When abiding by the laws of the streets, honor reigns supreme. However, despite being one of the most important g-codes to live by, many people fail as soon as their commitment to that rule of the game is tested. “There’s a lot of morals and principles that people don’t abide by that I’m not used to,” says Dame Dash, a week after the release of his latest film, Honor Up.
Written, produced and directed by Dash - who also stars in the movie based on his own come-up story - Honor Up provides more than an interesting storyline for viewers. Part of the mogul’s vision behind it has been for it to deliver the teachings bestowed upon him by his OG.
“I’m always going to make my morals and principals dictate my actions, and not a bag of money, not fame, not fortune - none of that,” he said. “I’m always going to stick to my principals and this movie is going to teach you exactly the way I was taught these very principals.”
Starring Cam’Ron and crediting Kanye West as an executive producer, Honor Up allowed Dash to not only get his point across, but to also reconnect with a few old friends. The reunion of the former Roc boys served as a reminder for Dame that the codes of conduct that have continued to guide him throughout his life and career are still prevalent with others.
To Dame’s surprise, Yeezy designed the Honor Up merch and threw a few screenings in honor of the street tale. “I’m not really used to anybody doing the right thing,” said Dash. “I’m used to being tight, because they are not carrying things with honor. Kanye carried it with honor, and also eloquent honor.”
Here, Dame Dash unveils importance lessons Harlem taught him, how fans can cop the Honor Up merch and why he wants to only invest in women.
Honor Up has been out for a week now. Are you pleased with the response it’s been getting?
Dame Dash: Oh yeah, I’m really happy with it. I’m happy people are understanding the message. I’m happy how it’s being celebrated. I like the new model of being able to have it in theaters and on-demand the same day. It gives it a lot of access, so I’m happy on a lot of different levels. I also was happy for Black Panther being a Black movie and I was happy to come out the same day as Black Panther and the symbolism of being a Black movie made by a Black person.
The lookbook for the Honor Up merch was unveiled a few days ago. What was the inspiration behind it?
Well, honestly it wasn’t necessarily a lookbook. It was somewhat more like an editorial that someone was inspired to shoot. It was a girl that was at the screening named Kirsten Kay. She hit me saying she was going to do a shoot and that she had gotten a model, and it was really because she was inspired and was creative. I like that a lot as well.
How does it feel to know that you can still inspire others through your art?
The fact that it’s being well-received, I mean of course, it feels good on a human level. I do also like the fact that I’m not in a position where I have to only celebrate the stuff I did in the past. There is a lot of new, cool things that we are celebrating and people are still taking me serious. People are getting to also evolve with me as an artist. I just think it means if you really work and stay current, you’ll stay relevant.
How can fans get their hands on pieces from the collection? Will it be available online? Should we expect pop-up shops or other types of activations?
At this very moment, we’re just keeping it to the Poppington.com website exclusively, and then at some point we’re going to do something where we release it a little wider.
With the launch of the merch line, did you get the itch to jump back into the fashion game?
I always have an itch for fashion, because I’m always making clothes. Even in the movie all of the clothes that I wore, I made them. I’m going to make those available. But the fashion game is a very taxing game. It’s very complicated and cash-intensive, so under certain terms, I would come back into fashion. But I think the way I would do it is by putting the clothes in the movie and using the movie to promote the clothing line, and then selling it that way.
The Honor Up collection features gender-neutral items. What are your thoughts on that trend?
Well if you ask me, would think that I set that trend., because I designed my lines always to make clothes for men and women. Basically, I always like when my girl Rocky wears a variation or something from my closet. My clothes are very basic, classic, and uniform and I think they look better on women, so I always designed clothes for women to wear.
Have you ever considered creating a women’s clothing line?
You gotta remember, I created the Rachel Roy brand, along with Rachel. That was years ago. No one’s ever really recognized that I was a part of that. But right now we have a women’s line within Poppington and it’s called RMH, and it’s really about Rocky’s personal style. She makes dresses and she makes vegan bags that turn into dog leashes that come with a collar. She makes bathing suits and all of the stuff that I actually make for me, she makes for women. I’ve been trying to get my daughter to do a line as well.
