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.
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.
The theory of “the Dionysian trap for young black men” was posited in March in the New York Times by Orlando Patterson, the Harvard sociologist, to explain the findings in several recent economic studies diagnosing “the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream.” Patterson decried the pervasiveness and bankruptcy of “the ‘cool-pose’ culture of young black men”—“hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture”—the power of which, he said, is “almost like a drug.”
Under this theory, then, Dash looks more and more like the dupe of a corrupt value system, an object lesson of empty consumerism. Dash has never been very interested in hip-hop as an artistic movement. “It’s all about finding ways to make money off an upscale urban product,” he says. “That’s what I do. I’m a businessman. Period.” In his view, if there’s more to life than money and taste, it’s all the great stuff you can get if you have money and taste.
Late on another morning, when Irv and Chris Lorenzo—previously known as the Gotti Brothers, the impresarios of the hip-hop label Murder Inc.—are standing trial in Brooklyn for money-laundering, Dash heads to the courthouse to show his support. Cameras flash as he ascends the limestone steps and tells the television reporters who follow him how important it is to be there for the principals of a rival record company. “These guys and I all came up together,” he says. Dash slips into the second row, amid the defendants’ relatives, all of them silent as Gerald Shargel, on cross-examination, methodically tears hole after hole in the story of one of the government’s star witnesses, Donnell Nichols. Then Dash points a finger at Irv, who sits solemnly at the defense table.
“I made that suit,” he whispers.
Dash may be no more or less a guilty party than some of his peers—Sean Combs comes to mind, and the case of Russell Simmons can be argued both ways—not to mention the (mostly white) record-company executives who got in on the action. But Dash is the one whose cash cow left him, and he still doesn’t seem to know what hit him. Currently, his payroll includes a photographer, Monique, who is at his side to capture his every move—the benefits he attends, the occasional audition he gives aspiring rappers.
“Damon says this is the most important year of his life, and he doesn’t want the world to miss out on it,” Monique says. She is at Damon’s office to shoot the scene when his barber arrives and sets about shaving his head. This happens every other day.
“I know Damon will figure something out, because he’s Damon Dash,” says Russell Simmons, Def Jam’s founder (he no longer owns the company). “The thing you have to understand about this guy is, he thought the whole thing up. Jay-Z just came from Damon’s imagination. The man is a visionary.”
At the moment, Dash says, he is focusing on his clothing lines—there’s the Damon Dash Collection, which consists of expensive handmade suits and dress clothes; CEO, for hip-hop clothes; State Property (which Dash created for the rapper Beanie Sigel when he went to prison), for canvas “work clothes—don’t call them ‘prison clothes,’ ” Dash says; and his wife’s Rachel Roy ready-to-wear line. And Pro-Keds, it’s worth noting, if only because of the weirdness factor, is introducing a line of sneakers with fruit-scented polyurethane soles. (“They smell like Italian ices—yellow is lemon and the green and red kicks are watermelon,” Dash says one day, pressing a tennis shoe against his face. “Man, my sneaker game’s ridiculous.”)
When Jay-Z decided to split, “he said, ‘It’s business,’ ” Dash says. “But we were always supposed to be about more than business, Jay especially.”
Although he has now started a new record company, Damon Dash Music Group, he isn’t terribly excited by the current state of hip-hop. “It seems like since I left the Roc, the only place where anything’s taken off is in the South”—Atlanta-based acts such as Young Jeezy, T.I., Gnarls Barkley, and Youngbloodz. “On the East Coast, there’s been nothing happening. It’s not really worth it to me right now.” As for his former artists, he points out that none have put up better numbers since they moved with Jay-Z. “Kanye’s second record did fine, but no more than his first, and it had a lot more muscle behind it by that time. Memphis Bleek ain’t what it was, Young Gunz sold about a quarter of the number of records with their new album than their last one did with me. I always went gold.”
Dash, who currently estimates his net worth to be “about $50 million” (he made nearly $20 million from Jay-Z’s buyout), grew up in Harlem, on 109th and First Avenue—“in the best building in a bad neighborhood,” he says, noting the first of many subtle contradictions in his background that fostered his awareness of class and notions of authenticity. His father—divorced from his mother—ran a methadone clinic on 116th Street. His mother, he says, “was a hustler. She was a secretary, she sold clothes out of our apartment. She got stuff before it was in stores.”
