Roc-A-Fella sues Damon Dash for attempting to sell Jay Z’s debut album

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Jay-Z and Damon Dash during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2004 - Baby Phat - Backstage at Gertrude Tent, Bryant Park in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
Jay-Z and Damon Dash during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2004 - Baby Phat - Backstage at Gertrude Tent, Bryant Park in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
  • Damon Dash allegedly tried to sell Jay Z’s debut album as a non-fungible token. 
  • With its copyright co-owned by Jay Z, Dash and Kareem Burke, the record label filed a complaint against Dash. 
  • However, Dash denies trying to mint and sell the album as an NFT. 

Jay Z’s debut album turns 25 at the end of the week. Released on 25 June 1996 under Roc-A-Fella Records, Reasonable Doubt featured the likes of Memphis Bleek, Mary J. Blige and Notorious B.I.G. A monumental start to his career, the album is often referred to as one of the greatest rap albums ever. 

According to Pitchfork, Jay Z’s former business partner Damon Dash recently tried to sell the record as a non-fungible token. The record’s copyright sale was set to be auctioned on the NFT sale platform SuperFarm, from 23 to 25 June 2021.

Announcing the auction, the sale’s statement begins as follows: 

“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. This marks a new milestone in the history of NFT’s, 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.”

 After receiving letters about the sale being unethical, the platform cancelled the auction. 

Although Dash’s attempt to auction Reasonable Doubt has been cancelled, court documents viewed by TMZ say the music executive is “frantically scouting for another venue to make the sale.”

Since the complaint was filed, a lawsuit has been filed against Dash. Filed by New York based lawyer Alex Spiro, the complaint alleges that Dash cannot legally sell Reasonable Doubt because its rights belong to Roc-A-Fella. 

Although it hasn’t been operational for some years, Roc-A-Fella was co-founded and owned by Jay Z, Dash and Kareem Burke. In 2005 when Dash and Jay Z infamously cut ties, the three founders agreed to retain their one-third share of the label. 

When Jay Z released Reasonable Doubt, he agreed to have Roc-A-Fella as the sole owner of the record’s copyright. Owning a third of Reasonable Doubt, Dash would have to have Jay Z and Burke’s consent before minting and selling the album as an NFT. 

Speaking to Rolling Stone about the complaint, which was filed on 18 June 2021, Dash had the following to say: “When another black man calls another black man a thief, just to make him look bad, and so that they can devalue an asset that that other man owns, just because he won’t sell it to him at a low price — I don’t think the culture needs that. I just think it’s disappointing to also have a white lawyer calling me a thief on Juneteenth. It’s very representative of what they do to someone when they try to make a good guy look like a bad guy, just because he’s doing good business.”

Clearing his name, Dash has denied trying to mint Reasonable Doubt as an NFT. Instead, Dash told TMZ that he is trying to sell his share of Roc-A-Fella. When asked about the SuperFarm announcement, Dash denied this ever happening. “There hasn’t been an announcement… Don’t you think that if I made an announcement that I’m selling Reasonable Doubt you would’ve heard about it? What they’re accusing me of is minting a whole album. So if it’s already minted, it’s already on the blockchain, that means it’s already there. It never happened, and they know it never happened.”

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