There was a time that when you saw or thought of Jay-Z, you saw or thought of Damon Dash. The two were once best friends and business partners, and along with Kareem “Biggs” Burke, co-founded the now-defunct Roc-A-Fella Records. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, his debut album, would be the launchpad for the beginning of what would be a solid era of hits from the pair’s label. However, although business seemed to be booming, the relationship between the two was souring.
Roc-A-Fella Records was birthed due to the passion the set of businessmen had in Jay-Z and his debut album because according to him, no label was interested. Talking to MTV News in 2001, he reflected on the journey. “I went to every single record label, and they was like, ‘This guy is terrible. He’s nothing,’” the 4:44 rapper said. “I had to put [Reasonable Doubt] out myself because nobody would sign me.”
He continued, “I would press up singles and go to the record stores myself, collect $100, $200, come back, give them some more records. It started like that.” After what seemed like an unstoppable run from the two, things began to sour in the early 2000s, before the two would famously split.
Although it’s been about 15 years since the dissolution of Roc-A-Fella Records, it seems as though Damon Dash hasn’t let go of his ill feelings towards his former partner. Take for instance an interview he did as recently as last year on Adam22’s No Jumper podcast where he had a few words pertaining to Jay, inspired by his controversial partnership with the NFL.
“I mean, everybody knows Jay ain’t sh*t,” he told Adam22. ”Everyone knows that…Listen, if you ask anyone in the industry, it’s a common knowledge that Jay ain’t sh*t…He’s about the bag. We all know that. He’s self-preserving. Period. It’s just that the people he does it to don’t have Beyoncé next to ’em. They don’t have that kind of power, but this dude here, everyone’s looking.”
He continued, “So I just think he kinda like—he used to do that sh*t…it’s not even like a secret. He’d do that sh*t to me with girls. I’ll be talking to a chick and I’ll be like, ‘Yo, she asked me to do this, that and the third.’ And he’d be like, ‘I wouldn’t do it.’ And then the next day he’s done wifed her. And I’d be like, ‘Oh, that some funny sh*t.’ You know what you dealing with when you’re dealing with Jay. Jermaine Dupri, I fell like…again, for me to talk, it’s hard because I can’t completely be objective, but it’s the news of today. But, I just think if you look under the hood, all the answers will reveal themselves.”
One thing that was common knowledge to the public was the relationship between Damon Dash and the late singer Aaliyah. The two met in the summer of 2000 and began dating until she met her untimely demise in a plane crash shortly after taking off in the Bahamas. “I did not mean to fall in love with Aaliyah, she was just that cool,” he said to Page Six in a 2019 interview. “But you know, we were both going hard … everybody was trying to get to Aaliyah — it was not just Jay.”
“She was just cool as hell,” he continued, “we would laugh … we never stopped hanging and that is what happened with her. There was never any obligation or any title … just liking being around somebody for who they are. I was not in love with Aaliyah through the television — I fell in love with her from hanging out and meeting her. She looked different than Aaliyah on the TV screen.”
With rumors running rampant at one point that Jay-Z was trying to wife the singer, Dash used the publication to not only address, but confirm in the same interview. “He tried very hard,” he said of Jay’s pursuit of the “Try Again” singer. “I did not know Jay was trying to holler at her, but then it just happened like that. He was trying, I was trying. Everybody was trying — he was going hard.”
Prior to dating Dash, Aaliyah famously entered into marriage with embattled singer R. Kelly at the age of 15, before the marriage was annulled shortly after. Speaking of R. Kelly, Dash chose to allege that the rapper’s choice to collaborate with Kelly on the Best of Both Worlds album was the beginning of the end of the label.
In a point to bring some clarification, however, former producer Choke No Joke came forward to say that was definitely not the only reason. You see, according to the former producer, Dash left out the part where he tried to seduce Beyonce away from her now-husband.
“There was a point at Roc-A-Fella when Dame wasn’t allowed around Beyoncé,” the producer said. “Yes. I mean nothing happened like he kissed or sexed her or something like that. Did he try to holler at her? Yeah,” he said. “That’s the same thing he did with Aaliyah.”
He added, ”Everybody that worked there at that time knew […] because he was a creep […] Beyonce wasn’t going for that s**t. And the only reason why Aaliyah might have gone for it was because he wouldn’t be public with her,” Choke continued.
In what seemed to be a subtle confirmation, Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex took to Instagram to double down on the claims as well. He felt the need to chime in after an interview Dash had with Nick Cannon, while also including the Wild’N Out host. “Rest in peace to the beautiful Aaliyah,” said Funk Flex. “That was Jayz lady first… Dame did a snake move… tell me I’m lying u piece of s**t!” he continued on. Check out his claims about Dame Dash and the back and forth between himself and Nick Cannon below.