“As a kid, I always knew he’d do pretty much something,” says Damon’s older brother, Bobby Dash, a longtime employee of Dash’s enterprises. “When we saw Superman, the little nigga was asking questions every two minutes. When he was like 16, 17, and I got into trouble with a crack game, I always called on him to get me out of the jam.”
Dash was in and out of a number of public and, because he was a whiz on standardized tests, private schools (via scholarships from the Boys Club). He went to the Dwight School; Isaac Newton; Manhattan Center; South Kent, a boarding school in Connecticut with a reputation as a magnet school for kids with disciplinary problems (and where he cast himself as an athlete, lettering in football, basketball, and even lacrosse); and, finally, Westside High. “Westside was for everybody that got kicked out of the place you went when you got kicked out of someplace else,” he says. He even managed to get expelled from Westside, for driving his car to school and parking in the principal’s spot. After that, he got his GED.
He was always ambitious, even about goofing off. “It was Damon’s idea to start throwing parties, and we rented out the Cotton Club and started charging money,” says Steve Mack, a childhood friend who works for Dash’s record label. Word spread about the parties—Dash credits their success largely to a standing offer to give a free bottle of Moët & Chandon to the first 100 ladies in the door each week. Rappers began showing up, pro athletes with road games in New York, Mike Tyson.
“It was going so well, I said, ‘We should do a record company and a clothing line,’ ” Dash says. The only problem was that he didn’t make any music—didn’t rap, didn’t write rhymes, didn’t know how to produce a record. He didn’t even have a particular musical sensibility or, at that point, a very good ear. He did, however, believe that he understood how to put his Harlem experience in the appropriate consumer context. In 1990, his cousin Darien Dash brought him to a party for Heavy D. “I looked around and saw that all the people there were older than me, they had money, and they looked like they were trying to be like me and my crew,” he says. “I knew I could make money from this.”
The Dash cousins began to manage an act, the Future Sound, and got the group a record deal with Atlantic. The executive who signed them was Clark Kent—real name Rodolfo Franklin—who moonlighted as a D.J. and had his ear close to the ground. In 1994, Kent told Dash he had to meet a former drug dealer from Brooklyn who was trying to get a career as a rapper off the ground.
“I’d never heard anybody rap so fast,” Dash recalls of the rapper, whose name was Shawn Carter and who came to be known to the world as Jay-Z. In addition, his songs were full of clever, metaphor-heavy rhymes (“I’ve got extensive hos with expensive clothes / I sip fine wine and spit vintage flows”). Dash put up money for him to record a bunch of songs and, when a record deal was not forthcoming, began pressing the discs himself and selling them out of his car, and Roc-A-Fella Records was born. To try to get on the radio, Dash shot a video for Jay-Z’s song “In My Lifetime” for $16,000, on 16-mm. film, borrowing a friend’s boat in St. Thomas to film a scene of what looked like a playboy’s living the high life.
Jay-Z’s first album, Reasonable Doubt, was released in 1996 to critical huzzahs. The hip-hop scene was dominated by the funk-based sound of West Coast gangsta rap—Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur—and its violent dispatches from the black underclass. Jay-Z’s sound was more soulful and his wordplay more dense (about his later dominance of his competitors, he has rapped, “Fucks too lazy to make up shit they crazy / They don’t paint pictures, they just trace me”).
Dash was savvy from the beginning, insisting on equity at most every turn—embodying hip-hop’s break from the work-for-hire arrangement that had historically plagued black recording artists. When he and Jay-Z were offered distribution deals with big record companies, Dash held out for a co-ownership with Def Jam.
Although Jay-Z had already spent years searching in vain for a record deal, Dash says he was drawn to him from the outset. “Everybody thought he was too old; they didn’t like the way he dressed: like a Harlem dude. He wore Nike Airs, which everybody called uptowns.” The class distinctions were lost on nobody. “The Brooklyn cats who were more dominant were known for doing things like gold teeth, much more ghetto,” and they viewed Harlem’s aesthetic as soft. But Dash saw in Jay-Z a sort of uptown swagger. “I was shocked. Here was a guy with the same aspirations that I had. We wanted to be known for making money. All we talked about was making money and how to spend it, what the best of everything was and how bad we wanted it.”
The two of them knew, also, that the making of records alone was not going to pay the kind of bills they hoped to be incurring. “The music business isn’t so profitable, especially not hip-hop,” he says, attributing this to the high copyright fees of sampling other songs. “I couldn’t buy what I wanted to buy. I’m talking cooks and drivers. I got into clothes to make more money.” Dash and Jay-Z’s Rocawear clothing label was a smashing success of cross-promotion. Anything Jay-Z wore in his videos sold out within days.
