It was early last week that Sizzla Kalonji received the call that hip hop mogul Damon Dash was in the island and needed to make that link. “Naturally, I opened up my house to him,” the Rastafarian artiste told Splash, in reference to his August Town-based studio/house, known as Judgement Yard.
“I have invited Damon to come to Jamaica on several occasions… I told him he should think of buying houses here, do some kind of investment in the island. After all, this is Jamaica and we are about music and playing our part in helping out the suffering people in our community…”
“I couldn’t come to Jamaica without seeing Sizzla,” Dash interjected, adding that he had a lot of respect for Sizzla both as an artiste and on a personal level. “And I’m here to build on that positive energy,” the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records (with Jay-Z and Kareem ‘Biggs’ Burke) declared.
The two go back musically and there is some history, but Dash’s visit to the island wasn’t really about music or any contract signing with the deejay, although they are currently in production for a music video for Sizzla’s soon-to-be-released single, Children Suffering. His Jamaican sojourn comes under the topic “other business”.
Dash, now that he has finally made the Jamaican connection, says he is enthralled by what he has seen, and his mission here is many and varied. Think documentaries, music videos and establishing a television network here in Jamaica.
“The wind blew me here,” Dash said with a boyish smile, but he wasn’t trying to be funny. “I pride myself on being an innovator and I want to come here first… before everybody else catches on and realises that Jamaica is the place to be,” he said.
“I have a lot of ideas that involve harnessing the synergy between sports and music. We want to do everybody — from Bob Marley to Lennox Lewis to Usain Bolt. It’s all about Jamaica,” explained Dash, who brought along an entire film crew and a female rock star as part of his entourage. He was also involved in filming the recently concluded Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival in Trelawny as this will form some of the content for his television network.
Dash’s forays into film, both under the Roc-A-Fella Films banner and later under the Dash Film banner, have resulted in at least one critically acclaimed film — The Woodsman starring Kevin Bacon and Mos Def — and another well-received film, Paid in Full, starring Mekhi Phifer.
In late 2004, Dash sold his interest in Roc-A-Fella to parent company Island Def Jam Records for $10 million, and founded the Dame Dash Music Group as a new venture with the senior record company. Dash sold his stake in Rocawear for $22 million to former partner, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.
As a film-maker, he sees potential in Jamaica and is eager to capture the synergy between music and sport. Among the plans is a documentary on Usain Bolt, called Yellow Yams.
“I visited Bolt’s father and it was such a great experience. Actually, the deeper you go into Jamaica, the safer you feel and this is contrary to what you hear,” Damon Dash said.
He spoke with relish about sampling yellow yams straight from the senior Mr Bolt’s yam hill. “I’m not sure if it was the first time I was eating yellow yam, but it was the first time that I was actually aware of what I was eating,” he explained.
And another of his food discoveries in Jamaica was otaheti apples. “I never even knew this apple existed,” he said. “It is just great,” he enthused.