Basically, I’m moving towards only doing women’s stuff. I’d rather be in an industry filled with women, then to be in an industry full of men. I like to do what inspires my girl and my daughters, so I want to do whatever they can be around. That was one of the main reasons why I kind of transitioned out of hip hop in the first place, because it wasn’t conducive for females.
Why do you think women having their moment now?
If you look back to five years ago, I publicly apologized. My whole hashtag has been #InvestInWomen and I’ve only surrounded myself with women. To me, I’ve always understood women’s power. I’ve always wanted women to understand their own power. What seems similar is that the people that have bad taste in the way they treat women have a bad taste in the way they treat business and the way they treat culture. There’s been people I’ve tried to take down - publicly and loudly - and nobody has listened to me, but when a woman talks people do listen. So I think women are understanding their power now and I’m happy that they are finally understanding that. And that was something I didn’t understand as to why people didn’t understand a long time ago. That’s why I stopped investing in men and only investing in women for the last decade.
Aside from financially, what’s the most effective way to invest in women?
If you have an idea and it inspires a woman, I would be very loyal to her, because she is going to make it happen. I guess, I would say, keep your circle tight. I wouldn’t listen to too much a man has to say, unless it’s about business, because it’s nothing more that men should be talking about. They shouldn’t be talking about other people or other people’s pockets. They should be talking about being creative and moving forward, as opposed to moving backwards. It’s a scientific thing that men are built different from women, because men have testosterone in their bodies. They are built to be competitive, so you are always going to have someone competitive with you, but with a woman it's more estrogen. They have a little more compassion and emotion, and they want you to win, as opposed to looking at you as competition. When you win, they feel like they won.
Why did you launch Dash Diabetes Network [DDN] at this stage of your career?
I’m a Type-1 diabetic. I’ve been one since I was 15. It’s another hurdle that I had to deal with, but it made me stronger. Everything that I’ve done as it relates to making history I did while I was diabetic. I wanted people to understand that if I could do it, you could do it, but also diabetes is a 24-hour thing and really information is the best way to control it. You can’t kill it, but you can live with it. It doesn’t have to compromise your quality of living. Then I came across a new insulin that was inhalable, and it works in 15 minutes, as opposed to an hour and a half like an injectable, and it really changed things for me. It’s called Afrezza. And because I was able to finally get control over it, I wanted the whole world to know about it. The things that I was learning, I wanted people to learn as I learned them. I feel like you have to embrace your perfections and no one’s perfect, so it’s one of my imperfections that I want to turn into a perfection. And I find it to be very interesting, because like one out of three people are going to have diabetes in the next 10 years, because it’s about your health. It’s about your food. it’s about working out. It’s about just quality of living, all of those things. I felt that that subject was important in this stage of my career. It was something that I always wanted to do. No one ever talked about the fact that I was diabetic. It just never came up.
You’ve always preached the importance of being your own boss, and those teachings are still being referenced for motivation. What does it feel like to know that that is a part of your legacy?
It’s one of the things I’m really proud of and I’m glad that I have a legacy for. This is the reason why I made a movie about my personal experience, so people could see that if you apply the same morals and principles to something legal then you’ll be alright. It feels good. There were things about my legacy years ago that I didn't like and I’m glad I was able to correct that. What was being presented about me wasn’t exactly what I wanted presented. I didn’t feel it was truthful. I think because I’m an artist now I can really showcase exactly what my legacy should be and what it should be for. And I’m happy about that.
Aside from honor, what would you say is the most important lesson Harlem has taught you?
To know that you’re always going to be the best. So even if you’re down now, you still act like you’re going to win, because you know at some point you are going to win. A Harlem guy is always being resilient and always having pride. Because you know that getting to a certain point is a process, you know that sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down, and you’re never ashamed of the process. At the end of the day, you’re always moving towards being number one and you keep that respect no matter how much money you have in the bank. In my mind, whether I’m a billionaire now or later, I’m gonna be one and it’s just a process and a matter of time before I get there. That confidence came from Harlem. I never thought anyone was better than me, no matter what they supposedly had in the bank. It was always about that person as an individual, so I think that it’s the pride that Harlem taught me. And fearless as well.