Everybody loves an underdog and nobody was more counted out than Damon Dash when the Roc crumbled back in 2004. First, there was the short-lived, Universal-distributed Dame Dash Music Group, then, he kept it pushing in the fashion world for a bit with his ex-wife Rachel Roy (are they divorced yet? I’m actually not sure).

Sure, we’ve seen Dame with Jim Jones, helping to promote Capo’s Pray IV Reign; still, most folks didn’t expect the cocky executive to be back on top. But now, with a host of projects—including his new Blak Roc, Creative Control, 24 Hour Karate School, DD172 production compound—one has to wonder: is Dame on to something?

With old business models crumbling and most moguls already trying to look for the next Drake, Dash takes a different approach. Building a facility that creatively houses artists like Mos Def, Ski Beats, Jim Jones, The Black Keys, Curren$y, Jay Electronica and Stalley (don’t sleep on Stalley) doesn’t exactly sound like Jimmy Iovine’s, Lyor Cohen’s or L.A. Reid’s recipe for success; but it feels right doesn’t it?

Part of the reason hip-hop is suffering is that the shit has been feeling too manufactured for a minute. The same artists, rockin’ with the same producers, churning out same-sounding singles, recycling the same concepts; I mean, the shit has gotten real predictable. It seems to me that in order to make this thing exciting again that we have to take hip-hop back to its grassroots. Who knew bottle-poppin’, dice rollin’, Dame would be the one?

Most expected the former Roc-A-Fella Co-CEO to try to make another Hov, but truthfully that would’ve been a long road to nowhere. Instead, why not take dope artists that have been kind of ignored (for one reason or another) by the major machine and create something new and anti?

We already know that Mos marches to the beat of his own drum and Curren$y has been signed to big name labels No Limit and Cash Money, with neither working for him. Plus, Jay Electronica may be the most elusive artist EVER. But damn if they aren’t talented (I really hope this Center Edge Territory group project with the three of ’em comes out).

Back in September, when NYC was celebrating Fashion Week, I bumped into Dame in Macy’s and he was going on about this Blak Roc project, it sounding interesting as hell (XXLMag.com eventually broke the story—shouts to J. Gissen), but I had no idea everything would snowball into this.

The fact of the matter is that it’s still too early to crown Dame’s latest endeavors successful. Still, there is strength in a union of like minds. I mean, the old business model and major label record system is broken down already, and it seems in order to win and sustain and uphold artistry, folks have to try something totally different. I can’t say that I know exactly what Dame has up his sleeve next (seems like some of this is just being made up as he goes along), but in 2010 I won’t bet against him. What do y’all think? —Rob Markman, The Deputy!