The Most Anticipated Comic-Based Movies

Amazing Spider-Man 2 Villains
Happy New Year! We’ve crossed the year-end threshold and have reached the year 2014, and there are several comics-based film offerings hitting later this year that should have fans the whole world over pretty excited. With the creation of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series in full swing, as well as coming off the box office successes of both Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, Marvel Studios is poised to dole out some more experimental, but no less interesting fair.

Two other superhero films hitting this year are also derived from the pages of Marvel Comics, but they are outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both of these offerings are also sequels to proven franchises, though one is likely a bit more anticipated than the other. And rounding out this top five for the new year in comics films is a long-awaited sequel to a strong, but somewhat esoteric comic book movie. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at 2014’s most anticipated comic book films!

5) Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City 2 picture

Dropping in 2005, the original Sin City film was an exercise in a different kind of comic book moviemaking. Director Robert Rodriguez famously called his first effort on the harsh streets of Basin City a “translation, not an adaptation,” and the final effort still proves to be one of the most faithful book-to-screen re-creations of recent years. The whole team is back, but quite a few things have changed in nine years: the principal cast from the original film is older, one of them tragically died, and new faces have come aboard (like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Josh Brolin). Once again, series creator Frank Miller has joined Rodriguez as codirector.

While Miller’s directorial debut in the dreadful adaptation of The Spirit may not strike the most confident chord with most, this effort looks to be just as truthful, just as harsh, and just as ambitious as the original. If nothing else, it should prove to be an interesting diversion when it opens at the end of the summer.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For hits theaters on August 22.

4) X-Men: Days of Future Past

Wolverine Days of Future Past

On concept alone, there’s a lot to like about the forthcoming X-Men film that aims to correct some of the mistakes made from its later entries. The original cast and director are returning, and they’ll be playing alongside the stellar cast from First Class. There’s going to be a lot of mutants in it, though, but Wolverine is back with the team that made him famous (played, no less, by the actor who has embodied him perfectly for nearly 15 years). The film also shares the title with one of the most beloved X-Men comic book stories ever told, and looks like it’s shaping up to be a very unique entry in the entire franchise.

There are a few concerns, though: is the cast too bloated? Can Bryan Singer re-create the magic of the original 2000 film and its stellar sequel X2? Or, is he still firmly in Jack the Giant Slayer territory? Comics fans have had a fair amount of beef with Singer for the last several years, from a perceived (though not exactly correct) mishandling of Superman in 2006, to a public snafu surrounding the writing credits of X-Men: First Class, to an odd snub on Twitter of Joss Whedon and the next Avengers film over the use of the same character in both films played by different actors. It’s hard to dispute the director’s ability, though, and Days of Future Past inherently has a great chance of recapturing the magic that created the X-Men film series, as well as the current “golden age” of comic book films we all enjoy.

X-Men: Days of Future Past opens on May 23.

3) The Amazing Spider-Man 2

When the Spider-Man franchise was given a hard reboot in the summer of 2012, sects of both fans and general audiences alike questioned the necessity of going over the origin story for the second time within 10 years. It was likely the fastest turnaround for a comic book character’s cinematic translations, and when the original Amazing Spider-Man was released you had some people who didn’t know what to make of it. Most critics and audiences liked it, and it had a very healthy box office run that year. Spidey, though, is no longer the heavy hitter at the box office on Marvel’s side; his place in that role has been usurped by Tony Stark and the Avengers.

Nonetheless, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is proceeding with a largely blank canvas, and is interestingly and courageously bringing back characters that we’ve seen before and introducing new villains into the mix. The new iterations of Harry and Norman Osborn look promising, and we’ve yet to meet someone who wasn’t at least intrigued or excited about the visuals presented by Jamie Foxx’s Electro. Everybody pretty much loves Spider-Man, and the forthcoming film looks like it will remind us why. There’s always a chance it could misfire, but with three good entries out of four previous films, Spidey’s record is still a positive one.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens on May 2.

2) Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Likely the most experimental of Marvel Studios’ film slate will hit theaters this August, and one look at the motley crew that assemble in the image above should give you an idea of just how interesting this movie proves to be. With the release of The Avengers in 2012, Marvel Studios successfully expanded its cinematic universe exponentially with the introduction of alien species and the idea that S.H.I.E.L.D.–and specifically its director Nick Fury–was scrambling to try to keep Earth safe from an invasion. The end of The Avengers introduced a wide audience to the villainous Thanos in its closing moments, and the true follow-up to that extreme Marvel Universe antagonist will be in this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

Although Warner Bros. tried and failed to create a quasi-cosmic superhero experience with 2011’s Green Lantern, this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy will truly take the action and adventure into the depths of space. With an expanded cast of largely unfamiliar characters for an audience that can’t seem to get enough of Marvel right now, this film has several things going for it: a stellar cast (including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Benicio Del Toro), a great tease for anyone who saw The Avengers, a strong director (James Gunn), and an incredibly rich comic book mythology. As a grand experiment in comic book film, Guardians of the Galaxy should be quite the ride for anyone willing to open themselves to it.

Guardians of the Galaxy hits theaters on August 1.

1) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Before The Avengers came out, my favorite Marvel Studios film was unequivocally Captain America: The First Avenger. After The Avengers and the likes of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, it still stands as a personal number two. So, when it was announced that the title of the second solo Cap film would be The Winter Soldier, mirroring perhaps my most favorite Captain America comic book story arc, there seemed to be a lot to get excited about. When the first images and footage from the film was released, it became clear that this will not be a straight adaptation of the original story: in fact, it seems to be more ambitious.

Captain America: The Winter Solider takes some lessons in action and adventure from The Avengers, but also throws in a flavor of espionage and political intrigue that only a character like Cap can permit in a place like the Marvel Universe. When Loki called Steve Rogers a man out of time when they crossed paths in the team-up film, the current political climate and permeation of fear on the airwaves should make that abundantly clear to a man like Rogers, who comes from a far different era in both American politics and the collective national mood when it comes to war. Throw in a shocking and resonant antagonist, and you have a comic book film that has some great omens attached to it.

Captain America: The Winter Solider opens on April 4, 2014.

What are your most anticipated comics films of 2014? Are you really looking forward to 300: Rise of an Empire? Leave a comment below, and I hope you all have a happy New Year!


Ghostbusters 3

‘Ghostbusters 3’ Returns from the Grave;
By Erik Davis Oct 18, 2012

You didn’t think this would all just go away, did you? Based on how popular the Ghostbusters 3 news has been over the past couple of years, it really was a no-brainer for the studio to figure out a way to make this happen — and figure out a way they have. According to Deadline, production is set to begin on Ghostbusters 3 this summer (fingers and toes crossed!), with plans to finally bring the sequel to theaters in 2014 to coincide with the original film’s 30th anniversary.

Ivan Reitman will direct, and as of this moment Bill Murray won’t be in it. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis will return, and we assume Ernie Hudson will be there too, as well as Sigourney Weaver. Heck, if they can also find some wiggle room for Annie Potts, William Atherton and a surprise return by Rick Moranis, we would welcome them with open arms, hearts and minds (we miss you Rick!).

As of now, though, from what we’ve been told this sequel will focus on passing the torch to a younger generation of Ghostbusters, so expect a mix of the original stars and new, younger blood. Some names that have been rumored previously include Bill Hader, John Hodgman, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Emma Stone and more. Etan Cohen recently rewrote the script, and if things stay as is we expect to begin hearing casting news within the next couple of months.

Are you excited?


What Superhero Teams Deserve Their Own Movie

By Chris Clow Jan 09, 2014

If the summer of 2012 and the arrival of The Avengers proved anything in regards to superhero cinema, it’s that people love teams. For years leading up to the first grand superhero team-up film, comic book fans and superhero-movie lovers debated whether or not general audiences would warm up to a team like the Justice League or the Avengers the same way that comic book fans do. Now, we pretty much know that a love for comic book teams isn’t limited to the people heading into comic shops every Wednesday.

With the Avengers being the hottest cinematic comics property out there, as well as popular teams like X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and Justice League all looking for a piece of that big-screen pie, you might be wondering what other superhero teams are worth bringing to the screen. Well, in our humble opinion, there are five teams that could likely make the transition from page to screen pretty well from both Marvel and DC. Take a look at them below!

5) The Outsiders

When Batman’s relationship with the Justice League had grown strained, he decided to branch out on his own by creating a new team of ragtag secondary heroes that he appropriately dubbed “the Outsiders.” While it has floated through several incarnations at DC Comics over the past 30 years, the one that may be the most easily transferrable to film came in 2007, where the Outsiders acted almost like a “black ops” superhero team, taking on the missions that were perhaps too dirty for the likes of Superman and the Justice League. If anyone knows about fighting dirty, it’s the Dark Knight.

