nu nu america
issue o n e
nu issue o n e
a chronology of the past year of damon dashâ€™s new media enterprise, from conception to birth, america nu represents the struggle to break conformity & redefine a universal lifestyle. this publication is an outlook of the creative collective that is now dd172
america nu Chairman, Publisher Damon Dash Editor-in-Chief Raquel M. Horn Editor-in-Chief McKenzie Eddy Assistant to the Editors-In-Chief Arielle Summers Creative Director RONIN/SS Art Director David Barnett Fashion Director Erin Fetherston Film Editors Coodie Simmons, Chike Ozah Featured Artist Isaac Fortoul
Contributing Writers Anicee Gaddis, Fleur MacDonald, Nemira Gasinuas, Gemma Ward, Mikaela Gauer Contributing Photographers Aeric Meredith-Goujon, Coodie Simmons, Chike Ozah, Denis Michael, Jonah Schwartz, John Peets, Marisa Crawford, Raquel M. Horn, Sam Bassett, Michael Sterling Eaton, Evan C. Brockett, Arielle Bobb-Willis, Sarah Roberts Hale Contributing Designers Andy Li, Sam Owens, Mike Molfetas, David Barnett, RONIN/SS, Raquel M. Horn, Salehe Bembury, David Chang, William Covintree Special Thanks DD172 Family
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featured artist I
saac Fortoul is an exponent of the underground art scene emerging from the streets of urban America. He humorously denounces the absurdity of routine life imposed upon us by the powers that be and then juxtaposes it with his view of the sacredness of everything that is. A young artist seasoned by years of dedication to the fine arts, Fortoul has a background in graphic art and illustration. His unique style is receiving recognition and his work is highly sought out by the art community.
DEEP IN DASH COUNTRY From Harlem to Woodstock, Damon Dash forges his brave new sound
america nu | 15
Photography_Michael Sterling Eaton
always thought we were rock stars at Roc-A-Fella because we did so much against the grain,” says Dash. “Take a look at Mos, he’s not doing that Hollywood shuffle. It’s more about the attitude.”
This might be my last hurrah,” Damon Dash says, standing at the head of the table with his hooded gaze cocked to one side. “I’m gonna throw everything in…then I’m gonna leave ya’ll and go get high.” The words register with each of the 20plus guests assembled around a king-size table at Mr. Chow’s in Tribeca. In the midst of a change of guard, a divorce settlement with Rachel Roy and a tumultuous sea of gossip, they say Dash is in a state of indeterminate freefall. They say he hasn’t bounced back since the seminal Roc-A-Fella split. They say he’s washed up, bled through, a body hung out to dry. “I’m supposed to be such a hated cat but the people that hate me don’t have any credibility,” he tells me later that evening. “They just hate me because I won’t accept them, in my world.” Looking around at the assorted dinner guests of models, agency reps, industry vets, and a lively-tongued staff of photographers, A&Rs, and new music talent, you get the feeling you’ve been invited to Henry VIII’s comeback coronation.
t age 38, with four kids, and two love stories on record, Dash looks far from broke and busted. If anything, he bears all the marks of the crafty trailblazer from his earlier hip hop days with the telltale grin that is as intelligent as it is provocative. As far as his financial spreadsheet is concerned, he’s deeper in the black than the red. He’s in the process of buying a new office on Tribeca’s Duane Street, possibly a golf course in upstate New York and is considering adding a residential recording studio in Woodstock to his portfolio; in the interim, he’s renting a home there, complete with a working farm, where he and his staff spend many a weekend recording and brainstorming.
ash’s top priority and most time-consuming endeavors are the launch of his Creative Control independent TV station, his radio station, Blakroc Radio, Blakroc artists’ collective, and a stable of indie bands otherwise known as Camp Bluerock. Publicly, Dash is pulling all his old weight as a trainspotter and purveyor of the next wave of sound. Privately, he’s layering his extant Harlem swagger with a healthy new attitude of elevation; yoga, diet and kids are on par with appreciating beautiful women. It’s almost as if the seasoned mogul is experiencing a surge of enlightenment, as if hip hop is joining ranks with the hippies, as if Harlem is heading upstate. All in all, Dash is far from freefall. If anything he’s been dipped in the fountain of reinvention and is preparing for a barricade style Act II. His last hurrah may just be his first true take-over.
art of Dash’s newfound lifeblood may be attributed to the company he’s been keeping. His one-year-old daughter, Tallulah, is under his care most of the afternoons, and his tenyear-old Ava is often on his other arm. An entourage of young creatives occupy his Tribeca loft like a network of street team bougainvillea, interweaving and intersecting ideas as fluidly as nature’s verse. By day, their boss is a multi-tasking machine – at the studio, at the US Open, at designer Erin Fetherston’s runway show, on the laptop, en route to Woodstock – whose veteranship as a sonic visionary and self-made talent scout is at full tilt. By night, he’s out playing ping-pong at his favorite nightclub, Spin, defying the rumors and keeping an eye out for new voices. His twenty-four hour calling is the promotion of his Blakroc movement – a commune-style citystate of some of the most talented rappers in the game sharing space with the fast-rising meta rock duo The Black Keys. Although Dash claims to be the quintessential homebody whose first thought every morning is to check his blood sugar level (he’s diabetic), it’s hard to tell when and if he actually sleeps.
