Tenth anniversaries usually call for either aluminum or tin gifts, but in the case of Roc-A-Fella Records' 10th anniversary, platinum may be more appropriate.
The label, founded by CEOs Damon Dash, Jay-Z and Kareem "Biggs" Burke in 1995, celebrated 10 years of making hits Wednesday night with the Roc-A-Fella 10th Anniversary Kick-Off at New York University's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
For the occasion, Dash sat down with professor/journalist Jason King for an in-depth conversation about the birth and growth of the Roc, his relationship with Jay-Z and the future of the label since its franchise player has supposedly retired.
"Jay has been retiring since [his debut] Reasonable Doubt," Dash said. "So, I have been preparing for that since then. We have 21 acts signed to Roc-A-Fella, so we're ready. Also, I am expanding beyond hip-hop; we have R&B and rock acts now, too."
Dash also shared a candid story about how he and Jay-Z met, thanks, in part, to a pair of Nike Air sneakers. "[Hip-hop DJ/ current Roc-A-Fella executive] Clark Kent kept telling me there was this guy I needed to get with named Jay-Z. So I went to Brooklyn to meet Jay at Fresh Gordon's studio, and that was big, because back then cats from Harlem didn't go to Brooklyn. When I met dude the first thing that I noticed was that he was wearing a pair of Nike Airs and that was something that only cats from Harlem were into, and he was wearing them right — he had them laced right and everything. That's when I knew he was a cool dude. We became friends from there."
While Roc-A-Fella started out solely as a record label, the Roc empire has since grown to include Rocawear and State Property clothing, Armadale Vodka, America magazine and Roc-A-Fella Films. Dash also talked up two of his newest endeavors — his acquisition of the Pro-Keds shoe company, through which he will launch Team Roc sneakers, and the Rocbox digital music player (see "Damon Dash Breaks Into The Electronics Market With The Rocbox").
"We wanted to take a bite out of Apple, so to speak," Dash said of the Rocbox. "We wanted to get some of that iPod money. We have to capitalize off of every opportunity.
"Just because I am an urban individual, I don't have to do just urban things," he added of the company's diverse portfolio.
Sponsored by the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, the two-hour event included performances from Roc-A-Fella artists Rell and Nicole Wray as well as a panel discussion with several Roc executives.