Under Dash’s supervision as his manager and business partner, Jay-Z recorded nine No. 1 albums and won four Grammys. West—Dash’s discovery, Jay-Z’s protégé—sold 3 million copies of his first album, The College Dropout. In 1999, Dash put together a 54-city sold-out tour with Jay-Z and other artists (DMX, Ja Rule, Redman, Method Man, Eve) that netted $19 million in profits and revolutionized touring for the hip-hop business.
But even happy couples aren’t immune to divorce, and with two swift strokes of Jay-Z’s pen, the rapper broke up his union with Dash. The first came in 2004, when Def Jam Recordings, which since 1997 had owned a 50 percent stake in Roc-A-Fella, purchased the label outright and Jay-Z agreed to take a job as Def Jam’s president. Then in the fall of 2005, Jay-Z divested Dash of his last ties with the Roc when he bought him out of Rocawear, the hip-hop clothing line they’d started in 1995.
Def Jam has, since its inception in 1984, been rap’s preeminent label, and it is owned by Vivendi Universal, the world’s largest record company. Jay-Z was going corporate, accepting a corner-office job that, if you’d followed the Roc-A-Fella group’s history, you might have expected to go to Dash. Instead, Dash got the intellectual-property equivalent of a lump of coal, as the bulk of Roc-A-Fella’s artists followed Jay-Z to remain on the label.
Hence Dash’s existential funk. Julian, his chef, sets several plates on the counter for him to choose among: eggs, pancakes (one per plate), fresh fruit. Affixed to the edge of each is a Post-it note listing the carbohydrate count. Standing between two stools, Dash devours one serving of eggs (OMELET, 4 CARBS), then starts on another.
“Julian is no joke, let me tell you,” Dash says. “I was looking for a chef for a year.” Julian asks Dash what he wants to drink.
“Anything diet,” Dash says. He’s been on a campaign to lose fifteen pounds and has even gone vegetarian the past month, with some lapses. “What was that chicken you made the other day? It was like Indian chicken fingers. I had to eat that shit. I just came from Miami, and I was hungry, for real.”
Dash was in Miami to look at a house. It’s nice, but he won’t commit. “The issues that I have with it is, I have apprehension about spending that kind of money,” he says. “Eight million dollars is a lot for Miami, plus since my looking at it ended up in ‘Page Six,’ I figure the real-estate people have to take at least $100,000 off for leaking it.”
He lifts a plate. “Whose pancake is this? I gotta have one.”
“All yours,” Julian says.
“My man, right there!” Dash says, pointing to Julian.
“That one’s only four carbs,” Julian says. “As long as it’s no syrup.”
Dash eats the pancake dry. His cell phone rings. He’s supposed be checking out an office. “I’m in the car, on my way,” he says and sets down the phone. He puts syrup on another pancake.
Upstairs is for Dash’s clothes. It’s a sort of three-bedroom closet, where the dressing room and the sneaker room each have their own bathroom. One wall of shelves is for T-shirts and socks; he wears a new set every day, and every month he donates 30 once-worn shirts and pairs of socks to charity. “That way, somebody gets to own basically new stuff and I get to be fly,” he says.
Same goes for his sneakers, which are shelved row upon row upon row, floor-to-ceiling across a wall three times as long (he has 300 at home and an additional thousand in storage). “I get pretty much every cool sneaker that comes out,” he says. “I used to prefer Nikes, but then in 2004 I bought Pro-Keds.” He means he bought Pro-Keds, the entire sneaker company, and repositioned it as a hip-hop brand.
Dash gets around town in the back of a 2005 Côte d’Azur–blue Maybach 62 with a cream-on-cream perforated-leather interior. Mercedes started making the Maybach, which bears some resemblance to the Rolls-Royce Phantom, in 2002, and there are fewer than 1,000 of them in the U.S. It retails for $400,000 and features a panoramic glass roof with burled-walnut coffering, a 543-horsepower engine, and with its extra-long wheelbase, fully reclining passenger seats.
Dash is 35, which is old for the hip-hop business, and even in shorts and an XXXL T-shirt, he has the aspect of a paterfamilias about him, with heavy-lidded eyes and a thickening waist and, quite often, a round, four-carat lemon-yellow diamond on one earlobe.
His life still has all the bling it ever did, but for the time being at least, it’s running a deficit of excitement, of heft—of meaning. It’s the problem any mogul faces when he reaches a crossroads, although to break down Dash’s particular status more clinically, through the prism of the op-ed-page debate recently taken up among leading black thinkers, is to see him as Dionysus in exile.