12:31am Williamsburg, Brooklyn
n Friday night, during the height of fashion week, Dash meets Mos Def back at his loft, post dinner, to roll to a show at the Gramercy Hotel’s Rose Bar. During the ride, Mos introduces himself – “Hi, I’m Dante. Are you Brazilian?” – and asks the driver to put on some music. “Pure Heart”, a new track from the Blakroc debut album, comes up – it’s Mos doing Mos; spitting a tight, totemic aria over shimmering hi-hats and backing guitar riffs. Cooing to his own internal modulation, he fashions his voice into a one-man orchestra.
s the drive continues and the two-man camera crew, Coodie and Chike, begin filming, Dash takes up the thread of what seems to be an ongoing conversation. “So what’s up with the show?” he asks. “The thing is,” Mos says, looking reflectively at the West 4th Street smoke shops we’re coasting past, “the thing that has kept me from going hard into comedy is that I always wanted to be taken seriously.” He continues, “Me and Chappelle, one week on Broadway. Stand-up is just public speaking, you know, it’s just talking to the people.” The cameras are still rolling but everyone’s indifferent to the lens now. Mos is explaining the premise for a television series he pitched to HBO. “Young dude, forensics professor, his father is NYPD. He’s also a weed head but not just any weed head…he’s like a highly functional one…” “Like me,” Dash smiles, sinking deeper into his seat. Mos lowers his chin, the boyish grin fading just as quickly as it appears. “Now they have this show called ‘Bored to Death’. I might have to litigate.”
e arrive at the Gramercy Hotel, amble to the front of the line, and crack the velvet rope. “You got cameras with you tonight?” the doorman asks. Dash nods and motions to Chike who is trailing him closely like a shadow. We enter and cut across the lobby, stopping near the elevator bank to go hang out with the band pre-show. Mos gets a phone call and disappears into a curtained corner. He keeps himself semi-invisible for the rest of the night.
ash is here to see The Black Keys, the rockers from Akron, Ohio – also home to legendary baller LeBron James – who form the central inset of the Blakroc crown. Says Dash, “Pat just activates the drums like he’s possessed. And fuckin’ Dan with that guitar, it’s like his weapon. It’s like his machine gun.” The Black Keys are big; they have six albums to date, including the Dangermouse produced Attack and Release, and their track “I’ll Be Your Man” is the theme song for the new HBO series “Hung”. The Blakroc project may be bigger.
ndeed, the duo’s set that night turns out to be something on par with a fireside rave channeling Led Zeppelin, Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits. Dan Auerbach, the guitarist-vocalist, is immensely gifted at shooting lyrical knives and guitar-strung arrows. Patrick Carney, the drummer, is in fact rhythmically “possessed.” Watching them perform conjures up two shadows crossing paths with Muddy Waters the night he made his Delta Blues deal with the Devil. The onlookers of globalistas, socialistas and industry dons appear to experience a shared moment of awakening during the song, “Strange Times.”
I look at it like it’s just good music,” Dash reflects on his way to the Gramercy Hotel later that night, “I grew up listening to everything from Z100 to Kiss, you know. There was The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix. Me going to boarding school, and hanging out downtown a lot, that’s where I got it… I just always appreciated that rock & roll is a lifestyle.”
e got turned on to The Black Keys, via his right and left hand A&Rs, McKenzie Eddy and Raquel “Rocky” Horn; McKenzie is also lead vocalist for the indie group Voodoo Farm and Rocky is Dash’s official photographer. Planning to attend a show in February to celebrate Rocky’s birthday, Dash, incredulous that he couldn’t get a ticket, became intrigued with the band. Soon after, Dash invited The Keys for a studio session with his longtime friend, hip hop artist Jim Jones. “The Keys became like my theme song,” Dash says with conviction. “I had them on instant replay.” He didn’t see them perform a live set until a few months later, when he traveled to Kentucky in one of his client’s private jets for a gig. After the live show, he became addicted to the band’s music. “I always thought we were rock stars at Roc-A-Fella because we did so much against the grain,” says Dash. “Take a look at Mos, he’s not doing that Hollywood shuffle. It’s more about the attitude.”
fter the show, Dash and Auerbach sit cross-legged on the carpet in a private hotel suite and talk with the capriciousness of teenagers who’ve just been out joyriding. Carney is apparently decompressing elsewhere in private. Once a small contingent of models join the two-man pow-wow, cherry-flavored lollipops are passed around to complement the various Jack Daniels, Red Bull and Amstel Light concoctions. Dash is talking to a young woman of mixed Korean-Australian heritage who is wearing a calfskin leather jacket and black leggings with stiletto boots. He’s asking her what she thinks of 19-year-old model Chanel Iman: “People start screaming at the airport when she lands,” he says, recalling the Mr. Chow’s dinner conversation with Chanel and her mother China from earlier that evening. “She’s like the Elvis of Korea.” A
“It wasn’t about money. It was about desire. The Keys hold that much credibility. It was like being on a music pill,” Dash sounds genuinely hyped, “like being on a music drug.” few minutes later, Dash is confessing that he feels funny about doing the downward dog pose as part of his new yoga practice. “Does that ever happen to you?” he asks no one in particular. “No,” the model replies, “not really.”
It’s about good taste,” Dash tells me, “it’s about an aesthetic. And the thing about taste is if you don’t have it, you don’t know you don’t have it, and you don’t appreciate being told so.” He says he intended to shift his focus from music to fashion when Jones, pre The Keys session, came to him in search of insight. Says Dash, “He’s always been a stand-up guy; I’ve known him since he was eight, from Harlem, so I respect him. I always thought he should be a rock star anyway. I was looking for an angle.” With the profit margins of the music industry on a steady decline, Dash had to come up with a renaissance approach to generate revenue. His muse arrived in the form of a coalescence – rock and rap packaged with a fresh attitude and signature aesthetic; a.k.a the birth of a new cool following the Roc-A-Fella dynasty’s historic rupture.
he Blakroc list of tribesmen – Mos Def, Raekwon, RZA, Jim Jones, Billy Danze, Q-Tip, Nikki Wray, the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ludacris, Noe, Pharoahe Monch, The Black Keys – reads like a mixed brigade of hip hop’s grassroots spitters, hot-weather geniuses and comeback kids: the singular and single-minded flame throwers at a time when hip hop’s moment of self-crisis is doing a pendular tango on a pool of thinning ice.
ccording to Dash, “I wanted this project to happen because I wanted to love rap again.” According to Monch, “The Black Keys are the truth.” According to Raekwon, “The Blakroc project is brilliant acid.” Mos already knew of The Keys so he was down to collaborate from the beginning. As for the other artists, they were invited one by one with the line that is printed on Dash’s Blakroc T-shirts: “Do you ever fuck with rock & roll?”
