street watching the basketball game; kickin’ it with my homeboys. It’s for someone that goes into different demographics of the world, of life, but doesn’t change what he is.” So apparently America was for him at the time, Puffy, Jay and Russell. Maybe that explained why the quarterly mag tanked on newsstands, was nothing but a sinkhole for Dame’s cash and lead to an alleged physical altercation between himself and then editor Smokey D. Fontaine. Damn Homie.
Following in the steps of ‘The Apprentice’, but preceding Diddy’s ‘I want to work for Diddy’, The Ultimate Hustler, which was aired on BET between the nightly showing of Baby Boy and Belly respectively, sought to capitalize on Dash’s hustler identity with a reality show based on grooming the next ‘Ultimate Hustler’. However, after a claim from two up-and-coming producers that the show idea was stolen (guess they didn’t know Nas said no idea is original), and lackluster ratings, The Ultimate Hustler couldn’t hustle up another season and was canceled.
We all heard Jay rap about Armadale, but no one ever saw it. Eventually it became a myth, like the Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot or the Chupacabra… a spook story told at AA meetings. Truth is the only time I ever saw a bottle of Armadale in real life was on a visit to the then Roc offices on the 29th floor of the Universal building. One solitary bottle shone on one of the executive desks like a rare unicorn grazing in a mystic meadow. At least I think I saw it, I wanted to… believe. And that was the problem with Armadale. No one could find it so it didn’t matter if Jay mentioned it on ‘Excuse me miss’, especially when every other liquor rappers mentioned from Hennessy to Courvoisier was readily available everywhere.
Dash Motor Oil.
To be fair, Dash Motors launched in September of 2011, so sufficient time hasn’t passed yet to claim this is a failure just yet. However, and I may be going out on a limb here, I feel that people who really care about their cars will NOT be putting Dash Motors motor oil into their classic 67′ Chevy, or their 85′ Ford Escort with 400k miles on it for that matter. Feel free to reference this write up when a news article flashes across your twitter feed stating “Dash Motors runs out of gas” or “Dame Dash sued over motor oil clash”. Just sayin’.
DDMG stands for (drum roll) Dame Dash Music Group. (I’m starting to see a trend) You figure this has GOT to work for him, I mean music is his wheelhouse right? WRONG. I guess when Jay said ‘Make Another Hov’ it was easier said than done. Aside from boasting a few mid level artists at the DDMG’s inception, all of who left shortly after to go to actual labels, DDMG was a B.U.S.T. . It’s unclear if DDMG ever dissolved as you can find entities on the net that link DDMG and DD172 as nearly one and the same, but different. However Dash’s then spokeswoman Amanda Silverman stated the backing out of DDMG was justified because “Music is not where the money is” Clearly… I mean tell that to Akon (who signed Lady Gaga) or Usher (who signed Justin Bieber) or everyone else who managed to stay relevant after 2004.
Death of a Dynasty.
Now I know this was mentioned under the Dash Films section, but I felt it warranted its own spot because it isn’t every day someone directs a mockumentary about their downfall and have it pretty much come to pass in EXACTLY that manner. Full of esoteric inside jokes and shoddy… well everything. Death of a Dynasty was simultaneously Dame’s love letter to himself and a career suicide note, seems he is always the multitasker.
No one can knock Dame for trying different things, and if anything history will show that as his legacy. Innovation and trendsetting, but without the capitalization. People seem to cheer for Dash, the perennial underdog since he and Jay split. Others feel like karma caught up with him since before he achieved underdog status he was known for being a self proclaimed cake-a-holic who reveled in tossing sneakers after wearing them once. Nothing will reform a cake-a-holic like having your Tahoe towed over 700 dollars, but if history has taught us anything we’ll hear from Dame again.