First Diddy and Mase, now Jay and Dame…this week is definitely a good week in Hip Hop.
Last night, it was a Roc-A-Fella reunion as Jay Z and Dame Dash came face to face for the first time in almost 10 years. It all went down at a birthday party for music executive Chaka Pilgrim, who used to run marketing for Roc-A-Fella in the good ole days and still works for Jay. This is a long time coming. Earlier this year, in an interview with Combat Jack, Dame said:
I don’t think it’s an issue with him. I just think we took different paths. I’m proud of everything that he’s done and I’m proud of everything that I’ve done since then. I feel like I’ve done a lot and whatever his dreams are he’s made them come true but my dreams aren’t the same as his. What I consider a win most people don’t.
Life is about perspective. So my perspective on things is probably different than most.
And Jay returned the love when he was questioned about Dame by Angie Martinez:
The thing we built , you can’t take that away so no matter what, the love is still there. Because what we’ve done will forever be stamped in history… We created something that’s gonna go down forever. So I can only have love for Dame.
Jay Z, Chaka Pilgrim and Dame
And here’s some backstory:
Between 2002 and 2004, things started getting a little tense around Roc-a-fella as Dame signed artists without Jay’s approval, including Cam’ron.
Eventually in 2004, Jay talked his partners Biggs and Dame into selling their shares of Rocafella Records to Island Def Jam for $10 million (each partner would get a little over $3 million), but Jay made a smarter business deal by becoming President of Def Jam. As as part of the deal, he received a nice 8 figure salary and he continued to run Roc-A-Fella Records. Each artist was given the option to stay with Jay or go with Dame, and of course, Kanye West, Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel came over to Def Jam with Jay-Z.
While visiting the Combat Jack Show, Dame said of the deal:
I thought the way Jay carried things was a betrayal to the company. I just felt like Roc-A-Fella should exist, like Cash Money still exists, like Bad Boy still exists, like every other label still exists.
Jay also retained all of his masters, but later revealed that he would have turned down the position at Def Jam if Dame had given him his masters:
So I was like, let me get Reasonable Doubt and I’ll give up [the rest of] my masters. I’ll give up Roc-A-Fella Records, I’ll give up president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings—everything. Just give me my baby to hold on to so 10 years down the line, I can look back and I got something—I’m not empty-handed. And I was the one being offered everything. I thought it was more than fair… And when that was turned down, I had to make a choice. I’ll leave that for the people to say what choice they would’ve made. That’s about it. I don’t really wanna talk about Dame or Biggs. I don’t have nothing negative to say about them.
In an article with NY Mag, Dame also admitted that Jay asked for his masters in exchange for Dame Dash keeping the Roc-A-Fella name but Dame refused.
“I said, ‘Go ahead and take the money and the job, but don’t take the name—don’t take Roc-A-Fella with you. I didn’t say please, but I might as well have. He said, ‘It’s business.’
Jay later rapped on Kanye’s “Diamonds Are Forever”:
I took the name, I take the blame. [...] I’m not a businessman / I’m a business, man / So let me handle my business, damn!
According to Forbes, Jay negotiated the return of his masters when he became Def Jam President. The deal required him to wait 10 years before they would be returned to him, which means he will have full ownership of his masters by the end of 2014. He also negotiated a separate deal with EMI to retain his publishing. According to Forbes:
By the end of 2014, he’ll be in full control of both his master recordings and publishing rights—meaning that every time someone buys one of his albums, streams one of his hits online or licenses his song for a movie, he’ll get a considerably larger piece of the pie.
In 2005, Dame Dash severed all ties with Jay for good when he sold his stake in their company Rocawear to Jay Z for $22 million, however, in 2007 Jay turned around and sold Rocawear for $219 million, in a deal that still allowed him to have stake in the company and oversee product development, marketing and licensing.
It sounds like Jay was playing the game of chess a little better than his business partners and opponents.
Meanwhile, Dame Dash’s career and businesses continued to spiral downhill, and he has been marred by tax debt, bankruptcies and foreclosures. It’s really very sad when you think about it. [Catch this article on Dame in New York Mag.]