The original incarnation of the team featured characters like Metamorpho, Katana, Black Lightning, Geo-Force and Halo, all of which have only shown up in animation thus far. Another incarnation of the team also featured former Robin, Dick Grayson (aka Nightwing) as the leader of the team also including Arsenal (Green Arrow’s former sidekick Roy Harper, aka Speedy), a returning Metamorpho, and cosmic character Jade. The diverse character lineup and questionable method of operation could likely make for a pretty awesome and imaginitive movie. The only question is who should lead them? Batman or Nightwing?

4) Heroes for Hire

Although there are usually a wide variety of characters and motivations to take in, superhero cinema is always packed with some pretty recognizable and predictable archetypes: the virtuous (if flawed) heroes, the dastardly (but understandable) villains, and the distressed person or place in need of defending. Some of these likely shouldn’t be changed too much, but it never hurts to spice up a part of the formula now and again. One of the ways to do this may be to look at characters who engage in heroics not necessarily because it’s the right thing to do, but because there’s money to be made: heroes with a profit motive. On that note, enter the Heroes for Hire.

Originally consisting of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, there have been several incarnations of Heroes for Hire during the concept’s existence at Marvel Comics. Now, the actual act of being Heroes for Hire doesn’t include holding people up for money when they need help. Instead, the original stories decided to model the concept more after private investigation and protection than anything else. Throwing that into the mix, particularly with the two characters who started it in the original comic book stories, could make for either an interesting stand-alone movie, or a cool crossover addition to Marvel’s upcoming Netflix series focusing both on Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

3) Thunderbolts

When the Avengers appeared destroyed after the 1996 “Onslaught” comics event, new superheroic champions needed to step up and defend the Marvel Universe from the forces of evil. When the final pages of 1997’s Thunderbolts #1 revealed that the new, mysterious team was actually made up of supervillains, though, readers were shocked, and voted the big revelation as the greatest comic book moment of 1997 in a poll at Wizard magazine. When the world needed superpowered champions, a group of former villains answered the call, and the Thunderbolts were born.

The most definitive stories featuring the Thunderbolts always place timeless and endlessly interesting things at the forefront. What makes a true hero? What is the nature of heroism? How far will you go for redemption? With a checkered past as that of many supervillains, can you be redeemed? Questions like this may definitely be worth exploring in a superhero film, and the Thunderbolts may be just the team to do it.

2) The Suicide Squad

While this team is another set of protagonists made up of supervillains, for the most part the members of the Suicide Squad have no interest in redemption. Or heroism, for that matter. No, within the DC Universe, the Suicide Squad is only really interested in one thing: staying alive. The premise is as follows: the team, also known as “Task Force X,” is made up of captured criminals who agree to run black-ops missions for the government as “deniable assets” in exchange for time off of their respective criminal sentences. If they somehow get the idea that they’ll try to escape while running a mission, a chip in their head will explode, killing them instantly.

The Squad is administrated by a ruthless government operative named Dr. Amanda Waller, also known as “The Wall.” She, in many ways, was Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury before Jackson himself was. As you can imagine, a team of many unrepentant criminals running high stakes missions for the government can create some pretty intense and high-strung situations, and it’s hard not to think that audiences would be the true winners if a film adaptation of this team were to happen. With recent signs pointing to the possibility, that should get plenty of fans excited.

1) Teen Titans

Robin, Kid Flash, Cyborg, Wonder Girl, Beast Boy and others all make up the most memorable version of the superhero team known as the Teen Titans. Sidekicks haven’t seemed to get much love in the modern age of superhero cinema. Maybe the best way to remedy that is to give them their own adventure, where they can operate a bit freely from the constraints of their mentors.

The Teen Titans may, to some, seem like a silly concept. When you read the actual stories, though, you may be surprised to find that the team has permitted some of the best team storytelling in the entire superhero genre, particularly the definitive runs by Marv Wolfman and George Perez in the 1980s, and the early issues of Geoff Johns and Mike McKone’s 2003 relaunch with a new generation of characters. While rumors have abounded over the last several years that the Titans would be getting their own film with Nightwing in the lead, we’ve never heard anything beyond rumor. Maybe it’s time for that to change.

