Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1:

Takin’ A Walk.

Dame Dash:

I don’t have a beef with Jay-Z. My issue with him right now is that they hit me with a lawsuit that was untrue. I could forgive a lot of things but I don’t forget. I think that we’ve evolved in different directions. He’s become more of a businessman and I’ve become more of a creator. I think fundamentally, our priorities are different.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Takin’ A Walk Podcast, the podcast where your host Buzz Knight talks to musicians and industry insiders about their latest projects and their love of music. On this episode, Buzz talks with entrepreneur, musician and record executive Damon Dash, along with Philly rapper Freeway about their new project. Damon has a storied career. He discovered Kevin Hart and the Black Keys. He co-founded Rockefeller Records with Jay-Z, and he’s the CEO of America Nu Network. His project with Freeway is called 365. Listen and you’ll hear some provocative conversation about Jay-Z and The Black Keys, along with insight into their new work. It’s all next on Takin’ A Walk with Buzz Knight.

Buzz Knight:

Damon and Freeway, welcome to Takin’ A Walk. How’re you guys doing?

Freeway:

What’s up? [inaudible 00:01:09]

Dame Dash:

I’m hyped right now. I’m hyped. I just found out that we just hit 20,000 downloads on my new television network, America Nu. So you got a part of me, my excitement.

Buzz Knight:

Oh my God, congratulations. You just found out?

Freeway:

Found out just now.

Dame Dash:

Every day we get the report and this week we were expecting to hit 20,000, which is a huge milestone in the television network business, especially since we’re not on Roku or Samsung yet. And we’ve just been in business for about a month. So it’s a big deal. It’s like having a hit record but having a hit television network is a whole different evaluation. So let me just put it to you like this. For every download for evaluation, that’s about a hundred dollars a person. So you do the math. This is why I’m celebrating.

Buzz Knight:

All right. Tell us more about that project first. You got to give us more info and how folks could find it and get more downloads.

Dame Dash:

It’s a television network, America Nu, but the project that we talking about, the vertical, that’s the content that’s going to be on America Nu is this Project, Freeway & The Black Guns. Freeway, I’ve known for 23 years. We just calculated it. He’s part of state property, original Rockefeller. He’s been going into schools with the Freedom Thinkers Academy. I’ve been seeing him do that. We reconnected through the OSG, which is hundreds of principals from economically challenged areas. And we were at an OSG summit in Columbia and Freeway started to perform and I jumped on the stage and it was the first time I’d been on stage with a Rockefeller in a while. So I had the rock band, he’s still active, he’s doing good stuff and I have a television network so I was like, “We have a studio in Florida.” So I was like, “Yo, pull up to Florida in five days.” And we arranged it because he’s always on the road. And we made 10 records, live instruments. We got the best guitar on the planet, Tash, and we made the music video which I directed, which I hope you saw.

We taped every second. So it’s the documentary, a curriculum. We did all the photo shoots for all the assets. The VIBE came and shot the cover and we did all the interviews, the podcast, we did everything in five days. We’re going to go on the road. First, we’re going to do a quick rock and roll tour, a nice intimate joint starting in LA, Vegas and Florida, 19th to 21st and the 29th. And then we’re going to do a bigger tour and we’re going to go into schools. We’re going to teach the curriculum, we’re going to perform. And it’s just a new way of teaching people and just showcasing that everything you do got to be new and it could be better and we could also use music as a form to teach and showcasing and hip-hop is great in all verticals. So we could jump around and teach in hip-hop and teach in rock and roll and then we bring something together and make a new music called Rock and Soul. And that’s what we did. That kind of rapped. That kind of rhymed. Wow.

Freeway:

[crosstalk 00:03:57]

Buzz Knight:

Let me ask you, Dame and Free. First of all, who motivated you at younger years to be so caring about your community and try and do this good work?

Freeway:

[inaudible 00:04:17] For me, my earlier years I took from the community. So every chance that I get, I want to give back to my community. And I’ve been through so much. I lost my son in 2020, lost my daughter in ’21, lost my dad in ’22. So I’m all about giving back and showing love and trying to better our community. And the reason why, with my company, Freedom Thinkers Academy, we got STEM workforce development programs in the city of Philadelphia and Delaware, because it’s a lot of violence and negativity going on in the streets. I feel like we provide these kids with an opportunity to take this course, get a certification, and we assist them in getting jobs, that’d be a better outcome for them than being in the streets.

Dame Dash:

Yeah, I think what happens is we’re born into survival mode. We were born in that 99%. And in that moment, you’re around people and because of that, you do things, what they’re doing, whatever they have to do to survive. Sometimes you compromise your morals and your principles. But in your heart, you just want to help. You don’t want to hurt, but you don’t know how. So as we’ve evolved and gotten older, we’ve gotten to situation where we’ve learned how to help. So we’ve always wanted to help. We’ve just never had the outlet. I never thought I could go into a school. I never thought I could get a doctor. I never thought I’d be able to teach a class full of principals. But these opportunities present themselves and our heart is good, it’s pure. And because you go through things, the trauma that you go through and you survive it, if you really love yourself, you don’t want no one you love to be going through any of the pain that you felt.