ash’s confidence became contagious and with natural velocity Q-Tip, Ludacris and others signed up. “Pharoahe Monch never writes a record on the spot,” Dash divulges, “that was his first time.” When Dan asked about RZA, Dash made yet another call. “RZA was dope. I didn’t realize he was a genius like that, his chess game, his karate game, his movie game, he takes all that stuff real serious,” Dash says. “Raekwon too, I was impressed.” Everyone he called came through. “It wasn’t about money. It was about desire. The Keys hold that much credibility.” The session video on the Blakroc website makes it look like Woodstock pulled into midtown, caravanstyle, with a floodgate of personality balancing out intervals of mindful inspiration. “It was like being on a music pill,” Dash sounds genuinely hyped, “like being on a music drug.” *** he following evening, Saturday, feels like an adrenaline-fueled continuation of the previous evening’s rush. We meet at Santos for a Blk Jks show and Dash, who has built his reputation on spotting pure talent, inquires about the boy band from South Africa with their Hendrix-Soweto charm.
or the record, he was a big proponent of Brooklynites Citizen Cope and Alice Smith long before either artist was on the radar, and was heavily involved in getting Jamaican dancehall griot, Sizzla, onto the New York recording scene. Theophilus London, the BrooklynTrinidadian new wave prodigy, is up next, but Dash announces it’s time to bounce. He has to catch a Voodoo Farm show, one of the indie “psychedelic folk” groups that forms part of his unsigned talent roster Camp Bluerock.
omprised of a turntablist and guitarist, with Dash’s right hand McKenzie on lead vocals, the Farm proceeds to rally the crowd at Arlene’s Grocery into a Beastie Boys style slamming frenzy, with ethereal vocals raining down from above. “The reason I like rock is because you go to a show, you have fun. There’s no security, no violence, no arguments,” Dash says over his shoulder. “Unfortunately with hip hop, you’ve gotta have guns, you’ve gotta have entourages.” In his white T, gold chain, and loose fitting jeans, he neither fits in nor stands out among the forest of hipster zealots. He occupies his own space, filling out his own periphery, creating his own force field of confidence and curiosity. After all his years of hustle, the creative alchemist looks so easy in his skin- he seems to be at home wherever he goes.
he highlight of the set arrives when McKenzie calls out for Dash. “Where is he? Get him up here…” A young Pharrell look-a-like dressed in a stylish argyle sweater and a side-stacked Yankees cap makes his way to the stage. This “Dash” is Darien, Damon’s nephew and protégé. His stage manner is airtight and his vocal style seems sick, only the volume is lost in an unchecked mic. The crowd watches
a mute solider holding his heart in his hands. As it turns out this is young Darien’s first time in front of a crowd. “Mic check,” Dash mutters. “Never forget your mic check kid…”
ongtime industry pathfinder Russell Simmons told New York magazine “Jay-Z came from Damon’s imagination. The man is a visionary.” When asked if he agrees, Dash nods but is distracted by a thought. Seconds later, he picks up the thread. “Russell is the godfather, he’s ill, he’s the guy I always wanted to be. He’s very peaceful. He’s enjoying his life. I always respected the fact that after he got successful, he kept wearing his baseball cap.” Dash goes on to recount a scene from years earlier when he bumped into Simmons at a club and brought him a bottle of Cristal. “I said, ‘I’m comin for your spot.’ And he was like, ‘I don’t drink but I’m gonna drink with you tonight.’”
ccording to Dash, hip hop is going through a “mid life” crisis and he’s doing his part to add a new bloodline and platform via the self-styled empire he’s been building since 2006. The new Dash anthology is composed of a record company, magazine, radio station
and independent television station featuring fashion, lifestyle and music segments from both inside and outside the Dash compound. There is no mention of feuds from his past being carried over, aside from a brief cloaked comment aimed at ex-partner, Jay-Z, “Have you ever had a girlfriend and you break up and she goes and tells all her friends that she broke up with you?” It’s a rhetorical question. Following a small window of silence, Dash looks up with his heavy-lidded stare and it’s hard to tell if he’s playing the wounded genius or the subdued gladiator poised to reclaim his share of the spoils. Post split-up of the Roc, he reportedly walked away with 20 million. In 2006, he claimed a net worth of 50 million.
People would be surprised at how family-oriented I am, how real I am, they think I’m rude and arrogant,” Dash says, in a tone of pugilistic chagrin. While he was running the Roc-A-Fella dynasty, he was also raising his son, Boogie. “But no one can deny that Damon makes people rich,” he continues. “Look at who was around me, Jay, Kanye…” As a testament to this theory, Jay-Z and Kanye West, both of whom Dash signed while presiding as CEO of Roc-A-Fella, became incredibly lucrative hip hop phenomena. Jay-Z released nine number one albums for which he pulled in four Grammys, while West sold 3 million units of his College Dropout debut.
Most recently, The Blueprint 3 became Jay-Z’s eleventh number one album, breaking the record he had previously shared with Elvis Presley.
ore than anything, Dash seems to be gleaning what he’s learned from the Roc-A-Fella experience, putting the dark cloud well behind him and beginning his own chapter with his own handpicked squad of mercenaries. In addition to his children, Rocky and McKenzie are by his side all day, every day. “When they came to work for me that was right when shit started happening,” Dash explains. “People were telling them, ‘You gotta bounce,’ people I trusted. But they never wavered once. They just laughed it off.”
he Voodoo Farm after party is held at Boucarou, a ground floor club on First Avenue and First Street, just two blocks north of Arlene’s. It’s raining as we crush into a van, and lots of laps are put to use, save for Dash’s. “I like to be squished on,” he complains, “why nobody gonna squish up on me?”
utside the club a posse of Blakroc jerseys wade into the downtown crowd. More than an entourage, the assembly of logoed chests looks like a friendly takeover. Darien’s band, The Heirs, are standing shoulder-to-shoulder, four deep, watching the scene unfold from curbside. “Where my shooters at?” Dash looks around for the cameras. “That’s an album cover right there.”
