With three directing credits 2002s Paper Soldiers (co-directed with David Daniel), 2003s Death of a Dynasty and the just-out State Property 2 Dash is becoming a force in the urban-film genre. He also has acted in a handful of pictures, including SP 2, and served as a producer and executive producer on several titles, among them last years critically lauded Kevin Bacon starrer, The Woodsman.
So how does a guy find time to make films while he runs his own eponymous music label, a management concern for boxers, a shoe company, a brand of watches and with his ex-Roc-A-Fella Records partner, rapper Jay-Z the Rocawear clothing line and Armadale Vodka?
"Ive just got to make the time," Dash responds, on the phone from his office in New York. "There are 24 hours in a day and I just try to use all 24 hours of it. ... Theres just no sleeping a lot of times. Ive got a lot of energy for some reason I think its just because everything I do I really love. I would do it for free. It doesnt feel like work."
In State Property 2, Dash once again appears as Dame, a softspoken, crazy crime lord, a role he introduced in 2002s State Property. Beanie Sigel, the jailed rapper who records for the Damon Dash Music Group, stars as Beans, a Philadelphia drug dealer, in the gritty, violent, low-budget drama. (Set in Philly, the $2 million production was mostly shot in New York.) Freeway, Victor N.O.R.E. Santiago and Michael Bentt also star in the R-rated release, which includes cameos by Mariah Carey and the recently deceased Dash recording artist Ol Dirty Bastard.
"Im the kind of guy that, if I see something and I think it can be done better, then I take matters into my own hands," the Harlem native explains. "As far as urban movies go, Ive always watched (them), and I knew for a fact that I could do it better. Just because Ive had way more actual experience in the kind of environment that those movies deal with. I try to pay attention to details, subtle details.
"I always thought that if I had the opportunity, I could make a better movie, especially within the urban demographic."
And Dash is the kind of guy who makes his own opportunities. SP 2 is full of product placement for State Property and Rocawear clothes and Armadale Vodka. It also serves as a promotional vehicle for Dashs roster of artists.
"Theres a lot going on there, but they all relate," says the one-man synergist. "State Property 2 is, one, a good movie ... and, two, State Property is also a clothing line that we have. Its also (the name of) a rap group that we have, and then we also get to play our music from the ... other artists. Every brand that I have is subtly in the movie.
"So, its advantageous for all my different brands. As Im directing the movie, Im also working for every other one of my companies."
Dash isnt shy about citing influences. If SP 2 evokes memories of Scarface (the Brian De Palma version) and Martin Scorseses GoodFellas, thats no mistake.
"For camera movement, I like Scorsese," says Dash, 33. "And specifically, with State Property 2, I was influenced by a lot of different movies, like Snatch and Requiem for a Dream and City of God. ...
"I didnt go to film school, so I have to say that a lot of my style as a moviemaker is from me just watching, just picking up from what I like. ... And then its also very challenging working with these small budgets, you know. It takes a lot of work. And the more work you put in something, the more you have a vested feeling in it.
"I feel like I have a bond with independent filmmakers. I can understand the struggle," says Dash, who acknowledges that unlike many of those auteurs, he has other businesses to fall back on. "They go really all-out. I have an admiration for their passion for the art of filming."
© 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.