The Importance of Leadership in Hip Hop-Part 2 Cautionary Tale #2- Rocafella Dynasty (Jay Z, Damon Dash, Biggs, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Segal, Freeway, Young Gunz, Kanye West)
This story has such a disastrous ending that when I first began to write it, I became blown away by the hard cold facts of life and how you just never know when your best friend may one day become your worst enemy. When the homey you grew up with on the block, the one you hustled with and had dreams of rising up out the hood with is suddenly a perfect stranger. This is the story about a crew in which one man would rise out of the shadows of rap legends to amass unforeseen power, fame, fortune and legendary status. With the exception of one other diamond in the rough, this crew would also see an untimely demise and chronicle another one of hip hop’s best crews falling victim to a familiar fate. This is the cautionary tale and story of The Rocafella Crew.
They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Over the years, we all have heard the stories, rumors, and speculations about what really happened to the ROC and the people involved. It’s been an ongoing saga where many of us as hip hop fans have chosen sides. Many people say Jay Z was smarter and more talented and was carrying dead weight thus he did what was best for him. Some people sympathize with Damon Dash’s side of the story. The silent partner Biggs has rarely spoken out in public about the situation though it is believed he is with Dash. I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have my own feelings on this situation. But for the purpose of advancing the story and focusing on the real issue, I suggest that we all should focus on why greed, envy, and ego continue to destroy hip hop and its best crews.
In the case of Rocafella records, there is no doubt that if you examine what you have seen and heard from every relevant member of that crew since 1996, it wreaks of overblown egos, envy and most importantly, bad leadership. Many will tell you that Jay Z was the leader of the ROC and that he should have been the leader because he was the talent and the face man. I will challenge you to examine the situation honestly and look at the facts. Jay Z was a terrible leader and Damon Dash was the better and more effective leader for the ROC. Let me explain. Under Damon Dash, everybody was making money, touring, doing movies, had clothing lines, and doing guest spots on records. Niggas was being productive and eating. Think about it. State Property, the group, fashion line and the movies was in the mix to some extent and had Philly on the map again. Kanye West with the belief and opportunity from Damon Dash, went from being just a producer for Jay to becoming possibly one of the greatest artist of all time. Although not officially thought of as down with the ROC, Cam’ Ron re-emerged under the leadership of Dash to become a platinum selling artist which introduced the Dipset. When the Rocafella brass parted ways and Jay-Z was exalted the sole commander, the ROC soldiers were stranded, in disarray and left for dead.
Even when Jay Z took the head post at Def Jam, many artists, (especially his own) thought their fortunes would turn around and their careers would blossom. Quite the contrary, they fared even worse. The bottom line and hard facts show that Jay Z is a great artist and businessman. This is hard to dispute. However, Jay Z proved to be a bad leader of men because only he prospered as a result of doing things his way. The key to great leadership is when everyone under you is put in the best position to succeed and the whole team sees some form of success. For the sake of hip hop, this means everyone in the crew is eating according to what they contribute and very importantly, the morale remains high. Damon has to bear total responsibility for being a once good leader with an out of control ego that not only led to his own demise, but to the demise of his crew. He has to come to grips with the fact that along the way he became blinded by success and ambition and the way he allegedly communicated with people was deemed unprofessional and disrespectful and ultimately destroyed his ability to lead effectively. The stories of bankruptcy along with numerous failed ventures, (Pro-Keds, Rachael Roy Clothing, BlockSaavy.com, CEO, RocBox mp3 player, Armadale Vodka) have left Damon’s legacy in a precarious situation and subject to ridicule that could last a lifetime. Meanwhile, artists like Freeway, Beanie Segal, Tiarra Marie, Peedi Crack and Young Gunz may have seen their best days already past them by. Many have said that the reality for those artists is that they were cool but didn't have the goods to be among the greats of their era. I concur.
In all honesty, they were all role players. But, they were solid role players who made strong contributions to the team and helped win the ROC a few chips over the years. As a fan of hip hop, I get especially disappointed about Memphis Bleek who I thought clearly had everything it took at one time to become the prince of the ROC. It never quite worked out that way for M Easy and he never quite came of age. I always thought to myself it must have been tough to watch a cat like Beans from Philly come in and assume that #2 spot in the ROC rap hierarchy. Although when it’s all said and done, Bleek’s sidekick status and loyalty to Jay Z may in fact find him handsomely rewarded and in a better place financially and with future opportunities of his own. Sometimes, the pauper indeed becomes the prince. Life is funny like that. As we ponder what if, place blame and point the finger, we should think long and hard about the tale of the Rocafella Dynasty. We should think about their triumphant victories and their unfortunate demise and make a pact to ourselves that we won’t let it happen to us and our crew. We are going to learn from hip hop history. As of this writing, Kanye West scored his 4th #1 album and is arguably hip hop’s best and most talented rapper of this generation. Jay Z has become an iconic hip hop mogul worth a half billion dollars and married to the hottest chick in game. Damon Dash is allegedly in financial turmoil trying to fight his way back to the top. Killa Cam is somewhere in self imposed exile and isolation dealing with internal strife with his Dipset. As for those Philly boys, only God knows what their situations are like now and what future holds for them. I wish them all the best.