What comic book teams do you think deserve their own film? Are you an Alpha Flight fan? Craving futuristic superheroic action with the Legion of Superheroes? Sound off


Cash Money Billboard Cover | Video Behind-The-Scenes


“Devil Is A Lie” Producers K.E. & Major Seven Settle “Stolen Beat” Controversy

It’s almost hard to believe that a track that features Rick Ross and Jay Z could get overshadowed by behind-the-scenes industry issues, but that was case with the two rap stars’ latest collaboration “Devil Is A Lie.” A young producer named Major Seven claimed the beat for Ross’ Mastermind song was stolen by another producer, K.E. On The Track, and he was not given credit for his work.The two beatmakers got together with Chubbie Baby recently to settle their problems over the controversy. K.E admits that Major presented the track with the sample, and he later altered it by adding his own drums.
“I don’t salute a lot of producers, but I salute him because I feel like he’s another half of what I needed,” says K.E. about Major.

K.E. goes on to say that the pair have other tracks together in the works including several more featuring Ross and Jay and possibly a future cut with Pusha T.

“I’m just glad everything got sorted out and everybody’s good now,” adds Major. “I think in the future everybody’s really going to see this is just the beginning.”



Hard Knock Life of Damon Dash

Dame Dash may have lost Roc-a-Fella Records but the same domineering personality remains.

Damon Dash stands on New York City’s Lower East Side and shivers. It’s the first wintry night in November, and the 42-year-old former hip-hop mogul, with gray chin stubble and a low-riding cap—the man who cofounded Roc-A-Fella Records with then-best friend Jay-Z—jams a fist into his pocket and braces against the wind.

“This is reality-show drama,” says Dash, kicking the gummy sidewalk as he checks his iPhone. He’s come from the basement of the Mercury Lounge, where Jim Jones, the rapper he is promoting later tonight, is holed up between the boiler and some empty beer crates. Surrounded by a dozen or so hangers-on and wreathed in a cloud of pot smoke, Jones is trying hard to learn the lyrics of his own songs. The drummer Dash hired has no cymbals and is racing around the city to find a set. Dash’s showcase is starting to look like amateur hour. “Shit is wack,” he says.

But shit wasn’t always this wack. At the height of his power, Dash presided over a cultural empire without peer. He jump-started Jay-Z’s career from the trunk of his car, selling the rapper’s discs when no one would sign him. Together with a third partner, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, they launched Roc-A-Fella in 1995, released Jay’s seminal first album, Reasonable Doubt, in 1996, and produced nine No. 1 albums together. Dash also discovered Kanye West, Cam’ron, and Beanie Sigel. And he built his brainchild Rocawear into a fashion brand that brought in a reported $400 million a year in revenue.

Yet to many, Damon Dash will always be the man left behind, the Steve Wozniak to Jay-Z’s Steve Jobs. When Dash and Jay split in 2004—after two years of clashing egos—Hova moved up the corporate ladder to be president of Def Jam and took Roc-A-Fella Records with him. A year later he bought Dash’s share of Rocawear.

Dash didn’t seem to care. With the multi-million-dollar checks from those buyouts—$3 million–plus for Roc-A-Fella, $7 million for Rocawear—he had money to burn, and burn it he did: on private chefs and jets, butlers and bodyguards; two lofts in Tribeca, a mansion in Beverly Hills, a $35,000-a-month London apartment, and a $400,000 Maybach. But then shit really did get wack. And amid a series of high-profile repossessions, foreclosures, liens, and press hits that have painted him as a pauper, Dash has tried to rebrand himself as a downtown hipster—a Warhol in baggy jeans running a Lower East Side art collective. Although Dash has shown flashes of his old touch—showcasing indie bands like Sleigh Bells and connecting pals like Mos Def with alt-rock darlings the Black Keys—he has presided over a series of record labels, clothing lines, Internet start-ups, vodkas, movies, sneaker brands, watches, and, inexplicably, motor oils, most of which have failed to take flight.

“We’ve been in a recession,” Dash says by way of explanation. “These things don’t crack overnight.” Even as some of his businesses have limped along, he seems content to keep pumping funds into them until something—or many things—works. “I don’t respect anyone who does not give up their own money,” he says. “I don’t give a fuck how much money someone else gave you to watch. That’s not the game I play.”