ottles of vodka and champagne follow us to the VIP room. The club is crowded, pumping. People eye the black T-shirts and move aside. Once drinks have been circulated, islands of small talk begin to rise to the surface. With everyone dressed in the same uniform, it feels like a tribal gathering of sorts, like soldiers relaxing away from the field before heading to the next theater of combat. I find myself asking about Darien and The Heirs. “I raised them,” Dash says in a clear-toned voice, “they’re my nephews. They got into some shit and I brought them back and said come hang out with me. They got swag and I wanted them to keep on it.”
oments later young Darien, “Little Dash”, as he’s called, announces he’s about to spit round two. There’s a rush for the door and everyone gathers around a corner banquet in the main room he’s straddling with mic in hand. Initially, a feeling of nervousness overshadows the anticipation. But this time around he’s a confident, gifted battle lyricist; his clothes dance over the lankiness of his frame; his baseball cap is flipped backwards to reveal a face ripe with expressiveness. The club crowd is feeling him. The Blakroc camp is feeling him. Damon is basking in his nephew’s prince-like glow. It’s a moment of baptism. It’s a moment of deliverance to a future calling. ***
All my swag came from my father,” Dash tells me three days later on a cloudy afternoon back at his loft. “From the way I dress, to the type of women I like, to me being funny. I wish I had known that while he was alive. He had cancer and that really scared me.” Dash’s father passed this summer. His mother died when he was fifteen. “And I was a Mama’s boy, you know, so that was always my worst nightmare that she would leave me and then she did.”
here are two more brothers, Bobby, who is 48, and Jeremy, who is 28. Doing the math, you realize that the Dash men evenly represent three generations, four actually, if you include Damon’s eldest son, Boogie, who is 18, and five if you consider his own father. “Dame will talk your ear off about my dad,” Jeremy told me in an earlier conversation. “We all had different mothers and I’m the one who really grew up with him.” He said the loss of his father is what brought the three brothers closer recently. “My brother is a one of a kind dude, completely his own person. We’ve been through some crazy shit, but I do love that man.”
hen asked how many times he’s been in love, Dash flashes a quizzical smile that shifts to a
deeper look of bereavement. “Next to my babies? Rachel, Aaliyah, that’s it.” Dash looks up at a wall of windows with two large-scale photographs of his soonto-be ex-wife Rachel Roy and the late Aaliyah leaning side by side. His marriage to the former was the abbreviated prelude to a new era. His relationship with the latter was, by most accounts, one of the hip hop love stories of the century. “Aaliyah,” Dash’s voice trails off, “I wasn’t prepared for that…that shit obliterated me.” In the pause that follows there is a quiet so resounding you can almost hear everyone’s heart beating. “There was a time when I couldn’t listen to any of her songs or watch any of her videos. I’d walk into a club they’d know not to play her music. Now, in times of doubt, I’ll hear her voice coming from somebody’s car stereo when I’m walking in the street and it’s like she’s still speaking to me.”
eemingly, Dash has no regrets about the women he’s chosen or been chosen by, despite the divorce papers, despite the untimely loss. Instead he speaks of the high points, of the accomplishments and partnerships formed without appearing to mask emotion. In fact, next to his children, he seems at his most genuine when he talks about the women in his life. “Look at Rachel,” he says, “she’s the flyest woman on the planet, the most beautiful and the best dressed.” Dash claims he’s fiercely proud of “moving up from Rocawear to Rachel.” Considering that the Rachel Roy line is a best seller at Macy’s, he may have a point. “The fact that an urban kid could build a company, turn it around, and sell it on the level of Donna Karan is not only an accomplishment for me, but for my culture.”
ash tunes out momentarily to stretch and check his iPhone. He’s lounging on a designer beanbag chair and his daughter, Ava, is sitting on a couch opposite watching him, as if she’s taking notes for a class. “There was a time with Rachel when we had to get dressed up every day,” Dash reminisces. “I became an accessory. I had to be recognized by Vogue and not Vibe. But I always pride myself on first experiences.” He checks his phone again and asks Rocky, who’s working on her MacBook in a corner, to confirm an appointment. Tuning back in, he explains that he sold half the Rachel Roy company to Jones New York and owns the remaining shares. “One has nothing to do without the other. Rachel, you know, we’re cool; she’s an amazing woman. I didn’t invest in her because she was my wife. I thought she had a dope sense of style and was an incredibly hard worker.”
scene from Saturday night’s after party flashes to mind: Dash is sitting alone on a couch. It’s getting late and people are starting to disperse when he motions for me to join him. “I’m in love with my children,” he says reflectively. “I have to be Mr. Mom because Rachel is so busy and I think that’s why I’m so happy.” We watch iPhone videos of his youngest daughter, Tallulah, at Rachel’s country house, walking on the beach, sitting on Dash’s lap laughing at the catch of
sunlight. It’s a tender, out-of-time interlude in a loud, packed club. The crowd evaporates. The music fades. The club disappears. You start to get the impression that Tallulah is her father’s center, his neutral zone, the sanctuary surrounding him.
ate one afternoon we’re discussing Barack Obama, Michael Jackson and Dash’s travels to Ghana and South Africa over hamburgers and coleslaw. “Africa is such a healthy continent. It’s where all the resources are,” Dash argues to himself. “The problem is the rest of the world has led Africa to believe that it needs the rest of the world to exist. But the rest of the world needs Africa, you understand what I’m saying, it makes no sense.” He pauses for a forkful of coleslaw. “But I feel like things are changing man… the truth is about to come out.” He takes a bite of his hamburger and casts a glance at his cameramen bowed over a computer screen behind him. “Look at Obama, he got rhythm, he got charisma, he got swag. He’s the most swaged dude up and down out there. And he changed the perception of America.” Dash looks over at Ava who is lost in her own reverie now. “War is the most barbaric thing in the world,” he continues. “We should be at place where we can work anything out. To me fighting is the weakest game and that’s coming from a person who likes to fight.” Dash finishes his lunch, toys with his iPhone and gets to his feet. “MJ was the greatest entertainer of all time which makes anything negative about him irrelevant. Michael Jackson…I never seen no shit like that.”