So we want to make sure that our culture, and that’s who we love, doesn’t go through the pain that we felt to learn. So it’s an evolution. It’s just growing up. What does hip hop look like in your 40s and 50s? It looks like me and Freeway. It looks like superheroes. Guys that do what they love and what they love is helping people. What we love doing is loving and we love the art and the craft of every vertical that we do. So if he’s going to be a master at rap, trust me, our project in rock and roll has to be masterful because everybody that’s playing an instrument is a master, a black belt, at what they do. The drummer, the guitar player, Tash, everyone is a Freeway in their own right at what they do. So that’s what this is. Just showcasing what love could do and how cool love could look, how tough love could look and how to educate people through a different voice.

But it all started from our trauma, not wanting the people we love to go through the pain that we felt. But we had to go through that pain to know that we don’t want the people that we love to go through it.

Buzz Knight:

Look Dame, first I want to ask you this and then Free, I’ll ask you this. Tell me about the creative process that you guys go through when you’re creating and walk us through the typical nature of that. First you, Dame.

Dame Dash:

It depends on what vertical but this particular one, the rock and roll, this process, is we make a very comfortable environment. We are on the lake and we flew a shepherd from Hawaii, put the instruments in the studio, set up all the cameras and you’ll be able to see what I’m telling you. You could actually see the making of the first single on America Nu right now. But we just start playing. That’s all we do. We do it the old school way. We mic up all of the instruments. I get a mic, Freeway gets a mic, and we just start playing. Literally, the record 365, when Freeway says 15 seconds, because as soon as the record started to play, Freeway started going, “365.” He said it and then I took it as a hook and literally in 30 seconds, we had a song. And in three minutes, we had structure, everything. It was just a freestyle live album. And that’s why we documented it because it’s like magic. We did five records that night. And again, that’s what you said.

We did five records that night then we did some more the next day and then Freeway just laid vocals, just laid all his vocals in two days and then we just tightened up the record. And between that, we would do our podcast in between that shot, the video and between that, do the interview. So I have the confessionals and all that. And then between that, take the pictures, go get some sleep. We would work about four or five hours straight, six hours, until we couldn’t do it no more. Sleep, eat and wake up and do it again. Five straight days and then get back on the road. That was the process.

Buzz Knight:

How about you, Free? Talk about the process from your perspective.

Freeway:

It was amazing. It was the same thing. The way I record and the way I work. I get a beat and then I vibe to it and then I create. I don’t use any pen or paper. So when we got into the space and as soon as they started playing the instruments, we started creating just like Dame told you that came with 365, 24/7. It’s the first thing that came to my head. Then we started rolling from there and that’s the way everything went. As soon as they started playing the next beat, we started creating.

Dame Dash:

And it’s like he’ll throw words in the air. So he say 365. I’m like, “Oh, that sounds hard.” 365, 24/7. It just meshes. It’s like magic. And that’s why you have to capture it. But you got to see it to believe it. So what I’m saying, go to America Nu, download it right now and go to the Blue Rock section and you’ll see the making of 365 and every single thing I’m saying, you’ll be able to see it and we’ll be able to teach it. That’s why we keep those cameras on.

Buzz Knight:

I want to ask you, Dame, what do you think is the state of the music business right now?

Dame Dash:

The state of the world is… I’ve been on this planet for 51 years. I’ve been active in music for 20, at least making it. I just think with AI, with the different ways to distribute, with Web3, there’s going to be different verticals and different ways to make money that were not anticipated before. And for people that don’t know how to evolve, they’re going to lose. If you’re mad at the evolution of the music business, then you’re just going to be stuck in a box. You have to evolve with the times. So for me, there’s a yin and a yang. There’s some things that are problematic with it, kids hurting each other and glorifying that, and a new form of music. Or not new, but… And I’m not mad at drill because the kids have to communicate. I’m mad at the people that make money off drill that look for kids that are talking about killing each other to make money over beat. That’s problematic to me.

But the fact that a guy that like myself can have a television network and showcase people in their true form is a big deal and that we could get paid through CPM and that we can get paid off of our data and that if we understand the new world, we can monetize the new world and not get robbed because right now, the music business is getting robbed. The state of the music business to me, is Lyor calling, going to these kids, taking their content, making them sign their contracts, which is that policy’s agreement on YouTube with no lawyer watching and then getting $40 or $30 from a CPM and only giving the kid $2 and not giving them any accounting and not letting them benefit from their data. That part of the music business is a problem for me. And the fact that the BPMs, [inaudible 00:11:55] all of that, the way you get paid, it’s not fair. But there’s so many ways to make money but we just have to know how or we will get robbed. The middleman will rob us like they did before.

So I see the opportunity for creative to get robbed in a big way, but I see an opportunity for creative not to get robbed and to make a lot of money if they understand how not to get robbed and what they truly deserve. You understand? So not getting the full benefit of your CPM and your data, to me, is like not owning your publishing. It’s just two different ways that you’re getting robbed, but in different businesses. But the same person is doing it. But that’s what I feel about that.