Dash isn’t down-and-out, but he’s not exactly living it up. He’s made the commute to tonight’s show from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he’s been crashing with a friend (a few weeks later, Dash was reportedly staying in a rental building on the Lower East Side). He’s here to shoot a “video look book” for Vampire Life, the clothing line he co-owns with Jones. The idea is to get Jones to change into different outfits between songs during his set and to post video to the line’s website, while presenting fans, who will be given merch to wear for the shoot, a live performance.

Coming in from the cold, Dash enters the bar and seeks out Justin Korkidis, his marketing director, part of a six-person staff that Dash relies on to design clothes, bring in street artists, film his every move, and generally hang out with him. Mostly twentysomethings, they are part of his Poppington collective, his multimedia art, fashion, and branding machine. Korkidis, sporting a knit cap, looks beleaguered.

“So what’d they say about our drink tickets?” Dash asks.

“That it has to be worked out,” Korkidis says. “But it’s half-price. I don’t know if you want half-price?”

“Damn, that’s crazy,” Dash says. “We don’t get no drink tickets?!”

Korkidis walks away, sulking.

“The people here are bullshit,” Dash calls after him, raising his voice so the bartender can hear. “You ask or you don’t get it. Tell them to get us some drink tickets. Get us some beers. Get it flowing!”

• • •
A man is sitting on a boat in the Caribbean, surrounded by bikini-clad women with substantial, sun-kissed breasts—and drinking champagne. That man is Damon Dash. It was a prophetic introduction to the then-24-year-old rising impresario, partying on a speedboat as Jay-Z rapped. It was a scene in Jay’s 1995 breakout video, “In My Lifetime,” an expression of the urban aspiration for riches and luxury that the two would embody and sell to millions of eager fans.

Like so many of Dash’s genius strokes, the video was pure hustle, a fake-it-till-you-make-it fantasy—because neither he nor Jay had those things, not yet. Dash made the video for $16,000, borrowing a friend’s boat and creating an ersatz playa’s paradise of sun, Cristal, and G-string-clad babes on the island of St. Thomas. But it wasn’t surprising coming from Dash, who had grown up moving between the make-your-own-way world of the inner city and the halls of privilege.

“I came from the streets, and you got to hustle in the streets,” says Dash, who grew up in East Harlem. “That’s why I always have a chip on my shoulder. No one ever gave me anything.” His mother, a secretary who sold clothes as a sideline out of their apartment, died of an asthma attack when Dash was 15. His father (his parents divorced when he was 3) ran a methadone clinic. Hyperverbal, quick-witted, and sometimes a handful, Dash bounced between public and private schools. At one point, he earned himself a ticket to the South Kent boarding school in Connecticut, known as a fix-it destination for boys with behavioral issues and for attracting wealthy foreign kids. “I’m one of those guys who has two very concrete experiences,” he says. “One was the authentic experience in the street, and the other was boarding school and people from different cultures. So just like Jay, I’m able to articulate my experiences.”

When Dash was 18, he and his crew, calling themselves the Best Out, began throwing huge parties each month at the Cotton Club in Harlem. They hired the DJ-rapper Kid Capri and attracted thousands of people, including rappers and pro athletes. His big business idea: giving away free bottles of Moët & Chandon to the first 100 women through the door and creating limited-edition T-shirts commemorating each event. “People wanted to buy those shirts for $300 to $500,” Dash says. “I was learning about how to make a brand.” In 1990, his cousin Darien Dash, whose stepfather worked in A&R, got them into a party for Heavy D. The crowd was older and, to the street-savvy Dash, beyond its prime. “All these guys were making all this money and they looked weak,” he says. “They looked like prey to me. I felt like I could get into this industry and take it.”

Together with his cousin, Dash started managing two groups called Future Sound and Original Flavor. Dash’s uncle introduced them to Rodolfo Franklin, a.k.a. DJ Clark Kent, at Atlantic Records, who signed the groups. But according to Dash, the label failed to support them, so he started touring his acts on the East Coast with another artist Kent had introduced him to: a 24-year-old former Brooklyn drug dealer named Shawn Carter, who took the stage name Jay-Z. “He could rap fast, and his raps were witty and fresh,” says Dash, still visibly impressed. “And everything he said was authentic. That made him better than . . . everyone.”

But despite his wit and talent, no label would sign Jay-Z. At the time, West Coast gangster rap was ascendant, with its street rhymes about gunplay, murder, and crack. Jay-Z was playful and cocky, rapping about the hustler’s good life and making bank: “You can’t change a player’s game in the ninth inning/ The chrome rim spinning keeps ’em grinning/ So I run way the fuck up in ’em/ And wrinkle they face like linen.”