ust after five o’clock a video crew from the Mixtape Monster website arrives to film. Dash instructs Ava to get her sweater and moments later a group of twelve converge on the street outside his building. We walk to the new office on Hudson and Duane Street Dash wants to show his staff. He walks in front with Ava. They make a lovely portrait. She bears a striking resemblance to her mother Rachel. People recognize him on the sidewalk, including bespoke clothing designer Christopher Bevans whose low profile line adorns many a high profile heavyweight. A blend of wide-eyed wonderment and whispered asides trails us down the street; Dash is still a star, always has been. He’s casually comfortable in the spotlight, as much at home being filmed in the street with his daughter as he is blending into the shadows of the club. va is given the honors of turning the key to the new office, a mammoth structure whose exterior brings to mind a bank or a white collar prison, something with fortune and folly locked deep within its vaults. There’s a round of cheers followed by an awestruck moment of suspension as we enter. The interior space is an immense, three-story atelier of open, loft-style offices with a finished basement for a recording studio and some ping-pong tables. It speaks of luxury, power and artistry. It’s as if Orson Wells and Chuck Close got together and designed their own dream studio. There’s even a secret bat-cave style suite cloistered in between floors that looks directly over the street. “This is where ya’ll find me,” Dash sounds excited.
few weeks later, there would be a midnight shoot at the same address, now his official base of operations, with a retinue of fashion heads, film celebrities, local Tribeca influencers, and of course a contingent of curious young hangers-on. Equal parts Harlem house party and downtown champagne reception, you got the feeling you were wading in an ocean of Prince’s Pop Life, only this time it was Dash’s High Life, and it was not a music video, but rather a snapshot of the nightly grind. Captured by photographer Sam Bassett, who recently released a documentary on the glory days of the Chelsea Hotel, the collage of Dash, The Black Keys, Erin Fetherston and the entire evening’s entourage read like a tableau of the emerging and established world of Damon Dash. s we exit the soon-to-be-filled office space, Dash pauses in the doorway and asks that all the lights be turned off. A flutter of satisfaction ripples over his features as if to indicate that the comeback kid is already back, the takeover in motion. The death of a dynasty has simply made way for a new beginning. Now it’s up to the rest of them – the doubters, the critics, the naysayers – to catch up to Dash, to reinstate their credibility and gain acceptance in his world.
utside there is a celebrity-on-celebrity moment when well-known actor Robert De Niro appears on the sidewalk and folds Dash in
a full-body bear hug. They chat for an indefinite period while the film crew and Dash’s own posse of shooters capture the scene from various angles. Finally, Dash invites his friend back to the loft to look at his latest movie script. The entourage departs. The sun-spotted streets of Tribeca are reminiscent of a small Tuscan village, somewhere deep in Dash country, on the outskirts of the unexpected.
1:01am , Williamsburg, Brooklyn
â€œThe fact that an urban kid could build a company, turn it around and sell it on the level of Donna Karan is not only an accomplishment for me but for my culture.â€?
Photography_ Raquel Horn Jonah Schwartz Evan C. Brockett Sarah Roberts Hale Arielle Bobb-Willis
america nu | 29
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Photography_Raquel M. Horn
“It’s a runaway into my mind, into my diary and a chance to see the world through my eyes.” -CHANEL IMAN
ne half fashion legend, one half beauty icon, Chanel Iman’s name is synonymous with glamour. Whether channeling Grace Jones or Althea Gibson, it’s been three years since she started dominating magazine racks and winking on runways. Glamour is her namesake. She certainly lives up to it. International supermodel, protégé of Tyra Banks, girlfriend of rap star Tyga, and proud owner of Louis Dior, her maltese puppy, Chanel knows how to work it. And she’s only nineteen. So what do you get if you drop a glamour-puss and her friend in the middle of the countryside with only a camera and plain white cotton dress to work with? “A consummate professional,” according to Damon Dash. “As soon as she’d finished shooting, she came back, looked at the footage and photographs, took notes and figured out an angle. That’s exactly what I do when producing a movie. That girl works hard.” So not exactly The Simple Life. Rather, a stunning portfolio that captures Chanel how she wants to be captured: at her most natural, vibrant and creative. “I went with the flow – we just drove around, found little spots and started shooting.”
The shots are part of the visual for Chanel’s soon-to-be launched website: www.runaway.com. It’s her vision of an alternate version of a model’s reality. A rustic runaway from the haute couture catwalk, it’s one that snakes through the hay-laden barns, beyond the rolling hills and leafy woodlands of Damon’s country estate - and past a couple of goats. For Chanel, this is not wishful thinking, but a metaphor for genuine reflection: “It’s a runaway into my mind, into my diary, and a chance to see the world through my eyes, those of a top model.” The photographic reverie of escape is definitely not a cry for rescue. Chanel laughs, admitting happily: “I quite like my life!” For a young woman, she is - as she puts it - “hardworking, dedicated and independent” with the desire for personal control common in those who are successful: “I was taught to always do my best... when I have a passion for something, I have a passion for it, and I just want to get it done the way I want to get it done.” The backstage role she’s playing in the development of both her website and image is a case in point. With Chanel, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and Youtube TV on the go as well, this girl is not so much wearing brands as becoming one. Part of a new generation springing up in Woodstock, whose visions collide and collaborate; Chanel Iman, supermodel, producer and protégé is ready to take charge and show you something new.