Buzz Knight:

Free, what do you think of the state of the music business?

Freeway:

Man. As far as creatively, but it’s not how it was when I came up but I still respect it because everybody is doing their version of what hip hop is. You might have a kid from down south that’s doing their version of hip hop. You might have a kid from the west coast, deep in Compton doing their version of hip hop. Some of it’s hot, some of it is not.

Buzz Knight:

Dame, tell me about your experience working with those guys, The Black Keys. That was such a great project.

Dame Dash:

It definitely was. I loved it. It gave me a different perspective on how to approach music, kicking it with them. [inaudible 00:13:20] Again, I would run into Freeway at the festivals. He had done a rock [inaudible 00:13:27] project with [inaudible 00:13:29] so I like that lifestyle. I like the attention to detail as it relates to the instruments. Dan Auerbach was cool. Pat, they’re cool. I was a little… I feel away because I did Blakroc part 2 and once they blew up, we never performed the Blakroc project. I felt like they left because a lot of those hip hop like M.O.P, and the only person that knew who The Black keys were was Mos Def. Everyone else was doing it like Waykan and Lizzo. They were doing it on the low. And I felt like we got on David Letterman and we got on Fallon and I really thought it brought The Black Keys to a pop level, but I just felt like they didn’t give back. So I got Hot LIB, Sean Price, Wiz Khalifa on part 2. I got the whole tape but…

Freeway:

The album?

Dame Dash:

Yeah, we got that album. You asking me where it is right now?

Freeway:

You got to know where the album is. That’s why I keep giving it back. Where is that album?

Dame Dash:

Oh, yeah. Then we… Oh shit, I forgot.

Freeway:

Oh, sorry.

Dame Dash:

We have a whole album with Lizzo that we didn’t put out with The Black Keys. I forgot all about that album. So yeah, it was great working with them but a little disappointed. It was bittersweet. Dan Auerbach is still cool. I don’t like Pat that much. But it’s all good. Now, Pat was getting on my nerves because he’s the one that was saying that… What I was trying to do was take… It’s a whole another story. But I had a good time overall. But I just wish that more people could have saw, they would’ve been more supportive after they blew up. That’s all.

Buzz Knight:

Hey, Dame, is there any hope your relationship with Jay-Z would ever advance?

Dame Dash:

I don’t have a beef with Jay-Z. My issue with him right now is that they hit me with a lawsuit that was untrue. I could forgive a lot of things but I don’t forget. I think that we’ve evolved in different directions. He’s become more of a businessman and I’ve become more of a creator. I think fundamentally our priorities are different which is surprising, but it is what it is. So on a business level, we could reconnect. On a trust level, I don’t know that trust will ever be there again. But I’m a human being and he’s a human being. And yeah, I think if he sent over a hundred million, we’d be cool again, if he had it, if he got it to give, because I think that’s how much he might’ve cost me. But if he makes that, if he makes things right, we could kick it. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to hang out with all his friends.

Buzz Knight:

I want to close with a question on advice to people who are listening to this who might be…

Freeway:

[inaudible 00:16:13]

Dame Dash:

Freeway, if you want to see it, make it happen. So I’ll talk to Jay at any moment but he ducks that conversation. So anytime you want, I’ll get in front of him and Biggs and be very calm. But that conversation won’t be had because there’ll be accountability with it. But I’m down for that conversation anytime. You can set it up, Free. I’m down. I always want to showcase the world.

Freeway:

[crosstalk 00:16:35]

Dame Dash:

Make it happen. You know what? Send him over a record and tell him to jump on what we do. Give [inaudible 00:16:42] version. Let’s see what he do.

Buzz Knight:

I’d love to see it happen.

Dame Dash:

Culturally, I have no beef for anybody. I might not agree with people’s business tactics, but forgiveness is always key within our community. The division is what they count on. So what they did with us was divide us and it’s an algorithm. So I would love to break that algorithm. Just to showcase, an example that year. I think it’s catty for two men not to be able to work out a difference. But when someone keeps doing something and they sue you and do all this stuff, they’re not going to want… You notice I speak on it anytime. The question is why he don’t. But I’ll get with them anytime free if you make it happen. We all brothers, bro. And I always say that. I can’t hurt my brother. I don’t want to see my brothers hurt. I don’t know if they feel the same about me but that’s how I always feel. Right or wrong, [inaudible 00:17:31] the one Rockefeller you put me on the phone with, I didn’t talk to. Right?

Freeway:

Sure [inaudible 00:17:35]

Dame Dash:

And it’s always love between us. It ain’t no problem. It was a business thing. But I chose the love before the money. My choice was love before money. His choice might’ve been money.

Buzz Knight:

Dame and Free, I’m so honored to get to talk to you. I want to congratulate you on all your success, your projects, your great work, your spirit, and your collaborative process. Bless you guys, man.

Dame Dash:

Bless you. Make sure you download America Nu, listen to the music and spread the word. Pause. Appreciate you.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Takin’ a Walk podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends and follow us so you never miss an episode. Takin’ a Walk is available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts and wherever you get your podcasts.

 

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.