Dash paid out of his pocket to get Jay-Z in the studio. When they still couldn’t get a record deal, they launched Roc-A-Fella Records with Burke, another street hustler, who was later convicted of drug trafficking. The combination of Dash’s entrepreneurial bravura and Jay-Z’s talent paid off. In 1996, they released Reasonable Doubt, which many critics still consider Jay-Z’s finest work. Dash—bellicose and shrewd—struck uncompromising deals for himself and his partners. When they signed a distribution deal with Def Jam the following year, Dash insisted he, Jay, and Burke retain half-ownership of Roc-A-Fella and full title to Jay-Z’s master recordings. “Damon was a leader and a visionary,” says Def Jam’s founder, Russell Simmons. “Without Damon, there would have been no Jay-Z or Kanye or Cam’ron and no Roc-A-Fella. What he did for Jay and everyone, he was selfless. He took the bullets.”

But Dash wasn’t satisfied with music’s small profit margins. He wanted a lifestyle brand, “like Ralph Lauren,” he says. His timing was perfect. Hip-hop artists had started to ask why they were shilling for these brands in their music videos—brands that were then bought by millions of fans—when they could be making their own clothes, vodkas, champagnes, and sneakers. So Dash started Rocawear, and each time Jay-Z wore a bomber coat, a warm-up jacket, or a snapback in a video, sales boomed. By 2003, Dash had landed Victoria Beckham as a model, putting her in satin jackets and high-riding booty shorts.

But Dash and Jay-Z’s relationship soon began to fray. Word of his partner’s volatile temper started reaching Jay. In an infamous YouTube video, Dash lashes out at a boardroom full of Def Jam brass for allegedly holding a meeting about Jay without inviting Dash. “Y’all should have called Damon Dash,” he rants. “Y’all don’t know shit about my culture.”

“Damon was all creative aggravation, and he had to be when making Roc-A-Fella great,” Simmons says. “It was a commitment not to compromise.” It worked on the streets and in building a company, but not in a corporate workplace. “Damon was a bull in a china shop,” Simmons says.

Dash says he was never cut out for that world—he wants to be a Richard Branson–type entrepreneur-cum-magnate, creating companies and getting other people to run them. He also heaps scorn on the Def Jam team that would later become Jay-Z’s inner circle. “Those people are corny. You think I’m rolling to a club with Lyor Cohen or John Meneilly?” he says, referring to the former head of Island Def Jam and Jay’s manager. “No disrespect to Jay—but every single person I see hanging around him is making money off him. They all conform so they can eat off of him.”

By 2003, as Jay-Z talked about retiring after the release of The Black Album, Dash began turning his attention away from his star talent and best friend and toward his newer finds—Kanye, Cam’ron, Jim Jones, and Beanie Sigel. While Jay-Z was on vacation, Dash made Cam’ron and Sigel vice presidents of Roc-A-Fella. Dash was also using his own money (up to $6 million) as well as Rocawear’s to launch a new fashion line, Rachel Roy. He had started dating Roy when she was a Rocawear intern and later married her, in 2005 (they divorced four years later, and they still control half of the brand).

Dash’s overreaching ambitions and hot temper became too much for Jay-Z. In December 2004, he invited Dash to a sit-down at the restaurant Da Silvano in New York’s Greenwich Village. They had already agreed to sell their remaining half of Roc-A-Fella and its roster of contracts, including Kanye’s, to Def Jam for $10 million. But in a twist, Jay-Z announced he would become president of Def Jam, taking on a role that would seem, by right and reason, destined for the business-minded Dash, a role Jay-Z could not perform if Dash were in the picture. Jay-Z had one carrot to dangle in front of his old friend. He offered Dash the Roc-A-Fella name in exchange for turning over the rights to Reasonable Doubt, which Jay called “my baby.” Dash refused. “Honestly, I didn’t give a fuck,” Dash says. “The whole thing was based on our friendship. He made it clear he didn’t want me to be a part of Roc-A-Fella. I was like, ‘A’ight.’ Everything else was like, ‘Go be you. You want to do this, do it.’ He told me it was just business. He said that it was business. ‘I want to look like a businessman, and I can’t be a businessman around you.'”