Gemma Ward reveals what 17th century English renaissance theater means for America today. Words_Gemma Ward Illustration_Sam Owens
hakespeare’s Othello is a thought-provoking masterpiece – unsettling in violence, challenging in theme and masterfully complex in its ambiguous nature. Last fall, director Peter Sellars’ production of Othello presented by The Public Theater and LAByrinth Theater Company, set the tragedy in modern times, complete with Blackberry phones, a racially diverse cast, and a sparse and technical set. Sellars’ intention was to imagine what Othello would be in the age of Obama. Shakespeare’s work has always been able to transcend time, evidenced by the number of modern-day adaptations, both in film and on stage. Othello is a Moor, who, after escaping slavery, converts to Christianity, joins the army in Italy, and is eventually revered and valued for his military might. In Sellars’ production, Latino actor John Ortiz is cast as Othello to reflect the reality of today’s racially diverse landscape. This differs from the original text in which, Othello is a dark skinned male with a powerful position, surrounded by an all-white community. Desdemona, played with purity by the lovely Jessica Chastain, falls in love with Othello after hearing the numerous tales of his past battles with adversity. Othello and she wed in a secret union. Soon after the marriage, her father, along with her former suitor Rodorigo (Julian Acosta) and Othello’s aide Iago (Philip Seymour Hoffman) accuse Othello of unnatural means of seduction. When this proves false and Othello is summoned to captain an army in Cyprus against the Ottoman Empire, it is agreed that Desdemona must accompany Othello in order to avoid punishment. Iago, who has fought beside Othello in past wars, is bitter when the position that he covets is given to someone Iago believes is under qualified for the role. Bolstered by a rumor that his wife, Emilia, is sleeping with Othello, he weaves a web of manipulation that leads to the downfall of the newlywed Othello and Desdemona.
Ob ama and Sotomayor are just two more beacons of hope for that dream in the hearts of so many today – the dream of change, breaking free from stereotypes, and the fears of the past.
Sellars’ production brings to light a number of issues that are relevant throughout the course of history. In a world of deception, at what cost do we dig past pretenses to reach the truth? How would we view Iago if he were gay? How would we view Desdemona if she were in fact an adulteress? How would we view Emilia if she did not commit any adultery? How would we view Othello if he did? These questions – and the answers, can change the entire nature of the play. Obama and Sotomayor are just two more beacons of hope for that dream of change and breaking free from stereotypes and the fears of the past. Can we as a people change? Of course we can. It is part of our evolutionary biology that we adapt to suit our environment, and today’s surroundings are rapidly evolving. There is still the stagnant group of people who refuse to change. People who, like some of the negative characters in the play, Othello, ridicule and cast doubt into the minds of those intent upon revolutionizing society. People breed negativity in hopes of miring the reputations of our most noble modern characters. But it will be the deeds of the revolutionaries that will form their representation in the history books, and it will be in the hands and hearts of the generation that is coming of age now to record how change has affected us as a people. What remains in the end is the true nobility of holding on to your dignity among slander, whether on the stage or in everyday life, never allowing others to muddy your own understanding of yourself. And in this age of Obama, our own president is a true example of how to stand strong despite the naysayers, and all the while providing hope, dignity and reassurance to people of America.
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KARIN + RAOUL
DOING COMMON THINGS IN AN UNCOMMON WAY Created by Photographers Hassan Kinley, Cynthia K. Cortes, and Artist RONIN/SS, Karin + Raoul (www. karinandraoul.com) is a space for the cultivation of the personal, the mysterious, the sexy. K+R serves up sensual, adventurous, quality fashion, documentary, portrait photography and video, it’s a place where photographers from all over the world can connect. Karin + Raoul brings attention to the images, ideas and products that are stimulating to those of like sensibility. K+R puts into focus the creation of the work we feature—with profiles of our artists and models—all with the goal of offering insight into the process and experience of bringing the art into being. Karin + Raoul inspires. Experience it.
Words_Raoul Photography_Hassan Kinley
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11 tracks completed in 11 studio sessions with 11 of the best artists in hip-hop. Combine that with the Black Keys and you have one of the most exciting collaborative albums of the year. Curated by Damon Dash, this album “signifies the true artistry of music” bringing together artists in different genres for one unifying purpose... the “love of music.” photography_Jonah Schwartz, John Peets
Mos Def, Dan Auerbach
Nikki Wray, Dan Auerbach
Pat Carney, Damon Dash
Rza, Dan Auerbach
CoodIe Simmons & Chike Ozah are young, fresh and innovative filmmakers with an unstoppable creative vision. Words_Mikaela gauer Illustration_DAVID BARNETT
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t’s old news that Corporate America is struggling. The traditional media models of journalism, music, TV and film are disintegrating, taken over by a new wave of distribution via YouTube, ITunes, and The Huffington Post, just to name a few. Aspiring artists replace the media elite, leaving the record labels and PR firms in the dust. “The idea of Creative Control comes from our years of experience in dealing with corporations and agencies that have no artistic vision because they are run by left brained executives.” says Chike Ozah, one half of the online content label Creative Control. Chike and his partner Coodie Simmons met years ago, emerging on the scene with Kanye West’s “Through The Wire,” and developing critically-acclaimed content that has earned them Source Magazine’s Best Music Video of the Year award, along with recognition by Al Gore’s Current TV as one of the top 54 directors to watch. As an alternative to traditional television, Chike and Coodie produce and showcase engaging content through cutting edge films focusing on fashion, music, and art. Viewers are taken behind-the-scenes into the lives of recording artists like Mos Def and models like Chanel Iman. Below, Chike explains how he and Coodie teamed up with media mogul Dame Dash, his early days in film, and the concept of having complete creative control. AMERICA: How did your collaboration with Damon Dash come about? CHIKE: We were headed to Vermont - when I say we, I mean Dame, Bobby Eras and myself. At the time, we were working on a documentary with Mos Def on the punk group, DEATH. Weather conditions held us up at a random airport bar, which only served bar food, so Dame and I went off in search of a healthier option – McDonalds! On the walk to Mickey D’s, Dame told me about how he was bringing America magazine back, and how he wanted to do a video version of the magazine to cover all of
the editorial content – after all, content was king. I agreed and told Dame about some of the projects Coodie and I had been working on, in particular, our website CreativeControl. TV. Initially, we wanted an online platform to showcase our original content, but because we produce so much material, CreativeControl became a network for our content. So, of course with Dame you don’t need to do much explaining - after two words, he pretty much already knew where I was going with this, as if an extension of him just jumped into my head. With a straight face, Dame just said, “Okay. Let’s do it together.” I chuckled, only half taking him seriously, thinking to myself “This is just airport talk”. Dame was like, “Nah. I’m dead ass serious. Let’s do a network and call it America Nu.” I said, “Hell yeah, but let’s call it CreativeControl.TV”, since we had already started to build that network. So, it was at that moment that we officially sealed the deal verbally. As soon as we got back to the bar where Bobby was waiting for us, I ducked off to the bathroom to call Coodie and tell him what had just gone down – you know, I couldn’t let Dame see all that excitement. But I knew he was serious and I knew that the impact of our forces along with his forces would create something amazing. Coodie and I have a lot of history with Dame, starting back in the day with RocA-Fella as Coodie and I were responsible for Kanye’s first videos. We share a lot of similarities in life and business experiences that have brought us back together.
