In the late ’90s, Dame Dash was one of the most powerful men in hip-hop. The founder of one of the most seminal rap labels in history, Roc-A- Fella, he introduced the world to Jay-Z (as a solo artist), State Property (as a movement), and the Dipset (as a force).
However, within two decades, he went from running a billion-dollar empire to having an estimated net worth in the low six figures. How did this Harlem hustler go from having what he once described as a net worth of $50 million to now having $100,000 in personal wealth?
Sources say the answer is a complicated mix of bad business decisions, lawsuits and family drama.
After co-founding Roc-A-Fella Records in 1996 with two other partners, Jay-Z and Kareem Burke, Dash was on top of the world, leading with the success of Jay-Z’s first album, “Reasonable Doubt,” which quickly went platinum after it sold millions of records. The three secured a joint-venture deal with Def Jam records in 1999. The label would shine by putting out artists that dominated the charts in the early 2000s, including Kanye West, Rihanna, and Cam’ron.
He worked as Jay-Z’s manager and business partner and even organized a tour for the brand that made a profit of $19 million, The Focus reports.
In 2002, started to make films for Roc-A-Fella, producing two popular hood classics “Paid in Full,” starring Wood Harris, Mekhi Phifer, and giving his longtime friend Cam’ron his acting debut. He also put out “State Property” and “Paper Soldiers,” a film that gave Kevin Hart his film career start.
Dash as a visionary and legal hustler was paying off.
However, in 2004, Roc-A-Fella sold its 50 percent stake to its equal partner the mighty Def Jam Music Group for $10 million, allowing the “House that Rush Built” to own 100 percent of the company.
Jay-Z became the first artist to become the president of Def Jam and negotiated a deal for himself that allowed him ownership of his masters. However, Dash was left out of this power move, the Market Realist says.
This was compounded by the sale of his portion of the Rocawear clothing line to Jay-Z a year later, CNN reported.
These sales shifted the dynamic of Dash’s earning potential, and the former friends’ personal and professional relationship started to diminish.
And with that Dash’s social clout, which fueled so much of his lifestyle as an influencer, started to wane and impact his ability to capitalize as he had before.
Recently, Dash talked about feeling betrayed by Jay-Z.
On the “Get Yo Ass Up” podcast he said the rapper’s love for wealth and power eclipsed his love for their friendship.
“Yeah, all that, but we were friends,” Dame said. “How would you feel if your brother betrayed you for money? Would it hurt? That’s the algorithm. It wasn’t surprising, ’cause that’s what always happens. It was surprising ’cause no-one—that’s what it was, we were breaking the algorithm, we were doing it a different way and sticking together, but that’s what always happens. They make one sell out the other, their friend, divide and conquer, that’s a normal story.”
In the spring of 2022, he talked about how this breakdown has kept the two in court — most recently about his selling his share of Jay-Z’s classic “Reasonable Doubt” album.
In an interview with Shannon Sharpe, he addressed his shout-out from Jay-Z at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Dash said, “We’re in court right now. That’s why he said that.”
Without the original team that he helped groom to success, starting back in 1992 after Clark Kent put him and Jay-Z together as manager and artist, he began to explore other forms of artistic and entrepreneurial expression.
He continued in film and television (making a mark in reality TV with BET and We TV), dabbled in fashion, put his hands in boxing, publishing a magazine and even an alcohol brand. Still, hitting a lick to establish himself has been a challenge — further hindered by tax issues and child support disputes.
Out for Dead Presidents to Represent Me
In 2015, according to information released by the New York Department of Taxation and Finance, Dash owed $4.14 million in taxes.
Data showed, according to Page Six, he was hit with a lien over state income taxes he owed for the years 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2011. At the time, Dash was named No. 35 on the top 250 New York state delinquent taxpayers list.
Dash owes others outside of the New York government.
In 2019, he was sued by Edwyba Brooks for copyright infringement after allegedly marketing and selling the film behind her back without her consent, The New York Daily News reports. Originally Dash was hired to direct the film but was fired because he was wasteful and disrespectful.
Brooks alleged that Dash attempted to sell the film to iTunes, and also had an intention of streaming it on his Dame Dash Studios website. She says Dash even edited and released a trailer for the film to promote it.
However, after being fired, he had no right to move forward with the project and misrepresented his current involvement. A judge ruled in Brooks’ favor and ordered Dash to pay $300,000 to the filmmaker.
Baby Mama Drama
The “Growing Up Hip Hop” executive producer has five children: Dame Jr., aka Boogie, 31; Ava, 23; Tallulah, 14; Lucky, 18; and Dusko, 1.
Ava and Tallulah’s mother, Rachel Roy, and Lucky’s mom Cindy Morales have both had Dash in court about child support. In 2019, the three all came to a solution on how to settle the collective $950,000 he owed them in back support for their children.
To pay them, TMZ reported, he was able to leverage his agreement with Lee Daniels, who settled with Dash for $5 million for money he invested in the 2010 Oscar-nominated movie “Precious,” which he never recouped.
The agreement calls for Roy and Morales to be paid in installments of a few thousand dollars per quarter until the total of $950,000 is paid up.
Despite being cash-poor, Dash is rich with ideas and is always working on his next big thing. In fact, his Dame Dash Studios is set to debut a new visual album titled “Playtoy” in 2023.