Simply put, Dame Dash and Freeway have been busy. In 2023, they announced their new album, 365, a hybrid rap and rock offering that the duo have been introducing to the masses through a series of ongoing shows around the country. They’ve also been pouring into different business that pushed them into a variety of different spaces including the technology and education industries — all while hurdling over the many obstacles before them. To watch the longtime collaborators and Hip Hop icons continue to deliver is essentially a masterclass in perseverance and dedication to an art form that thrives 50 years later and counting.
REVOLT spoke with the Roc-A-Fella icons about 365, Dash’s America Nu network, Freeway’s engineering program at OIC Philadelphia, and much more. Check out what they’ve been up to below.
We see how hard you guys have been working with your new venture, especially with your recent travels.
Dame Dash: You know, we started with the fundamentals ’cause it’s rock and roll and we want to introduce it right. So, we had to start from like, you know, doing small venues. Get that intimate feeling. You know, that promo tour feeling, kinda. So we just went from Florida to Indianapolis, got right in the car and went right over to Detroit. So, I feel like [it’s] the old Roc-A-Fella days. Real rock and roll. I feel like a real rock star right now.
I remember you called the style of music you two were making ‘rock soul’ in a previous interview.
Dash: Yeah. You’re right. I called it rock soul. Something new. And it was important to me if I’m going to, you know, I have my own television network. America Nu, where we broadcast live and all that. It’s a new way of approaching things. Everything new. So, we’re going to re-approach music. I wanted to approach it by establishing the fundamentals, and having respect for the art, and using live instruments, and actually going where there’s traditionally no Hip Hop, and showing them a different way, and a different approach, and understanding that performing over a track is like performing in black and white, and once you get in that spaceship, and get with the band, and get that rhythm, and start surfing… That’s how you get paid and have a sustainable career without a hit record on the radio.
You have to know how to route your own tour, do your own shows, and establish yourself. Don’t wait to get hired. And also, [create] a curriculum on how to do an album in five days with some legends, and people that have actually been through some serious challenges, and still come up on top just because they have a dream, and aren’t scared to do new things and challenge yourselves.
[With] Freeway, we connected through education and doing the right thing, plus [both of us were] going through things. I wanted to do a project with him, you know what I mean? And we went and did it. And my man, Tash [Neal]. I don’t say things lightly — that’s the best guitar player breathing right now. And what happens is, when we don’t understand other worlds, we don’t know who’s rolling another worlds, who’s the best in other worlds, you know? So in his world, he’s very highly regarded and plays with legends like Slash… But he’s one of us. No disrespect to the Black guitar players that are showcased, but he’s the best. Not for being black or white.
How did The Black Guns form?
Dash: Well, the Black Guns are me and Tash. And Tash, he died before, right? Like, he was in a cab accident at the height of his career, and it was like another artist I saw that wasn’t going to realize his potential. His brain was out. His doctor told me that he wouldn’t be able to wipe his behind by himself for at least three years, and he just came back stronger and the music brought him back. We ran around and done and rocked out, from China to Thailand, all over, and I thought he was gone. Anytime I see him, I always have a band around. We just start jamming out.
Freeway: Oh, man. It’s dope. We did the project in five days at Dame’s studio in Florida, which is an amazing facility. It was dope just working with the live band and just creating with Dame again. It was amazing. We got curriculum for it, we’re on a roll with it right now, and we keep pushing. You know, it was a blessing.
You’re taking a unique approach with the American Nu network. How does that app separate itself from other similar outlets?
Dash: Well, my competition with this would be like Tubi, Disney, Netflix. The difference between me and Tubi is that Tubi doesn’t give you your full [cost per mille] (CPM). They don’t pay you if you’re getting $30 per CPM. They might give you three or four dollars, or they just establish a rate and they give you what they want. So you get paid [with America Nu], No. 1. As a content creator, if you’re good enough and you respect art enough to be on American, you get paid, basically, 10 times more than you’ve getting paid [anywhere else] when the commercial runs. And the fact that we can broadcast live, it’s not a livestream, it’s an actual broadcast, just like the news.
I think I’m the only Black person in the business — a person because most people that have this technology would have have raised the funds and they’ve had to use other people’s money. This is an independently funded television network. You get the full CPM and you get the benefits of your data. And people don’t even know what data or CPMs mean because, you know, it’s new, [but] that’s how you get paid in the technology world. And if you’re in any business where a commercial runs before your content and you don’t understand that in advance, then you’re getting robbed and you can’t call yourself smart about your business. I wouldn’t know about CPMs unless I was in the television network business.