Dash looks down on music-industry executives for having what he sees as an ambition deficit. “The people in this business all think they’ve made it because they’re in charge of their little record labels,” he says. “I’m like, this isn’t even my main source of income. I already did this business. And I made movies”—he got an executive-producer credit on The Woodsman, in 2004, and has also produced Shadowboxer, an odd movie that opens next month and stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren—“and I designed clothes and I got my own vodka and my own Swiss watchmaker” (Armadale and Tiret, respectively, newer additions to Dash’s horizontal empire). “I like to be the brokest guy in the room. That inspires me. I don’t get why people are proud to say they’re old money,” he continues. “That just means they had it given to them. I rubbed two sticks together and made money.”
In 2002, there were rumors in the hip-hop press about a rift between Dash and Jay-Z. One factor was Dash’s giving the rapper Cam’ron, a childhood friend and somebody Jay-Z had never been fond of, his own imprint at their record label, behind Jay-Z’s back. Subsequent tension allegedly involved the conflicts of interest posed by each man’s side projects. Dash made a small, satirical movie, Death of a Dynasty, about the rumors, and it turned out to be prophetic.
“At a certain point, I got ready to depend on my other artists,” Dash recalls. “I started putting together an army—Kanye, Cam’ron, Beanie, the Diplomats. I figured Jay gave me time to prepare.” But in December 2004, Jay-Z invited Dash to dinner to discuss the offer from Def Jam. They met at Da Silvano. “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,’ ” Dash recalls. “I didn’t say please, but I might as well have.”
Jay-Z offered that Dash could keep the Roc-A-Fella name if in return he relinquished possession of the master recordings for Reasonable Doubt. Dash wouldn’t agree to it.
“He said, ‘It’s business,’ ” Dash says. “But we were always supposed to be about more than business, Jay especially.” Dash saw his own role as the executive’s so that Jay-Z could remain an artist at all times. “I did everything I possibly could so that he didn’t have to raise his voice. He just had to whisper something in my ear and I’d take care of it. The people I fought with to make money for him, Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles”—executives at Def Jam—“he’s made friends with. He hangs out with Puff now. It’s like if your brother leaves you.”
Many of the most successful artists in Roc-A-Fella’s stable (Kanye West, Memphis Bleek, Peedi Crakk) remained with Jay-Z rather than sign with Dash. Cam’ron, whose full name is Cameron Giles, left Roc-A-Fella after the buyout and went to Warner Music, though in January 2006 he made it clear where his loyalties stood by recording a song called “You Gotta Love It,” a full-fledged attempt to humiliate Jay-Z. It begins by listing his reasons for writing the song: “First, you stole Roc-A-Fella from Dame / Second, you stole Kanye from Dame / Third, you stole Rocawear from Dame.” Then, Cam’ron raps, “It was Rocawear when Dame had it / Now you got it, call it Cock-A-Wear.”
Meanwhile, Jay-Z had rapped on the remix of “Diamonds Are Forever,” a single by Kanye West, “I took the name, I take the blame.” Another verse goes, “I’m not a businessman / I’m a business, man / So let me handle my business, damn!” In playing the bottom-line card and brashly chalking up the decision to leave as “just business,” Jay-Z—pensive and sphinxlike—was beating Dash at his own game. It upsets Dash to not be able to view the matter as coolly as the person he’d always let on he was would.
“Despite what he says, Damon takes everything personally, way too personally,” says Al Branch, a former Dash employee who now works for Kanye West. “He thinks everyone’s out to get him.”
Cohen, who recalls Dash’s throwing temper tantrums all the time, says, “Jay would come to a situation that Damon had been working on and arrive to see a trail of charred people. Damon’s a wonderful dreamer, and that’s what our business lacks. But he could only see the final chapter in whatever deal he was working on and had very little patience for the steps it took to get there.”
Dash says that when he runs into Jay-Z at an event—as he did a few months back, when he went to Downtown Cipriani for a performance by Beyoncé Knowles, Jay-Z’s girlfriend—there’s no hostility and no love. “I just give him a pound and move on. I’d still like to know what happened. But I don’t think Jay would ever explain what he was thinking. He’s not explicit like that.”