• • •
Damon Dash’s headquarters these days is his two-year-old Poppington art gallery on a grubby stretch of Orchard Street, among seafood wholesalers and cut-and-sew factories. It’s not unusual to see workers on fourth-floor fire escapes across the street sending bags of cheaply made suits flying down a zip wire into the backs of waiting vans.

Before you even see the large Poppington neon sign above the door, you can smell pot smoke wafting down the block. One day in late November, a week or so after the Mercury Lounge show, the bottom floor of the 6,000-square-foot duplex is deserted. A few pieces of geometric acrylic artwork line the walls. An open loft overlooks the gallery, and a set of back stairs leads to it. Up here, Dash’s crew is working or hanging out while the boss is getting his twice-weekly haircut. They sit amid a clutter of flat-screen TVs, watercoolers, bottles of Dash’s Dusko whiskey, red Vampire Life vodka, and whiteboards with sketches of puffer vests.

A designer named Klindy Lindenbaum, whose fashion ethos is polka-dot “clown chic,” is working on wine labels and the new Lady Vamp clothing line. Korkidis is deep in an egg chair, tapping on a laptop. A rapper named Smoke consults with a director on the script for his new music video. It’s like a coffee shop of freelancers—until Dash shows up.

He’s got a joint in one hand, a diamond watch on his wrist, and a diamond angel pendant draped over a black tee. “The people in here—honestly?—are, like, the snobbiest people in New York,” says Dash, talking to the room. They don’t nod so much as wait for the rest, writing e-mails or rolling blunts of their own. “Their taste level? They work hard. We don’t need to deal with corporate. This is a collective that supports itself.”

The place is cluttered with racks of graphic tees, a discarded silk-screen frame, a box of empty spray-paint cans. The rest of the world, people who work in corporations, especially at big music outfits like Def Jam, are “corny” or “squares,” slaves who have “put their balls on a silver platter” for the security of “three meals a day, a warm bed.” “I’m not looking for a boss or a master,” Dash says, laughing. “I’m not hire-able.”

He likes to see his role here as a connoisseur of cool. He relies heavily on the cultural antennae of the millennial kids of the Poppington collective. “We don’t have contracts here or anything like that,” says David Chang, a graphic and clothing designer Dash hired as an intern four years ago who helped create Poppington. Another intern turned designer, Raquel Horn, turned Dash on to the Black Keys in 2009. Dash liked their music and connected them with a lineup of his rapper friends—Mos Def, Ludacris, Q-Tip, and even, via unused vocal tracks, the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard—to record Blakroc. The album was a critical success, an example of the kind of creativity that impressed even his old foils. The next year L.A. Reid, then-CEO of Island Def Jam Music Group, agreed to distribute a pair of albums by Curren$y that Dash produced, out of his regard for Dash’s acumen. “I respect anyone who is clear about what they do and don’t want, and though it may occasionally offend some people, it’s what winners are made of,” Reid says. “Any man with the amount of vision that Damon has shown throughout the years is, by design, an entrepreneur.”

If Dash has regrets—about giving up the power and the money and the influence he once possessed at Roc-A-Fella—he won’t show it. As for Jay-Z’s vast empire—estimated to be worth $475 million—and cultural currency, Dash makes no claim on them. “I’m not counting that man’s money,” he says. “No one’s taken anything from me. It’s like saying, ‘I used to mess with a girl, and before I used to mess with her, she was mediocre. But because she started messing with me, I taught her things. I dressed her, and then I taught her how to have a career.’ Does that mean after we break up I’m still supposed to be able to get some ass?” He laughs at his crass analogy. “Like, I don’t feel entitled to that pussy. You understand what I’m saying? I don’t feel entitled to nothing he got.”

Yet it’s easy to see Dash’s art collective as a reaction to what went wrong at Roc-A-Fella. If one of his staff comes up with an idea, and if Dash wants to back it, they agree to split proceeds 50/50. “Dame always says anything you played a major part in creating, you’re gonna get a check,” Chang says. The important thing, Dash says, is that they don’t go corporate. “Roc-A-Fella was never about the money or the volume,” he says. “It was always the spirit of it, the fuck-you-to-everybody-else of it.”

Dash is investing a lot of his time in the Vampire Life line, which he says generates $2 million a year in cash flow and subsidizes the other projects he and his staff dream up. Among them: Dusko whiskey, the art gallery, and even his motor-oil company, Dash Motors. They’ve traveled to China and Thailand to stage art exhibitions—and from the looks of photos, to party—and sponsor visiting Chinese artists.

