In the business of hip-hop, diversification is the name of the game, and Damon Dash owns a record label, five clothing and shoe companies, a Swiss watch company, a vodka company, a television-production company, and a movie-production company. What he doesn’t have a lot of these days is pressing engagements.
Today, at the crack of noon, he finds himself looking for something to do. “Monday,” he murmurs. “Monday. Monday. Monday. Mondays are a motherfucker.”
He’s contemplating breakfast. Then, maybe, he’ll hit the gym at Chelsea Piers. If he can get to the editing bay, there’s the possibility of checking in with the producers of his reality-TV show, Ultimate Hustler, which airs on BET, and helping them trim a few seconds off the last two episodes. Of course, that involves sitting still for a couple of hours, which is never easy. He says he might fly to Los Angeles later in the week to produce a song with Carmen Electra, on a lark, and is hoping to find something else to do while he’s out there—“movie meetings, maybe, music meetings, whatever I can drum up.” In a few weeks, he’s been invited to Milan to introduce a performance at La Scala. (“Some opera or something, I don’t know.”) He’d like to move into new office space for his apparel lines, if he can ever find an appropriate floor plan, price, building, and block.
Lassitude, however, doesn’t mean solitude, and Dash still has many people waiting on him. In his Tribeca loft on this particular Monday, there’s a Danish architect in oval glasses and striped trousers who has big plans for the place and, with any luck, for that new office; Dash’s personal assistant, who is not to be confused with his executive assistant up on Seventh Avenue and who is preparing for the day ahead by charging a half-dozen batteries—for Dash’s A cell phone, his B cell phone, and his BlackBerry—and then backup batteries for each; a chef; a bodyguard; and a man auditioning for a job as his butler.
“Not many people understand how important having a butler is, but it is,” Dash says. “I need somebody to help me get everything I’m going to wear for the day all set up, know what I’m saying?” A day with Damon Dash is like a Britney Spears concert, with a change of outfits for every phase (he’s currently doing a sort of matchy-matchy homeboy thing with below-the-knees shorts, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and spotless leather high-tops, all in red). “You’d think it’s easy, but I’ve got a lot to put together, accessory-wise, especially at night. Cuff links are a motherfucker.”
Dash owns a house in Beverly Hills and the Tribeca loft (a good number of things in Dash’s life are undergoing renovation; he and his family—his wife, Rachel Roy, and his three children, by three different mothers—have since rented a townhouse in the West Village temporarily). The look of the loft is very ESPN’s The Life meets Normandie Court: There are 25-foot ceilings in the great room, elaborate crown moldings, a large Peter Beard giraffe photo, plain floors, no windows at eye level, and, though the Dashes have been there for nearly a year, dozens of unpacked boxes.
Dash gets on his cell phone, pretending not to notice the retinue in his living room, then finally tosses them a bone of acknowledgment, putting his hand over the mouthpiece.
“Allen Iverson,” he whispers.
Everybody nods. It’s not actually the basketball star himself he’s talking to but someone who works for him. Dash wants to start rolling the drums in advance of his highest-end clothing line, which will launch in the fall. His idea is to swathe Iverson, whose ghetto-tastic on- and off-court look may have single-handedly been what forced the NBA into instituting a dress code last season, in a custom-made Dash suit.
“I’ll be putting him in a whole other light,” Dash is saying. “We’re talking A.I. bringing his homeboys to All-Star weekend and walking into the fashion world. We’re talking Bergdorf’s.”
There is resistance on the other end.
“Basketball players are not the best-dressed individuals, quite frankly,” Dash says. More resistance.
“Honestly, if he’s gonna buy a suit, don’t let him walk around in a rack suit, that’s all I’m saying,” Dash says, and hangs up.
Damon Dash has brought the world the music of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Beanie Sigel, and Cam’ron, among others. Just a couple of years ago, he could rightly call himself one of the most important men in the culture business. Along with Jay-Z and a third, silent partner, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, he launched Roc-A-Fella Records in 1996 with Jay-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt, and the state of hip-hop music hasn’t been the same since.