The Beat Goes On
Vital stats: Damon Dash, 34
2005 projected sales: Clothing line Rocawear alone makes $350 million annually.
Music prodigies: Dash laid the foundation for his empire a decade ago when he, burgeoning rapper Jay-Z and Kareem "Biggs" Burke decided to create Roc-A-Fella Records after other record companies wouldn't give Jay-Z a chance. Roc-A-Fella's reputation as being bigger and better than the majors, as well as its support for nontraditional artists and music, helped the label grow a roster of rap all-stars. (The partners sold Roc-A-Fella to Island Def Jam in late 2004.)
Clear intentions: Following up with hip-hop label Rocawear, Dash launched all subsequent ventures--boxing promotion, films, an urban lifestyle magazine, watches, premium vodka and a line of MP3 players, to name a few--with quality in mind. Why such diversification? "We don't want to be known as just being good [in the urban market]," Dash explains. "We want to be good, period--to be accessible to everybody."
Mix master: Dash's days growing up in New York City's Harlem neighborhood and going to a private school downtown taught him how to travel in both circles; now he migrates effortlessly between hip-hop studios and big-business boardrooms. "I learned honor, integrity and survival on the street. Once you apply that in the corporate world, you're unstoppable."
Positive reinforcement: "Everything I've tried to do, no one wanted to give me the opportunity to do, so I had to do it my own way," Dash says. His advice for up-and-coming rule breakers: "Don't accept no for an answer. The more success you have, the more problems will come your way--be prepared for that. And be as honest as possible. I don't believe a negative individual can have the success he wants and be happy with it."