“Jay forgets about people; Damon doesn’t,” says the former rapper Little Shawn, who now works for Dash under the name Shawn Pen. “When I got put away for drugs seven years ago, I was better friends with Jay than with Damon. I never heard from Jay that whole time. Damon stayed in touch. The guy’s not a letter writer, but he got word to me. He gave me a shout-out on BET. Do you know what that means to a guy in jail?”
“It’s been hard on both of them,” says Clark Kent, who is still working with Dash and has remained close friends with both men. “Now each one of them is struggling to do what they used to do, but each man on his own. The Roc hasn’t had any great successes with their new acts with Damon gone. They’ll never be able to replace each other.”
In Dash’s view, he’s the one who brought a kind of smart-set varnish to Jay-Z’s appeal anyway. “I designed Rocawear; I brought the lifestyle upscale,” he says. “Like getting Naomi Campbell and Victoria Beckham to wear it, going to Sundance to promote it. I had an ad campaign planned with Naomi and Kevin Bacon. It was so fly it could be in Vogue.” But Jay-Z and their two silent partners, a couple of Russian businessmen from Delancey Street, were skeptical of the campaign, which would cost on the order of $3 million to produce. “They just wanted Jay in there and to let some cheap photographer do it. All of a sudden, Jay’s voting with those two. I had to go to Mario Testino and say, ‘I can’t do this because my partners are too cheap.’ I felt ghetto.”
“I like making everybody around me famous,” Dash says one night. He is holding court at Soundtrack Studios, near the Flatiron Building, trying to give his core group of music employees a pep talk. A half-dozen black men in baggy jeans and new high-tops sit before him in an irregular circle, including Biggs, Clark Kent, Steve Mack, and Little Shawn.
“Now, it would be hard for me to hit the street looking for talent,” Dash goes on. “I’m 35. I go to operas and shit in Milan. I want everything different now.”
“Different how?” Mack says.
“Beautiful music, man,” Dash says, adding that he’s just not going to be the one looking for it and pushing it.
“Word,” Biggs says without looking up from a copy of The Essential Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedroom, a British magazine.
“What about the little girl?” Mack asks. He means Jasmine, a 15-year-old singer Dash found in Los Angeles who he thinks could be “the next Michael Jackson.”
“Definitely the little girl,” Dash says. He’s interested in R&B now, and also has high hopes for Sizzla, a reggae artist. “I’m gonna get someone to help you on the little girl.”
“Who?” Mack asks.
“Usher,” Dash says.
Dash explains that the night before last, on the way back from Miami, he decided to fly to Atlanta for a few hours to meet with Usher and sing Jasmine’s praises.
“This is the level I want to be operating at,” Dash says. “I don’t want to do anything else in music unless I make history. When we made Reasonable Doubt, I made history. I’m in the motherfucking hall of fame. You know when else I made history? When Jay-Z battled DMX. We did something legendary. DMX on one pool table, and Jay-Z on another. Some of you was there.”
“I had on these weird shoes,” Biggs recalls. “I had to go home and change.”
“After you made history once, it’s like flying first class: You can’t go back to coach,” Dash says.
His sermon over, there is, for the first time in a long time, a record to work on tonight. Dash has a cache of twenty new songs—by Nicole Wray, Rell, Sizzla, among others—that he needs to whittle down to ten. He pops in an Ol’ Dirty Bastard song that he’s had remixed for a more up-to-date sound, and all the people in the room start rolling their shoulders, nodding to the beat and mouthing the lyrics. Then comes the Carmen Electra number (with Sizzla rapping), then Busta Rhymes. Dash, still in his executive swivel chair, is throwing shapes to the music, freezing positions, grabbing his crotch, the whole routine.
About 11 P.M., there’s a knock at the door, and a skinny man in a baby-blue leather jacket and matching Timberlands enters. It’s Chef Chardon, a leading caterer in the hip-hop world, as well as a rapper. Dash had an assistant call him, and he’s driven in from New Jersey with a feast. “What’s up?” he says.
“Chef Chardon!” Dash says. “I’m fucking starving is what’s up.”
The chef begins opening a stack of large foil trays. The music comes back on, and everybody digs in. “Right here, I’ve got my barbecued urban-suburban ribs,” Chef Chardon offers. “Urban-suburban, that’s my cuisine. I got my backyard barbecue chicken. And my urban-suburban Cajun rice. And then shrimp—it’s just sautéed in my own garlic-butter sauce. I don’t even have a name for it.”
“We’ll come up with something,” Dash says, bouncing with delight. “It’s all good. We got food, we got drink. We have a long night ahead.”