“It’s the only way you can truly express your vision without compromising the integrity of your work.” -CHIKE OZAH
which quickly became a Chicago favorite. The show was well ahead of its time, as it catered to the short attention span of America – like a bunch of Youtube clips strung together to form an hour of programming. The show focused on hip hop culture and lifestyle as Coodie and Sorge ran loose around the city of Chicago with a camera sneaking into concerts and celebrity parties stealing interviews. AMERICA: When did you first develop your interest in film? AMERICA: Why did you decide to call your brand Creative Control? CHIKE: I grew up in New Orleans and was always dabbling in art. Of course, I had the b-ball pipe dream, but my mother recognized my artistic talents at an early age so she constantly placed me in situations in order to develop that talent. I did some time at the Rhode Island School of Design for a summer program in high school before attending Savannah College of Art and Design. Then I moved to New York and worked at MTV for four years. At MTV, I was responsible for producing, directing and packaging original programming. It was the best job I ever had because of the level of talent that I was surrounded by. -AMERICA: How did you and Coodie meet? CHIKE: We met at MTV. We shared the same artistic vision, even though our backgrounds were different. Coodie is from Chicago – the wild 100’s to be specific. Coodie was interested in television from an early age and was involved in his high school program, which catered to the television production. Coodie and his boy, Danny Sorge, began their own public access show called Channel Zero
CHIKE: I believe it’s extremely important to have creative control because it’s the only way you can truly express your vision without compromising the integrity of your work – which can often happens when a third party is given control. The idea of Creative Control comes from our years of experience in dealing with corporations and agencies that have no artistic vision because they are run by left-brained executives. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with left-brained people, there is just something wrong with a left -brained person having creative control. It’s an oxymoron. That said, for years, Coodie and I worked on putting ourselves in a position to shoot what we wanted, how we wanted, so that at the end of the day, we can say that we are 100% responsible for what we put out. We have confidence that what we deliver will win every time – not in an arrogant way, just in a passionate way.
ALL STILLS COURTESY OF CREATIVECONTROL.TV
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a profile by F. Albert Herter
amous Class is based out of a converted fire station/tree house in West Williamsburg designed by the same 17-year old Swiss architects who did LeBron James’ signature Air Jordan-shaped puffy mansion in the suburbs of Cleveland. It’s been nothing but big decisions for the Famous Class family ever since taking occupancy in early 2010. “First of all, we realized that dogs can’t climb rope ladders, nor can they really use fire poles” says Cyrus Lubin, who lives with a team of Aleutian sled dogs and travels about the city on a customized rollerblade sled. “What a mess that was,” he chuckles as he cranks up the pancake machine. Just in time for our visit, the entire team has assembled for their weekly pancake prayer-meeting breakfast served up as always by chefs Willie Meismer and Paul St. Vincent X. “We got this idea from a Seinfeld episode,” explains Chef Paul. “You know, the one where Kramer gets his balls stuck in Cameron Diaz’s zipper and George invents a new recipe for pancakes. We figured we could try the same thing and it’s really been beautiful.”
After a brief, yet, uncomfortably violent tussle for first dibs, Jamie Ayers cedes pride of place to Mark D. Jack who piles a short stack of Mickey Mutant Mouse-shaped flapjacks on his plate. The much buzzed-about breakfast bacchanal is strictly by invitation only and features a sparkling guest-list. Only last week, rocker and TV personality Charlie Rose made a surprise appearance as special guest Leaky Lou. Today, however, the Famous Class team somberly absorbs the news that Sandra Bullock, is moments away from stepping into a starring role as Oozy Suzy, has abruptly left the treehouse complex following a dispute over her honorarium.
In response, the members of Darlings, Boogie Boarder, Tony Castles, Snakes Say Hisss, Tough Knuckles, Huxtables,and the California Chorus Revels Chorus share a moment of psionic bonding and channel a psychic spy satellite image of Tom Cruise to lead the assembled team members in a prayer to the Prime Sentinels. Merlyn, Soul Skinner, Troll Associates, and Ms. Bullock, all arch-enemies of the Famous Class crew, are cursed in turn before the feast begins. Bon Appetit!
BLUROC RECORDS + DD172 NEW YORK PRESENT
A Photo Essay by Jonah Schwartz
J ONAH A P A N
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Car Wash, New Orleans, 12:21pm
â€œNew Orleans this morning, New Yorking this evening.â€? america nu | 115
New Orleans, 1:03pm
â€˜80 El Camino, at the car wash, New Orleans, 1:20pm
Lil AL, Curren$y, 2:10pm
“End of tha Block” New Orleans 3:01pm
3:13pm, New Orleans
5:06pm, New Orleans
Louis Armstrong International Airport, New Orleans, 8:03pm
Stalley, Curren$y, BIG K.R.I.T at MTV NEWS, New York, 1:01pm
Under 100, 1:17am
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ART TEXT HEAVY H
e spends his time between two coasts, two countries, jet-setting back and forth between a small town nestled in the Kootney Mountains (population: 400) and one of the largest metropolises in the world (population: 8.4 million). It’s in New York City, over 3,000 miles from Winlaw, British Columbia, that I first met the artist Graham Gillmore in Damon’s Tribeca art gallery, where the walls are lined with a stunning selection of Gillmore’s latest work. His paintings are noticeably geometric – block lettering strung together on a canvas, layered with text, textures and splashes of color. Whether it is a single letter, simple phrase or combination of textual elements, the alphabet serves as a visual structure in itself, while also possessing the potential of dialogue. Gillmore is a linguistic, and his fascination with the semantics and structure of language is clearly evident throughout his body of work. I sat down with Gillmore to gain insight into his process as an artist and his contemporary take on the power of language through art.
