Damon Dash claims that Biggie and Diddy copied Roc-A-Fella Records and Jay-Z, leading to early friction.

Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder reveals early friction and influence
"The Prince Of Detroit" Detroit Premiere
"The Prince Of Detroit" Detroit Premiere / Monica Morgan/GettyImages

Damon Dash, the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, recently opened up about the early days of the label’s rise to fame in the mid-1990s. In a candid interview on political commentator Patrick Bet-David’s PBD Podcast, Dash discussed the relationship between Roc-A-Fella and Bad Boy Records, shedding light on the friction that arose due to perceived copying by other artists.

The copycat claims

Dash didn’t hold back, asserting that both The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie) and Diddy (Sean Combs) had copied Roc-A-Fella’s style and hustle. According to Dash, when Roc-A-Fella was making waves, Biggie and Diddy seemed to follow suit.

"We were really getting money,” Dash explained. “No disrespect to Biggie, but it was a different hustle. We weren’t on the streets pitching work. We were about connects, connects, connects."

"Big was the only person I used to smoke with,” Dash told Bet-David. “I didn’t smoke before at all; we used to drink. Supposedly, Jay and Big went to school together but Jay didn’t know him,” he said, referencing the two legendary lyricists’ time at Westinghouse High School during the late ’80s."

The Roc-A-Fella lifestyle was all about making connections, and Dash believed that Biggie and Diddy were imitating their moves.

"That was them copying us, for sure, he emphasized. So we kinda had problems. I was run up on sometimes. I was confrontational with Biggie and them at first, but we finally got cool."

"But that lifestyle of [a] hustler, that was us. That was them copying us, for sure. So we kinda had problems. I was run up [on] sometimes. I was confrontational with Biggie and them at first, but we finally got cool."

Watch the full conversation below

Jay-Z’s role

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles Clippers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Interestingly, Dash also touched on the relationship between Jay-Z  and Biggie. While Jay-Z and Biggie supposedly went to school together, Jay-Z didn’t initially recognize him. Dash recalled,

"Because we were getting the money and popping the bottles and all that, in that moment, we had always felt that Biggie and Puffy were copying us. They’d see us in the club, and it seemed like the next day, a record would be made."

Jay-Z himself has faced accusations of borrowing from Biggie’s rhymes, notably from rapper Nas in his iconic diss track “Ether.” Nas questioned how much of Biggie’s lyrics would come out of Jay-Z’s “fat lips.” However, Jay-Z has consistently maintained that he draws inspiration from music and emotions, using it as a creative tool rather than a crutch.

Keeping Biggie’s legacy alive

Despite any friction, Jay-Z has always honored Biggie’s legacy. He frequently quotes his late friend and collaborator in his music, ensuring that Biggie’s name remains fresh in everyone’s minds. “A world with amnesia won’t forget your name,” Jay-Z rapped on “The City Is Mine,” paying homage to Biggie.

In a 2013 interview with The Breakfast Club, Jay-Z explained,

" I take him everywhere I go. I’ve taken him on every step, every accomplishment. He’ll be there in some sort of way, whether that be live in concert or on record, or some acknowledgment."

Damon Dash’s revelations provide a fascinating glimpse into the competitive world of hip-hop during the mid-1990s. The tension between Roc-A-Fella and Bad Boy Records underscores the passion and drive that fueled these iconic artists. As we continue to celebrate the legacies of Biggie, Diddy, and Jay-Z, it’s essential to recognize the impact they had on shaping the genre and the culture that surrounds it.