When TMZ reported on June 19 that Roc-A-Fella Records was suing its co-founder Damon Dash for his attempt to auction off his one-time friend Jay-Z’s 1996 album, “Reasonable Doubt,” as an NFT, questions arose immediately. Namely, how could Dash — Hova’s former manager and ex-business partner at Roc-A-Fella and Rocawear — think he could sell someone else’s music, no matter what role he played in its formation?
Dash, though, is maintaining that Roc-A-Fella misunderstood what he was planning to put up for sale, and which never did get to the auction stage before it was yanked. He’s insisting that Roc-A-Fella’s lawsuit is a smokescreen and inaccurate, and that he is not attempting to sell any one of Jay-Z’s albums, but rather his entire share of the Roc-A-Fella label.
Of course, the rights to either of these things, the Jay-Z album or the catalog stake, would be an odd thing to sell in NFT form, but these are strange times.
In legal documents examined by multiple publications, Roc-A-Fella responded to what the company maintained was Dash’s attempt to profit off “Reasonable Doubt” — Jay-Z’s first album — in non-fungible token form, reiterating that the rights to the album belong to the label. While an attempted NFT auction has been canceled, the lawsuit noted, the document stressed that Jay-Z’s former partner is “frantically scouting for another venue to make the sale.”
Following the news of the legal complaint filed by attorney Alex Spiro in New York’s Southern District Court, Dash maintained that the suit fundamentally misunderstood what was at stake. Dash claimed that, as of March 2021, Jay-Z had actually attempted to buy out his 1/3 share of Roc-A-Fella at “a price I deemed unacceptable” and said that he is now seeking his own potential buyers. “Under the terms of the deal with a potential buyer, the buyer would buy my share of Roc-A-Fella Records and Jay-Z will have exclusive administration rights,” Dash told TMZ. Dash further claimed that Roc-A-Fella’s lawsuit filing was nothing but a “scare tactic” to prevent him from selling something he believes he has the legal right to sell.
The once-independent Roc-A-Fella was created by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke in 1995, and became a division of Def Jam in 1997 in a sale where its co-founders sold half of Roc-A-Fella to the larger label for a reported $1.5 million.
In a Post interview published Monday morning, Dash labeled Jay-Z as a “bully” and a “liar.”
“They just said that I tried to sell an NFT of ‘Reasonable Doubt’ and … it’s not true,” Dash told Page Six. “I’m not running around to different places trying to auction off ‘Reasonable Doubt.’ I’ve been working with one platform and that’s SuperFarm. And the thing is I own a third of Roc-A-Fella Records and I can sell my third if I feel like it.”
However, Rolling Stone pointed out that the lawsuit quotes language from an announcement from SuperFarm that seemed very much single out the “Reasonable Doubt” album as what would be up for sale, in an auction that was scheduled for June 23-25 but obviously never happened. “SuperFarm is proud to announce, in collaboration with Damon Dash, the auction of Damon’s ownership of the copyright to Jay-Z’s first album ‘Reasonable Doubt’,” SuperFarm claimed, according to Rolling Stone’s reporting on the lawsuit. “This marks a new milestone in the history of NFTs, entitling the new owner to future revenue generated by the unique asset… Selling the copyright to Jay-Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’ as an NFT is a groundbreaking landmark — both for the crypto space and the broader music industry. The newly minted NFT will prove ownership of the album’s copyright, transferring the rights to all future revenue generated by the album from Damon Dash to the auction winner.”
Roc-A-Fella, in its lawsuit, retorted: “The bottom line is simple: Dash can’t sell what he doesn’t own. By attempting such a sale, Dash has converted a corporate asset and has breached his fiduciary duties.”
This is not the only problem that Jay-Z has had with his debut as of late, an album co-released by Roc-A-Fella Records and Priority Records, and featuring future Hova classics such as “Can’t Knock the Hustle” and “Brooklyn’s Finest.” On June 14, Jay-Z commenced a suit against photographer Jonathan Mannion, who’d been a longtime collaborator starting with that debut album cover, for reportedly exploiting the rapper’s name and likeness without consent.