U: How has your environment played a role in the development of your palette and creation of your artwork? I became interested in language, specifically the ‘visible word’ almost twenty years ago as an alternative to and a reaction against the figurative representation going on at the time. During my formative years
as an artist in New York in the mid 80’s, I was influenced by the Neo-expressionist painters coming out of Germany, and then American painters who took the ball from there.
U: Your artwork is heavily text-based. What is the narrative or subtext behind your work?
Tired of the academic exercise of trying to figure out how to interpret what ‘things’ look like within the context of painting, (that’s for the photographers) I found some potential space by substituting representational images for words , allowing me to still maintain a sense of narrative, while operating within an abstract style. A common subtext underlying my recent work has been how we, as social beings, measure ourselves, locate ourselves, realize ourselves - within a schizophrenic culture, and the inherent problems confronting us in the fragmented experience of this moment. We spend our days bouncing off the walls of others, looking for meaning. There is so much traffic, it is difficult to get where you think you are going. We make things up, we fool ourselves. We want to be good lovers. We connect and disconnect; we picnic on examination tables. Which reminds me of a new piece I have been working on. Superimposed on top of a series of mug shots from Atlanta, Ga., from the early 60’s is the phrase ‘ The Unexamined Life On Demand’ - a caption borrowed from a New Yorker Magazine comic. As you know, the ‘Unexamined Life’ is not worth living.
U: Some of your work is based on a recent personal struggle. Can you tell us a bit about that and what has come out of it as a result?
Some of my source material has evolved out of my experience as an ‘alienated’ parent. Without getting into the gory details, I will just say that our family court system, namely custody cases, are terribly flawed, and not in the best interests of the child. I haven’t seen my son, nor have I been permitted to contact him for three years now. I am speaking specifically of the injustices against fathers who have lost their children. I believe those subjects in the mug shots I mentioned had more access to their sons and daughters from jail than many alienated parents today. I am thinking of doing a show titled “Trophy Child.” It will be a group show.
U: Describe the significance of breaking down literary elements into a visual representation. What is your process?
Another recent painting consists of excerpts from a court ordered personal psychological assessment called ‘My Personal Progress Report’. In it, I am described as having “ ...some narcissistic tendencies, including an inflated sense of self worth...” but with “...good internal consistency and temporal stability...!” Set against washes of primary colors, my words like their meanings, are multi-dimensional; routered into board, often obscured or unevenly spaced, they are meant to be unstable- unsettling- simultaneously addressing and rebuffing the viewer. Phrases such as “Your Swollen Overtures Undermine My Shrink” , or a play on Walter Benjamin’s famous essay titled “The Work Of Art In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction” turned on its head to read “The Art Of Work In The Age Of Reproductive Mechanics.” These paintings attempt to reconstruct past experience truthfully, sincerely, while maintaining an allegiance to and /or custody over potential backfires, misinterpretations and spin-offs. I try to lead the viewer straight to the bittersweet moment of indecision around which all creative acts inevitably pivot.
Photos_Words_Evan C. Brockett
LOOK The first time I looked up this spring I opened up a can of worms with my camera, all over again. I feel people don’t look directly up enough. How rare is it that someone would bring up an object that is directly above their head unless it was there for a reason? Why shouldn’t they?The object is just as real as you and I . That ‘s why I started to point my camera straight up more often There’s more inspiration then you think just about anywhere you are if you just “Look Up.”
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time: 4:59AM place: DD172 watch: tiret who: curren$y
photography_michael sterling eaton
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Damon, The Forbidden City, Beijing 2:37 PM
china dd172 goes to
Photos: Raquel M. Horn, Jonah Schwartz
Sexy Beijing, Damon, DJ Wordy sit next to a local and a baby who think he is a famous basketball star. Beijing 3:31pm
DJ Wordy and Goose, Beijing 4:21 PM
Damon and DJ Wordy, Ping Pong match Beijing 5:23 PM
Bao Bao, Shanghai 11:49 PM
Hedgehog, D22, Beijing 1:32 AM
Hedgehog, D22, Beijing 1:41 AM
Hedgehog, D22, Beijing 1:50 AM
Damon and Rebuilding The Rights of Statues, Club Mao, Shanghai 2:12 AM
McKenzie, Jiao Dao Kou, Beijing 11:12 PM
Dance Studio, Shanghai, 12:13am
Damonâ€™s birthday at Hotel G, McKenzie on piano, 8:21pm
Party guests with Alex at Hotel G, 1:09am
MC Yan, DJ Prepare, Magic, Hong Kong, 6:21p,m
MC Yan, Hong Kong home, 4:14pm
HANDPRINTED IN NEW YORK CITY AT DD172 These garments have been designed and screen - printed by hand in New York City at the DD172 Color Bar. We use only American Apparel blanks in the production of our shirts. Sold at www. dd172newyork.com
FORTOUL PRESENTS OPENING
JEN & JESSICA
TOUCH & ALAINA
JAZZ & DAME
HEATHER GARCON & BOBBY CASTENADA
“Where were you?”
DAMON DASH & ERIN FETHERSTON
KARIN + RAOUL OPENING
JOON, BRYAN PROCELL, JONAH SCHWARTZ
RUGZ D BEWLER, SKIBEATZ, STALLEY & TABI BONNEY GRAMERCY THEATRE
-photos by david chang
RAVEN,BROOK & ROCKY
the blakroc camaro
THE DASH GALLERY “I’m looking for artists who represent some kind of meaning or lifestyle” -Damon Dash
172 DUANE ST NEW YORK CITY