Dash breaks from one of his rants about corporate America, noticing that a video editor is piecing together footage from the Jim Jones “look book” shoot. “Nah, it looks like a commercial,” Dash says. “It’s got to look like a show. And make sure we’re seeing Vampire Life on him.”

Dash has been flogging Jones for years now. In 2008, he produced the short-lived Off Broadway play Hip-Hop Monologues: Inside the Life & Mind of Jim Jones. His Poppington crew designs the Vampire Life line, which piggybacks on the popularity of Jones’ VH1 reality show, Chrissy & Mr. Jones, costarring his girlfriend, Chrissy Lampkin. There are vodka and wine tie-ins and a plotline in which Chrissy designs a Lady Vamp line.

But Vampire Life, whose baseball tees sell online for $42, is easily overshadowed. A few days earlier, Jay-Z launched his line at Barneys, with $1,000 cedar-lined humidors, $2,590 leather boxing shorts, and $875 python-brimmed ball caps. The comparison rankles Dash.

He gamely counters that Jones’ show and its 1.7 million viewers a week will catapult Vampire Life to new heights. “It will be bigger than Rocawear,” he promises. “You can’t compare me to Jay-Z. At all,” he continues. “I am not the greatest rapper of all time. I’m a businessman. I guess I’m famous like a rapper, I got swag like a rapper—I don’t know. But I’m not a rapper. And every time, they expect me to be a rapper. I can’t make money performing records that I made 10 years ago. I can’t sell my rights to my show. I got to keep creating businesses. I don’t sell celebrity. I sell product. I’m an animal. I got to eat the food I kill.”

• • •
In early August, three months before the Jim Jones show, Dash posted an Instagram photo of himself with his arm around Jay-Z’s shoulder, both men smiling at a friend’s birthday party in Williamsburg. The image lit up the Internet. The two hadn’t spoken much in 10 years, except to exchange polite fist bumps when crossing paths at industry events. It was a welcome distraction for Dash, who had lived under a barrage of tabloid reports all summer and fall, airing his personal money woes. Damon Dash left jewelry, art behind when he “abandoned” mansion, read the headline in the New York Post when Dash’s possessions—including drug paraphernalia, according to a court filing—were carted off from an upstate home, where the landlord claimed he owed $162,000 in back rent (Dash says it was a misunderstanding). Other reports cited his court battle with a former clothing partner, whom he owes $237,000 for an old loan (Dash says it’s now paid off), and the IRS’s hitting him with a $2.8 million lien for back taxes.

A radio interviewer on Hot 97 asked Jay what he thought of Dash and his money troubles. He said, “I can only have love for Damon,” because of what they created as young men. “I have ultimate confidence in him that he’ll find his way, because he’s an amazing and really smart guy.” Representatives for Jay-Z declined to comment for this story.

At the Jones show, Dash does not seem like a man with 99 problems, or any. “The news has been talking about the same tax shit for five fucking years,” he says, weaving toward the stage, where Jones is finally rehearsing. “Oh, he’s fucked-up. I ain’t going bankrupt. Everybody’s waiting for it. Every single year, everyone’s focus is my pockets. And they ain’t even worried about what I’m doing—only what I’m holding?”

A few minutes later, as I watch Dash in the smoky basement that serves as the Mercury Lounge’s green room, it’s hard not to think about his and Jay-Z’s divergent paths. Jay is on the cover of Vanity Fair, in a concert documentary shot by Ron Howard, trading texts with Obama, and negotiating a $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano (oh, Jay-Z is a sports agent now, too), while Dash leads a crew of strivers who skitter about as Jim Jones learns his lyrics.

But there’s no envy. No humility. Dash is as brash and as boastful as the guy speeding around on a (borrowed) boat full of babes. “When I see Jay on a magazine cover? That’s me,” he says. “I’m proud. I don’t see why that means me against him. It makes me look big. I don’t understand. How does that not make me look big?”

He turns his attention to Jones, who sits with his head hanging low. Dash tells him to think like a rock star. “Like Jim Morrison, man,” he says, ducking under a graphic tee hanging from a heating pipe. “Shit is hot up in here!” Dash yells. “This is the real shit!” He stands over Jones like a boxing trainer exhorting his fighter between rounds. “Somebody get this nigga high!” Dash says. He is met by a dozen glazed stares. “Nobody got weed? Y’all smoked it all? Before the show?!”



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