Damon Dash calls himself an ‘OG of Diabetes’. From his early days of starting Roc-A-Fella and working with JAY-Z to discovering Kanye West, and later making films— the 45-year-old has had diabetes the entire time. Thirty years with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, to be exact.
When talking about the condition that affects over 200,000 Americans, you would have thought he was waxing poetic about the good ole’ days.
“All that, ‘Big Pimpin’ and all that, there was needles in my pocket,” Dash told ESSENCE. “I was diabetic. Yelling, all that yelling, my sugar was high.”
“My God,” I said. “Right, the classic, you yelling in the board room. You were a diabetic?!”
“I had needles in my pocket,” he admitted. “A needle in my pocket and motherf–kers was robbing right in front of me. And then one of my friend’s friends just got buried; I’m coming from a wake. You know what I’m saying? And they playing these games. Like, I got other sh-t to do. That’s why I used to be frustrated. I got a life to live, not be f–king around with this bubblegum sh-t.”
He’s raw, unfiltered, honest and yet, charming all at the same time. Dash lights up when talking about his kids Ava, Tallulah and Damon Dash II. But he’s curious when talking business endeavors. He evolves with the times but isn’t washed out or trying too hard. Spend 20 minutes talking to him and you’ll immediately understand how he’s done so well in life.
Diagnosed as a teenager, he’s gone from insulin needles to AFREZZA inhalers.
“Every little thing I’ve done as an adult and as a young adult, I’ve done diabetic,” he said. “But, this was before the internet, before emails, before Facebook. When you had the dope fiend needle, the syringe. This is before what it evolved as what is it now.”
Adding, “With the AFREZZA, which is an inhaler, number one you don’t have to puncture skin. It’s an inhaler, and it takes 15 minutes to start to hit. With tradition needles, it’s absorbed in your skin, it stays in your body for a long time. And if you don’t have any food in your body when it starts to hit, that’s when your blood sugar goes low. So you have reactions. The innovation with AFREZZA is, you’re in the steering wheel, it starts to work immediately and it’s out your body fast.”
In addition to promoting the inhaler, Dash is also starting a network dedicated to guiding those with diabetes called The Dash Diabetes Network. Debuting this month and centered around video content, the programming will have interviews, cooking segments and informative content for those living with the disease.
“A diabetic always wants to help another diabetic,” Dash notes. “I would bring holistic doctors [on the network] and a real doctor in the room, and start asking them questions and start hearing their theories together. And let them argue. Those are the conversations that would be stimulating in the concept from the Diabetes Network. All those things that come with the lifestyle of a diabetic, the questions, all of that. Eventually it should be a full 24-hour cable channel.”
When looking back through the years of losing his mother, fighting for sole custody of his son, creating an entire music empire, divorce, wins, losses and in-betweens— he considers the ability to treat his diabetes at the age of 15, as a blessing.
“My perspective in that moment was, I have a second chance,” he said. “And all I gotta do is give myself two shots and I could feel better —give me that all day. You understand what I’m saying? Like, I was happy that’s all it was. So it never really bothered me, it made me feel like I was entitled to live life.”
“It may be the reason why I went and approached life the way I did. You understand what I mean? Because I feel I deserved it, and I don’t think anything like diabetes should be able to stop me. Especially being that I thought I was about to die at like 15.”