It was well over a decade when Dame Dash opened "Champions," an oft-overlooked posse cut featuring Kanye West and Cam’ron to name a few, with a telling message about his clique: "Yo this is Dame Dash the CEO, here to welcome y’all to the Dream Team." Founded by Shawn "Jay Z" Carter, Kareem "Biggs" Burke and Damon "Dame" Dash, the dream team that was Roc-A-Fella Records stood as an army, a navy, and, perhaps more fittingly, a musical juggernaut that changed the face of pop culture. Besides record sales and assembly line of classic albums (The Blueprint, The B. Coming, Late Registration), the powerhouse is responsible for trailblazers (Kanye West, Cam'ron, Beanie Sigel) and businesses (The Diplomats, G.O.O.D. Music) that have transcended generations. But like most dreams, things came eventually came to end for the self-owned musical outfit. And with this "end" came plenty of behind-the-scene drama, which has led Dame Dash to spearhead an upcoming series dedicated to telling that story.
As Deadline reports, Damon Dash is developing a television series that promises to tell a "brutally honest account" of the Roc-A-Fella story. Partnering with producer Lemmuel Plummer ("Preachers of L.A.," "Preachers of Atlanta"), the forthcoming series will explore the rise and fall of Roc-A-Fella, from its origin as an independent label with the release of Reasonable Doubt to eventually being sold to Island Def Jam in 2005. Dash and Plummer liken the series to "The People Vs OJ Simpson" and HBO's "Vinyl."
"The reason why Roc-A-Fella crossed and became so essential to pop culture is that we were probably the most authentic people that were also so sophisticated," Dash told Deadline. Plummer shared those sentiments, stating, "It means a lot that Damon trusts us to tell the story – the true story – of how two global music icons got their start and did nothing less than redefine pop culture."
"That story is so unbelievable and yet so true that we know we have an awesome responsibility as storytellers to get things right," Plummer added.
With plans of getting "things right" and relaying a "brutally honest account" of the Roc, we can't help but wonder what kind of stories will be unveiled. Over the years, we've heard bits and pieces, through songs, interviews, and even films like 2003's "Death of a Dynasty." But if this ends up being what it is built to be, fans will be in for a treasure trove of behind-the-scene treats.
A launch date for the series has yet to be announced, but we have a few infamous Roc-A-Fella stories that needs to get the mentioned in the upcoming production.
The Funding for Roc-A-Fella
"We didn't need dirty money to start Roc-A-Fella, because we had Payday's money," said Jay Z to Yahoo Music in 1999. At the time, rumors ran rampant about the origin of the label's much-discussed start-up money, especially since they were out shooting $16,000 music videos in St. Thomas.
As the story goes, Clark Kent introduced Dash to Jay Z and his first reaction, as told to NYMag, was "I'd never heard anybody rap so fast." Aligning with the Brooklyn native, Dash, along with Biggs, put up some money to record records. When a deal didn't present itself, Dash went on to press the discs himself and sold them out of his car. In 1993, Payday Records caught wind of "In My Lifetime," thanks to its underground buzz, and eventually signed Jay to a deal. However, things didn't last long. "They were acting shady the whole time, Jay told Yahoo Music.
"The things that they were setting up for me I could have done myself. They had me traveling places to do instores, and my product wasn't even available in the store. We shot one video, but when the time came for me to do the video for the second single, I had to be cut out. They gave me the money and I started my own company. There was a little arguing back and forth, but our conflict finally got resolved. The bottom line was they wasn't doing their job, so I had to get out of there." The money acquired from Payday led to the birth of Roc-A-Fella. Some of the money from the deal, and a $16,000 investment from Kareem "Biggs" Burke, helped finance the "In My Lifetime" video. The buyout money was also used to open up the label's first small office on John Street in Manhattan.
Almost Signing Big L
Before his untimely passing in 1999, Big L was set to join the Roc-A-Fella roster. "We were about to sign him right before he passed away," Jay Z revealed in an interview on Juan Epstein in 2010. "We were about to sign him to Roc-a-Fella. "It was a done deal... I think he was very talented... I think he had the ability to write big records, and big choruses." Dame Dash also confirmed the news on The Breakfast Club, revealing, "Big L was going to sign." However, right as the plans were in place, tragedy struck as the rapper, born Lamont Coleman, was was shot and killed in his native of Harlem.
The controversy surrounding Cam'ron being V.P. of Roc-A-Fella
The best indication of Roc-A-Fella's fall came in a 2002 cover story for The Source magazine. In the story, both Jay and Dame give accounts about the label and where its heading, but there was also a few conflicts in their business plans. At a press listening session in June, Dame announced that Beanie Sigel and Cam'ron would hold vice president posts at Roc-A-Fella. It didn't take long before rumors ran that Cam, in particular, was offered the position. When asked about the announcement in the said interview, Jay, who was on vacation in the South of France, answered, "That's not taking effect as of yet."
"I think the talk is a little premature as of right now," he continued. "But that's definitely in the plans of Roc-A-Fella, for the future for them to come and step in." Cam entertained the idea, but made it clear that nothing was official. "I don't even know if I'ma take on the role as of yet," the "Oh Boy" rapper told The Source. "Me and Dame are still talking about it, but, I mean, I can have it, it's mine." This confusion led to some tension behind the scenes, thus leading to the "erased" remix of "Oh Boy" and a feud that continues to be talked about.