With all of the preceded success one would think that Rocafella Records would continue to be an unstoppable force in music and all of its other pursuits whether it be in music, film or fashion. Not the case.
The exact cause of the Rocafella breakup cannot be attributed to a single event. There are many incidents that led to the split. Let’s highlight 5 of them.
1) DAME DASH’S INFAMOUS OUTBURST ON DEF JAM EXECUTIVES
Then of course there was the infamous Dame Dash outburst on Def Jam and its executives having a meeting over Jay Z, his artist, on his label that he is CEO of, Rocafella Records, without his permission.
In the documented video Dame Dash busts in the meeting exasperated and confronts the Def Jam executive Kevin Liles and others over their meeting on Jay Z.
Years later Dame Dash would make it public that Kevin Liles would later tell him that the meeting was set up by Jay Z. Dame Dash recounts that at that moment it never crossed his mind that Jay Z was the one who set up the meeting.
2) SELF IMPLOSION (The Accusations)
Then there are accusations from the founders of Rocafella Records themselves. It was rumored that Jay Z was discontent with Dame Dash for lavish spendings. It was stated that Jay Z was not fond of Dame Dash’s alleged lavish and reckless spending of money. Rocafella Records money.
Dame Dash would, years after the break up of Rocafella, on the Social Proof Podcast, say that Jay Z’s real issue was with their other partner, Kareem “Biggs” Burke. Dame stated that,“The reason Roc-A-Fella Records broke up in the first place was ’cause he didn’t want to break bread with Biggs no more,” Dash explains in the clip. “I was like, ‘Yo, we could start something different,’ but I can’t do that to Biggs. He didn’t want Biggs to be a part of it anymore. That’s what happened.”
Dame Dash continued, “They weren’t speaking for like two years and no one knew, though. I don’t know why they would want to devalue my third — I don’t get it.”
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3) THE LYOR COHEN INFLUENCE
Dame Dash has made accusations that Lyor Cohen, then president of Def Jam, and then co-president of the Island Def Jam Music Group played a role in the break up of Rocafella Records. Allegedly Dame Dash was furious that Lyor Cohen had made Jay Z and offer to buyout his partner’s stake in Rocafella that would in turn put Jay Z in charge of Rocafella.
4) WHILE JAY Z WAS ON EUROPEAN VACATION/TOUR
While Jay Z was on vacation and on tour in Europe it is alleged that Dame Dash made decisions without consulting Jay Z. Some of those decisions included promoting Cam’ron and Beanie Sigel to vice president of Rocafella.
It is also alleged that Jay Z was not happy about Dame Dash shooting the movie, Death Of A Dynasty (2003). It’s a fictionalized movie of Jay Z and Dame Dash’s partnership, with actors playing them both. This was unsettling for Jay Z.
5) JAY Z’S RETIREMENT
First of all, there was the alleged release of Jay Z’s final album, The Black Album (2003). After Jay Z’s alleged final album, it was made public that he accepted the job as the CEO and President of Def Jam Recordings and that The Island Def Jam Music Group bought the remaining 50% stake in Rocafella Records that it did not own already.
This move was one that completely contradicted the core founding principles of Rocafella Records as an independent label that partnered with Def Jam. Now they were no longer partners with Def Jam, but owned by Def Jam, who at the time was merged into The Island Def Jam Music Group by Universal Music Group.
THE ROCAFELLA RECORDS BREAK UP
The Island Def Jam Music already owned 50% shares of Rocafella Records when they partnered with Rocafella in 1997, then under Def Jam Recordings, and with the purchase of the remaining 50% in the 2004 deal for $10 million, Dame Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke were forced out of the label.
With that said, the break up between Dame Dash, Jay Z and Kareem “Biggs” Burke officially occurred when the trio sold their 50% stake in Rocafella Records to The Island Def Jam Music Group.
JAY Z TAKEOVER
Soon after, a bidding war for Jay-Z’s contract began, and L.A Reid, then chairman and CEO of Def Jam, appointed Jay-Z president of Def Jam on December 8, 2004. As president, Jay Z retained control of the Roc and his masters and his two former partners were ousted.
As we saw in this blog series, friends can come together like brothers and strive for something much greater than themselves. Though the journey to build Rocafella wasn’t easy and met with many setbacks, we’re sure the founders wouldn’t have it any other way.
Maybe what the people who truly cheered for them wanted, was not for them to separate in the fashion that we believe they did. Decades of friendship dispensed, and for what? Will we ever truly know the reason(s) why? Even if we did, there would always be reasonable doubt.
And as always we like to close with a saying, quote or adage and today’s is from Kareem “Biggs” Burke: DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM PEOPLE WHO BRING OUT THE PERSON YOU’RE NOT TRYING TO BE ANYMORE.
Now, go forth and change the game!