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Q&A with Damon Dash

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Movie, music and clothing mogul Damon Dash talks to CNN about the businesses he is involved with.

CNN: When working with Jay-Z or Kanye West or any of those artists, do you look for musical ability or do you see their market potential or the whole package?

Dash: The whole package. I look at work ethic -- that's very important to me. I look at their intent. I look to see if this person is going to sell a record, is he going to lose his mind? Because I watch a lot of artists who lose their minds. They get addicted to being famous. They only want to be in a world where they are famous, they only want to hear positive things, but they're creative, they're artists. I don't like it. But I'm 35 and I really don't want to deal with it anymore. It's hard to appease an artist. Man, their perception of reality is a little different after they sell a couple of records. You watch somebody before they sell a record and then after, they're two different people. I like to say that I am the same person that I am or I was. Besides age, you know you get a little bit mature, but I don't think I am better. I accept somebody telling me that I am wrong.

CNN: Do you feel that is what happened with Jay-Z?

Dash: No, I don't want to speak on him. I think it speaks for itself.

CNN: How difficult has it been to establish your brand outside the U.S.?

Dash: It hasn't been difficult at all. I went to London for a week, and I was famous. I came back and I felt I was more relevant in London than I was here. The reason why is probably because I had Victoria Beckham do my Rocawear campaign and I did an album for her, but you'd be surprised. I don't think they'd ever seen anything like that before -- a guy from an urban community that can articulate his urban experience but also make it accessible to the rest of the world. I don't think they had seen that. You can call it arrogance, I call it confidence, but I think they also appreciated my confidence.

They couldn't believe I only wore my sneakers once. Well, that was a big deal. They just couldn't believe it -- I wear my sneakers once, I give them to charity. It's not like I throw them away.

There's a lot of different things in London, in France and in Germany, I think that if I could spend the time there, it would be easy to take it because it's not there. There's a void there for that.

CNN:. But the whole London experience didn't go as well as you might have hoped. Is that correct?

Dash: That wasn't on me. You know I thought I got more from it than they did but that's because of insecurities. Victoria was fine, but the people around her were just uncomfortable about her being around someone so urban, but I made a hit record, I still got the album and I still listen to it. Her record company went out of business. I knew it, based on the way they were acting. I didn't charge any money for the record, I charged like 10 or 20 grand. I did it as a favour and they were saying that I was charging all kinds of money. I said that these guys were trying to make some excuse for something that was just about to happen. I just did my job. It wasn't my fault. I wasn't getting her to do a bad job or anything bad, but I got a lot of exposure from it and I don't think it reflected negatively on me at all. Where people didn't know me at all, now I am a household name. And I was able to introduce my other brands (in the UK). I felt bad for Victoria. She went through a lot of scrutiny. She's the one who cares a lot more about what the press said. I couldn't care less. I thought it was a positive experience.

CNN: Tell me something that you think only a few people might know or that which might surprise people.

Dash: I think the extent of my family life would probably surprise people. I am out with my kids every weekend. Every chance I get I am with my children and I am out with them all. It really takes people by surprise to know that I am a day-to-day father. That's another thing about the music business that I don't understand. If you have kids at a certain point then how do you take care of them if you want to roll all the time? I am 35 and I didn't have time to start raising my children. For my first son, you know the first eight years of his life I was rarely able to be there every day and that affected him. When I first got him I had to cut his hair every time he came to me I had to take him shopping for clothes. I think my family life would shock people.

I don't know if anyone knows I am diabetic. I think the more influential I get because diabetes has become such a big thing in the Afro-American community I think it's important to let people know that it's OK to be diabetic and to know how to take care of it. There's a lot of misconceptions about it.

I think some people would be shocked to learn that I went to private school. And also that I am not ashamed of it. I used to play lacrosse. That bugs people out.

CNN: How do your businesses provide a bridge between different industries?

Dash: If you pick up WWD (fashion industry journal Women's Wear Daily), which is fashion, I'm there, and then you pick up Billboard (magazine), which is music, I'm there. You pick up Variety (magazine), I'm there. You know what I'm saying? And I just think it's important that people understand, because you'll be surprised from one industry to another that they're not aware what's going on in the other industry. So when I walk into the movie business and I start talking about fashion, they're like, you know, "Who's (American Vogue Editor-in-Chief) Anna Wintour, Who's (Vogue Editor-at-Large) Andre Leon Tally?" I can't believe that. I say '"You don't know Anna Wintour? You don't know Andre Leon Tally?" "You know Vogue?" and they say, "Oh, yeah, I know." Alright.

But then the same thing may go on with, you know, in the fashion business. They don't know what's going on in the music business. They don't know what's going on in the Variety. You know, things like that. You know what I mean? Except for the guys in pop culture that in the (New York) Post on page six. But to be relevant, in those trade magazines, it's about the real business. My name is going to be mentioned in every one of those.

Dash and his six-year-old daughter Ava, whose mother is his wife Rachel Roy.



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