Disney could lose a billion a year and so could Netflix because they raise a billion a year. I don’t. All I do is get called broke ’cause I put all my money in my dreams. So, that’s the difference. And also the content is different, so I am content. My content creators are educators, therapists, principals. And the artists that I work with are the only artists that have full curriculums, like Freeway. So, it’s for the elite of people that respect the art, but also respect the culture. And everything that we do is not to program you. It’s not programing, it’s de-programing.
Just seeing how you’ve remained resilient in this industry is a sight to behold. You’ve always continued to win.
Dash: I was just playing a game that people don’t understand. I was hearing some people talk like, ‘Make another Hov.’ I made another business. No one acknowledges the Rachel Roy business. It’s a $100 million business. And I did that the very next year. But, because no one spoke fashion, they like, ‘Oh, he’s in a shelter somewhere,’ when, in actuality, I had the healthiest company at that time. When I have a dream, I bet it all because I don’t think I will lose. And I keep fighting until it realizes. So, it’s been a while. I’ve been fighting for this dream, you know? But, it’s a big dream. The bigger the dream, the longer it takes. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward, the bigger the test. You know, the bigger the win.
Freeway, tell us about the digital media and audio engineering program that you launched at OIC Philadelphia.
Freeway: I started a company called Freedom Thinkers Academy, which is music, health, education, and culture. On the education side, we got some STEM workforce development programs. I partnered with OIC in Philadelphia and I partnered with the Community Education Building in Wilmington, Delaware. We already graduated the Music Engineering 101 course with the people in Delaware, which was amazing. We just graduated the Music Engineering 101 course at OIC and we were launching another one Feb. 5. So everybody that’s [reading] this, if you’re in the area you can register. It’s philaoic.org. We’re only taking 20 students, so try to register fast, and it’s great. Besides music [and the] audio and visual engineering 101 courses, we got phlebotomy, we got medical billing and coding. We graduated probably like six phlebotomy classes.
So, you know, we’re working, we’re getting it done. The reason why I started it because, in my city of Philadelphia, it’s a lot of violence and negativity going on. We feel like, [if] we give these young folks this opportunity to take this course, get the certification, and go straight to the workforce, it’s way better than being in the streets, putting your life on the line, risking your life, you know, trying to get a couple dollars. So that’s my main motivation behind it and, Alhamdulillah, it’s coming out great. We just graduated a cohort of phlebotomy students, and before they graduated, all 13 students had jobs.
What are your thoughts on Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary celebrations that took place last year? Also, how do you feel about Hip Hop’s next 50 years?
Freeway: I think it’s going to get bigger and better. It’s going to be great. I had an amazing Hip Hop 50 last year. It was also the 20th anniversary of Philadelphia Freeway [and] I had a sold out concert in Philadelphia at the Fillmore. It was the first time me and my brothers State Property all performed together probably in like 10, 15 years, you know?
Besides the thing I’m doing with Dame with the 365 album and tour, I’m also going to drop The Stimulus Package 2 with Jake One. We just shot the first single [and] first video featuring Jadakiss. So man, get ready for that project. It’s amazing to show my face. I love what I do. If y’all heard [the first] Stimulus Package, just get ready for two. It’s amazing.
Does 365 have an official release date?
Freeway: Well, it’s finished now, so probably sometime soon. You know, we’re trying to figure out how we are going to release it because Dame got his own network with American Nu. We’re definitely going to put a bunch of visuals up on American Nu. We’ve been streaming live shows and the first two shows we did are in the archives right now. We’re just gonna keep pushing.
Anything else you want to share to the readers?
Freeway: Everybody that wants to learn more information about Freedom Thinkers Academy, the website is freedomthinkers.academy. I was just part of the Rose Parade. I was on dialysis for four years from Sept. 15, 2015 to Feb. 5, 2019 when I received my gift of life. People that follow my career know [that] I lost my son in 2020. I lost my daughter in 2021. So we were part of the Rose Parade with Donate Life, One Legacy, and Gift of Life. And they honored me for being a transplant recipient. They also honored my son. When he passed away, he was a donor and he saved four lives. I rode on a float and they had a graphic of my son behind me, and it was just an amazing, beautiful experience being a part of the Rose Parade and just pushing forward trying to advocate for health and good kidney health.